Local prep star D.J. Foster is face of ASU football in 2014

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                </div>  As former Saguaro High School football standout D.J. Foster prepares for his junior year at Arizona State, he is fully aware that opposing defenses will put an even bigger target […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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As former Saguaro High School football standout D.J. Foster prepares for his junior year at Arizona State, he is fully aware that opposing defenses will put an even bigger target on his back this year.

He will also have the added weight of responsibility that comes with being the face of the program.

The 5’11” running back with breakaway speed and big-play abilities finds himself on the pre-season watch lists for two of the most-coveted awards in college football.  For the second consecutive year, he has landed on the Paul Hornung Award watch list, which is given annually to the player considered to be the most versatile player in major college football.

But his name was also just added to the Maxwell Award watch list, which honors America’s College Player of the Year.  It would have been hard to keep him off the list after putting together back-to-back seasons of 1,000 all-purpose yards and leading the program to consecutive bowl games.

And, if third-year head coach Todd Graham fields the kind of nationally-ranked team that many observers are expecting, Foster could even find himself included in Heisman Trophy speculation.  There were eight four-star and 16 three-star recruits on signing day, which gave the 2014 class a No. 21 national ranking, according to ESPN.

They will step into a program on the rise, as ASU won last year’s South Division of the Pac-12 Conference.

Two other returning Sun Devils have also been included on the Maxwell watch list, redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly and redshirt junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong.  Kelly will begin the season with the second-most QB career starts in the Pac-12 and is just the second player in school history to have multiple seasons with 3,000-plus passing yards.  Strong led the team last year with 75 receptions and 1,122 receiving yards.

Foster has been a high-profile part of the ASU football program since Graham convinced him to come to Tempe just six weeks after taking over the job as the new Sun Devils head coach.  As a four-star prospect who was ranked by one recruiting service as the 12th best running back coming out of high school in 2012, Foster’s decision to attend ASU validated Graham’s commitment to recruiting locally – but also sent a message to other potential top-tier recruits across the country.  He could have played just about anywhere he wanted on scholarship, but he chose ASU.

He was the Arizona Republic Big Schools Player of the Year in his senior year, after leading his Scottsdale high school to two straight state titles, rushing for 3,058 yards, and collecting another 250 in pass receptions.  Foster set a state record in career touchdowns with 60 all-purpose, and a single-game state record of 508 rushing yards.

But that’s all but a distant memory now, as Foster prepares for what could be his final year of college ball. Another outstanding season will likely lead to an early departure for the NFL.

For now, though, ASU fans are eagerly awaiting a new season and a chance to see what the local favorite will bring to the party one more time.  And, judging from spring practice, their interest is at a high level.

The 8,456 fans that showed up for the spring game set a new attendance record for that annual event.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)