ASU OC Likens confident in running backs despite Trelon Smith transfer

Oct 23, 2018, 2:04 PM
Arizona State's Eno Benjamin gets tackled by Stanford's Michael Williams during the first half of a...
Arizona State's Eno Benjamin gets tackled by Stanford's Michael Williams during the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)
(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

To start the season, Arizona State had five scholarship running backs on its roster. It is now down to three.

Running backs Brock Sturges and Trelon Smith both recently announced their transfers from the university, and while neither saw extensive playing time with the Sun Devils, the departure of the two minimizes ASU’s depth at running back. That being said, the Sun Devils still viable options to back up Eno Benjamin, the team’s starter.

“We have Paul Lucas and we have Isaiah [Floyd],” ASU offensive coordinator Rob Likens said. “Those guys will take the ball and get all of the second-team reps, and so we’ll shuffle those guys in and out accordingly.”

Floyd, a JUCO transfer, has played in six of ASU’s seven games this season, rushing for 117 yards on 21 carries.

Lucas, on the other hand, is an Oregon State transfer and multi-sport athlete, who previously went to Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix. In two seasons at Oregon State, Lucas recorded 285 rushing yards and 83 receiving yards, but this year, he hasn’t played a down of offense.

He played running back in high school and he’s done that before,” Likens said. “He’s done a super job, and we just have to get him some game experience.”

Though Lucas is now at the depth chart for running back, he is not the third running back on scholarship on ASU’s roster; that is AJ Carter. However, Likens said Carter will not see the field this season, barring an injury from Benjamin, Floyd or Lucas.

Benjamin had one of his worst games of the season against Stanford, failing to exceed 40 rushing yards, but even so, he has been a force in the backfield this season. The sophomore has run for 753 yards and seven touchdowns, rushing for more than 100 yards in four of the Sun Devils’ seven games this year.

According to Likens, Benjamin is different from other running backs because he improves as the game progresses, rather than getting fatigued.

Eno is one of those backs we discovered where he gets better as the carries he gets,” Likens said. “He’s not a guy you want to split carries with. Some running backs are like that, but he’s a guy that gets better the more he carries it, so you want to keep him in the game as long as you can.”

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