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Before NFL Draft, ASU’s Ballage has more to prove after Senior Bowl

North Squad running back Kalen Ballage, of Arizona State, avoids the tackle against South Squad's Quin Blanding, of Virginia, during the first half of the Senior Bowl college football game in Mobile, Ala., Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
LISTEN: Charles Davis, NFL Draft analyst

Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage looked and played the part of an NFL running back during the Senior Bowl last week.

Problem is, he hasn’t always done so playing for the Sun Devils.

Ballage produced the measureables at 6-foot-2, 222 pounds and was radar-gunned sprinting faster than any other running back. But tie those facts into his four-year college career, and he has a reputation to change leading into the 2018 NFL Draft.

He helped his stock at the Senior Bowl, but it’ll be hard to shake the risk that becomes evident in his college tape, according to NFL Network draft and college analyst Charles Davis, who visited Bickley & Marotta on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“He elevated (his stock) but he also has gotten people scurrying back to the tape and scratching their heads,” Davis said. “He looks like a three-down back. In his college career, he’s played like a third-down back. That’s the issue with me.”

Ballage rushed for a career-high 669 yards with a 4.3 per-carry average as a senior in 2017. He added 20 receptions for 91 yards, a far cry from his 44 catches for 469 yards a year prior.

A change in offensive coordinators and sharing time in the backfield with the equally-capable Demario Richard limited Ballage throughout his career. Nonetheless, questions surrounding his physicality will follow him over the next few months.

Davis believes that reputation had much to do with Ballage looking motivated during the Senior Bowl.

“I would guarantee — I would bet my last dollar — that when Kalen Ballage walked into the room (this week), either the running backs coach or someone said to him, ‘Man, you sure look pretty but you don’t run that way. What am I going to get out of you this week?'” Davis said. “When you turn on the tape, my big concern with him is at his size, at his weight and build, why didn’t he break more tackles? Why didn’t he run through trash better inside? Why did everything have to be clean before you got a big run out of him?

“Well, on Saturday in the game and throughout the week, we would see those runs where he would drop the shoulder and finish the run, punish the defensive back for it.”

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