TEMPE, Ariz. — Starting something new is never easy.
Starting something new in your final year in college is not ideal, yet that is exactly what is being asked of D.J. Foster as he prepares for his senior season at Arizona State.
After spending much of his first three seasons in the Sun Devil backfield, Foster is moving to wide receiver in 2015.
The reason is threefold for ASU: the team can afford to make the switch given its running back depth, there is a great wide receiver need after losing two of the top three pass catchers from a year ago and it benefits Foster’s future playing career.
“A lot of people that I talk to, for me to go on to the next level, they said (the move to receiver) would be more beneficial to my career in the NFL, when I get to that point,” he said. “At the end of the day, I see how long running backs’ career are in the NFL. I know I’m more of a slot receiver, and I’m perfectly OK with that, so it’s time to make a transition. And it’s not much. I’ve been doing it.”
Foster is not new to wide receiver.
In 2014, he was second only to Jaelen Strong with 688 receiving yards, while his 62 catches gave him back-to-back seasons of 60 or more, something only Strong and Derek Hagan had accomplished before in school history.
“D.J. Foster is our prime guy,” head coach Todd Graham said. “He’s the guy that’s going to get the ball more than anybody else because I think he’s our best football player. So he’ll get it every which way but loose.”
Yes, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Foster will still get the occasional touch out of the backfield, but there’s now more of a singular focus.
“The actually routes itself I can do and stuff and I’ve been it doing my whole life,” he said. “It’s just knowing the different type of plays, different formations, the different type of verbiage and stuff. That’s what I’m trying to learn right now.”
Quarterback Mike Bercovici, who just happens to be Foster’s roommate, believes the transition to receiver will be a smooth one, with his help of course.
“I’m in his ear all the time,” Bercovici said. “It’s to the point where we have a connection and a relationship and that’s going to relate to on the field, so I’m excited for him. He’s really learning. He’s developing. I mean, he’s probably the hardest-working guy on this team right now because he knows, in his last year, he’s learned stuff that he hasn’t been doing in the last three years, so it’s exciting for him.
“If you can get him the ball, it’s fun to play quarterback when you can throw a one-yard route for 99 yards. When D.J. catches the ball, it’s game-on from there.”
As the only player in the nation with over 1,000 rushing yards and over 600 receiving yards last season, Foster toyed with the NFL idea after the Sun Bowl win. He announced his decision to return for his senior year on Dec. 30.
The former Scottsdale Saguaro High star is not quite ready to leave the maroon and gold behind, even if that does mean starting over to some degree.
“Film room. Study. Study as much as I can. Watch as much tape. Get in my playbook as much as I can,” said Foster, who has caught at least one pass in all 40 games he’s played as a Sun Devil. “That’s the one of the things that’s tougher being a senior, trying to learn like a freshman again. It’s very humbling, but I definitely have the hunger for it. I’m excited and my teammates do a great job of helping me out with that.”