ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

ASU football wary of overusing the versatile Kalen Ballage

Aug 5, 2015, 8:13 PM

5. ASU 36...Duke 31 (Hyundai Sun Bowl) - The Sun Devils led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but fell behind 31-30 with just five minutes left. But freshman Kalen Ballage uncorked a 95-yard kickoff return which set up fellow freshman Demario Richard's fourth touchdown of the day to retake the lead just :18 later. DB Kwieshi Brown sealed it with an interception in the end zone with :45 left, and ASU had their second bowl win in three tries under head coach Todd Graham.

(Hyundai Sun Bowl)

TEMPE — It wasn’t surprising to hear Arizona State sophomore Kalen Ballage say he expects to play on offense, defense and special teams this season.

It was, however, surprising to watch him line up solely at devilbacker during the Sun Devils’ first fall practice of 2015.

“It’s kind of boring to sit on the sideline and do one thing,” Ballage said. “Sometimes, I think people get too wrapped up in the business side of football … ‘I don’t want to get hurt,’ this, that. You got to live in the now and just play.”

But head coach Todd Graham is aware of the ramifications with such an experiment.

During spring practices, Ballage alternated from offense to defense between — and sometimes in the middle — of drills.

Now, he’ll spend an entire day on one side of the ball.

ASU still wants to use Ballage as a running back, pass-rusher and return man, but it doesn’t want to push him into injury or ineffectiveness. Graham admitted he regrets how the team handled former tight end and devilbacker De’Marieya Nelson.

“We tried to learn,” Graham said. “I think we really marginalized his play because he was having to do too much, he had a lot of nagging injuries. To evaluate that, it’s hard to have him go back and fourth.”

Ballage, who finds himself in a similar role, has yet to play in a two- or three-way role, but he did admit focusing on one side of the ball per practice makes life easier.

Only a year into learning the offense, he’s playing catch-up on defense, but was the team’s best pass-rusher in spring. He batted a ball down at the line of scrimmage during practice on Wednesday.

Whittling away at his defensive technique will catch him up as an undersized, 225-pound pass-rusher. Ballage has studied the Green Bay Packers’ Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, who were coached by first-year ASU special teams coach Shawn Slocum.

How many snaps Ballage earns and where remain to be determined, but the options are open.

“He can be one of the most dynamic running backs in the game, he can be one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the game,” Graham said. “We’re going to be very careful that we get the most out of him and don’t overuse that.”

Comments

Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Arizona State Football

Michael Crow, Arizona State University president...

Kevin Zimmerman

Graham Rossini’s fit made him Michael Crow’s only interview for Arizona State AD job

Arizona State University president Michael Crow said he considered other candidates but only interviewed Graham Rossini for the AD job.

2 hours ago

Arizona State University athletic director Graham Rossini...

Arizona Sports

Arizona State names Graham Rossini as athletic director

Arizona State is expected to name Executive Senior Associate AD and Chief Business Officer Graham Rossini as the new athletic director.

4 hours ago

Chip Hale...

Ryan Pasiecznik

Arizona baseball’s Chip Hale wins Pac-12 Coach of the Year

Arizona Wildcats baseball coach Chip Hale was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the 2024 season.

2 days ago

Arizona State QB Jaden Rashada...

Arizona Sports

Former ASU quarterback Jaden Rashada sues Florida coach Billy Napier, Gators boosters

Former Arizona State quarterback Jaden Rashada filed a lawsuit against Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier and boosters at the school.

2 days ago

Wide receiver Elijhah Badger #2 of the Arizona State Sun Devils catches a 65-yard touchdown recepti...

Arizona Sports

Former ASU WR Elijhah Badger transfers to Florida after considering Arizona

Former Arizona State wide receiver Elijhah Badger is transferring to Florida, choosing the SEC school after considering Arizona.

6 days ago

Michael Crow, ASU president...

Jesse Morrison

State of the Sun Devils Podcast: Graham Rossini is reportedly Arizona State’s next AD

On the latest edition of the State of the Sun Devils podcast, the guys discussed the expected hire of Graham Rossini as ASU's next AD.

8 days ago

ASU football wary of overusing the versatile Kalen Ballage