ASU football midseason position evaluations: Running backs

Oct 13, 2022, 6:48 PM

Running back Xazavian Valladay #1 of the Arizona State Sun Devils celebrates after scoring on a 27-...

Running back Xazavian Valladay #1 of the Arizona State Sun Devils celebrates after scoring on a 27-yard rushing touchdown against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks during the second half of the NCAAF game at Sun Devil Stadium on September 01, 2022 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

With the bye week giving the Arizona State Sun Devils two weeks off before their next game at the Stanford Cardinal on Oct. 22, let’s evaluate each position group through six games.

Next up on our ASU midseason position evaluations is the backfield.

The expectation coming into this season was a one-two punch of Xazavian Valladay and Daniyel Ngata — and that it has been.

And while the former has received the bulk of the carries and put up a majority of the team’s rushing yards, the latter has certainly made the most out of his opportunities.

X Valladay

Valladay has rushed for 556 yards — 18th-most in the nation — and six touchdowns (tied for 24th) on 96 carries through six games this season. Those metrics average out to 94.3 per game and 5.9 per attempt, which rank No. 22 and No. 39 in the country, respectively.

The active FBS leader in career rushing yards has also ran for over 100 in a game four times this season. ASU is 2-2 in those contests, with Utah and USC being the only two teams to keep the running back under the century mark.

He has also added 13 receptions for 106 yards and two scores.

Daniyel Ngata

Ngata’s 193 rushing yards and one touchdown on 30 carries so far this year may not be eye-popping stats, but his 6.43 yards per attempt certainly is.

In fact, his yards per carry metric would rank tied for 19th in the country, but unfortunately for the running back, he hasn’t reached the minimum 40 rushing attempts to become a qualified runner.

Ngata has added four catches for 13 receiving yards through six games this season.

The 5-foot-10, 200-pound redshirt sophomore also took over starting kick return duties and has posted 226 yards on nine attempts, with a 58-yard return being his longest of the year.

Moving forward

ASU has 818 rushing yards on 190 attempts (4.31) for an average of 136.3 per game to go along with 11 touchdowns, including quarterbacks.

And while the Sun Devils may only rank 91st in the country as a rushing offense, running the football has proven to be of paramount importance for the team’s success.

Arizona State has rushed for a minimum of 140 net yards in four of its six games this year, with the only two shortcomings being six and 137 yards in the losses to Utah and USC, respectively. But when ASU has eclipsed the 155 mark, the team is 2-2, with six of its 11 rushing TDs coming in those two wins.

And with the gauntlet part of the schedule now in the rearview mirror following four ranked opponents in the last five games, interim head coach and former running backs coach Shaun Aguano should find more success on the ground in the second half of the season.

That should open things up in the passing game — whoever the quarterback going forward may be — and hopefully offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas can find a way to get Ngata’s explosiveness utilized in the offense at more than just 5.67 touches per game.

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ASU football midseason position evaluations: Running backs