ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL
Arizona State football adds pass catching prowess of Javen Jacobs to backfield
Apr 4, 2023, 5:30 PM
TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils already have a plethora of talented pass catchers competing for playing time at the wide receiver and tight end positions.
And with only four running backs on the roster heading into spring ball for ASU, there appears to be a fifth member of the RB group coming over from the WR room in sophomore Javen Jacobs, who has been training with the tailbacks the last three practices.
“I thought they’ve done a great job catching the ball out of the backfield,” running backs coach Shaun Aguano said Tuesday. “When I recruit those guys, it is important for them to be natural pass catchers because it just makes them a huge threat out there and there are mismatches, as well.
“All of that group can catch the football. Javen Jacobs is coming to that group a little bit, too, and he’s a natural pass catcher, so that’s a huge threat.”
Jacobs has been one of the standouts during spring ball, but given where he might fall in the pecking order on the wide receiver depth chart, it appears he might be more utilized out of the backfield.
At 5-foot-10, the Saguaro High School graduate is one of the shorter wideouts competing for playing time.
And with all but one of the other four running backs being shorter than 6-foot and all four heavier than 200 pounds, Jacobs’ 193-pound frame combined with his speed and hands make him the perfect scatback in head coach Kenny Dillingham’s offense.
“I think they’re playing physical,” Dillingham said on March 28. “They’re not the tallest bunch, but they play with a chip on their shoulder and they play with good pad level, obviously.
“I think that they catch the ball of the backfield well, which is something you have to do in the system.”
Aside from returning running backs Tevin White and George Hart III are transfers DeCarlos Brooks (Cal) and Cameron Skattebo (Sacramento State). White was the team’s No. 3 tailback last season behind X Valladay and Daniyel Ngata.
Brooks also has a longtime connection with Aguano, who was his high school coach at Chandler before the duo each moved on to their respective roles at the college level.
“Just watching him mature, his maturity of how he attacks a day in practice, the way he goes about studying and doing all that but you can see it on the field,” Aguano said of reuniting with Brooks.
“He’s been highly productive and he’s just a tough-minded, mature guy whom I enjoy working with every day, and I’ve had him since he was 13 years old … It always brings me joy and gratitude to see those guys being successful.”
It’ll be interesting to see who ends up getting the majority of the carries, as White (207 pounds), Skattebo (220 pounds) and Hart III (208 pounds) all have a physical nature and running style between the tackles.
Jacobs may be used more on third down or on obvious passing plays, but he does provide a mismatch against a linebacker in coverage if ASU was to come out in an empty set or even motion the WR/RB out from the backfield pre-snap.
Conversely, the likes of the aforementioned tailbacks could offer a one-two punch on early downs or short-yardage situations, while also giving offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin the ability to still throw it out of the backfield.
“I pride myself on being a balanced back,” Brooks said Tuesday. “I look at the backs in the NFL like Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey.
“I look up to those kind of guys because those guys are going to elevate the offense as a whole, so I really look up to people like that and pride myself on me being that type of back.”
And watch out for Skettebo on halfback passes, as the running back showed off his arm on film to Aguano during his time at Sac State.