TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s a simple concept, really: Get the ball in the hands of your best playmaker and get out of his way.
The execution of said concept, however, is often easier said than done.
Case in point: Arizona State.
The Sun Devils’ best playmaker is senior D.J. Foster, yet in the season opener he had just nine touches, including three in the second half and one in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t get No. 8 the ball,” head coach Todd Graham said, referring to Foster’s uniform number. “He’s got to get the ball. I mean, that’s one of the lesser productive games he’s had.”
Against Texas A&M, Foster caught six passes for 48 yards and rushed three times for 13 yards.
The 61 total yards were his fewest since a nine-yard effort at UCLA in 2013.
“We definitely can do more as an offense,” he said, choosing to go big picture as opposed to putting the spotlight on himself. “I think that we limited ourselves a little bit. We can definitely do more and open it up.”
Deputy head coach and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell agreed.
The key, though, is not to force things.
“There’s different things that we can do,” he said. “D.J. is probably one of the most versatile players in the country, and so, we’re going to find ways to make sure that we can get him the touches whenever there might be a time that he’s not getting the true one-on-ones on the perimeter, be able to find ways to get him the ball and continue to move him around.”
Foster is playing receiver this season after spending his first three years at ASU as a running back.
The idea was two-fold, take advantage of Foster’s pass catching ability — he finished second on the team in receiving last season — and allow for more reps for a deep running back group that includes sophomores Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage plus redshirt junior De’Chavon Hayes.
Ballage, however, missed the A&M game and may miss two more weeks due to illness, which may mean Foster sees some time in the backfield.
“Wherever I can help, I’m always for it,” he said.
Foster hasn’t been told he’ll be more involved in the offense this week against lower-division Cal Poly, but it makes sense.
He’s the only active FBS player who has accounted for over 2,000 career rushing yards and over 1,500 career receiving yards.
“D.J. is one of those players that can make, what do they say, that can make a meal out of a crumb,” redshirt senior quarterback Mike Bercovici said. “Obviously there are going to be ways we can dial up for him to get the ball more and we did give him some opportunities, but there could always be more with a player like that.”
But it doesn’t all fall on Foster, according to Bercovici, who singled out playmakers like Hayes, as well as receivers Devin Lucien, Ellis Jefferson and Tim White, all of whom have the ability to cause headaches for opposing defense.
That the Sun Devils are loaded at the skilled positions is nothing new.
Scoring 17 points is, which they did last Saturday, only the third time in 41 games under Graham that ASU failed to reach 20 points.
“It burns me,” Norvell said. “My job is to make sure we’re scoring points. I think there’s some areas that we definitely have to have a lot of improvement in. That’s my job, so we go back to work.
“I’m not focusing on last week anymore. I pretty much got past that Sunday night…my focus is not on what was last week. We’re focused on correcting and improving what we’re doing, making sure that we’re putting our guys in the best position to be successful.”