ASU football season slipping away from D.J. Foster

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                </div>  Arizona State‘s dismal start to what was once a very promising football season has been disappointing to its fans. But none more so than it has been for senior D.J. […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Arizona State‘s dismal start to what was once a very promising football season has been disappointing to its fans. But none more so than it has been for senior D.J. Foster, who was seen as “the face of the program” this season.

His Sun Devils lost their first game of the season and then three games later were embarrassed by USC on national television, losing the conference opener to the Trojans by 28 points.

Foster gave up a shot at the NFL to return for his senior season, in the hopes he could lead ASU to not only its third consecutive 10-win season, but a place among the nation’s elite.  ASU was even included this year in some of the talk about which four teams would be playing in the College Football Playoff in January.

With their huge upset win over then-No. 7 UCLA last Saturday, the Sun Devils are 1-1 in conference play and still in the running for a chance to win the South Division title.

That would be nice, but it’s not what Foster had in mind when he decided to stick around another year.  With two losses, the excitement has been tamped down as the Sun Devils fell out of the national conversation.

But there is some consolation for the gifted athlete from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale that ain’t too shabby.

Foster pulled in an 11-yard pass on the Sun Devils’ first drive in the USC game to tie a school record set by John Jefferson in the mid-70s, notching his 44th straight game with at least one pass reception.  Then he broke the record last week against UCLA when he caught four balls for 57 yards and a touchdown.

He also used the USC game to make a couple of new marks in the NCAA record books.  That 11-yard catch also gave him 2,007 receiving yards for his career, making him just the fourth player in NCAA history to compile 2,000-plus yards both rushing and receiving, the first player in a decade to reach that mark.

The 6-foot, 195-pound speedster played at running back his first three years at ASU and led the 2014 squad with 1,081 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.  But his coaches often put him in the slot, and this year changed his primary role to receiver.  That versatility will serve him well when the next NFL draft rolls around; his kind of player is in demand in the pro game.

Unfortunately, the plan to utilize him more effectively this year hasn’t worked as envisioned. Going into the UCLA game his average of 75 all-purpose yards per game are the lowest of his career.  That’s due in large part to a de-emphasis on the running game; he was averaging just five carries a game and finished the UCLA game with just four yards on one carry.

And his receiving yards haven’t made up the difference.  In fact, they’re down as well.  He still contributed a touchdown against the Bruins, but logged just 57 yards on four receptions.  That won’t help his season average much, which is at an all-time low at 47 yards per game – well off the average of 53 yards last season when he was the featured back who ran for more than 1,000 yards.

As a four-star recruit in high school who was ranked by Scout.com as the 12th-best running back in the country, Foster could have had his pick of any number of top college programs.  He piled up over 3,000 yards rushing and another 250 on pass receptions in his senior year alone and led Saguaro to a second straight state title.

He picked up where he left off in high school, having an immediate impact on the ASU program.  He earned All-America honors as a freshman and by his senior season had become the face of the Sun Devil program.

His commitment to the ASU program was a huge boost for Graham, who was just six weeks into his new job of rebuilding the Sun Devil program.  It confirmed his commitment to recruit locally and also sent a message to other potential recruits around the country.

After some serious consideration about entering the NFL draft after his junior year, he decided that it was more important to him and his family that he finish out his college education, and help the football program get to the top of the mountain.  In the final days of 2014 he announced his return –  and Graham could finally exhale.

He’s still ready to lead the way, but an offense that was supposed to be better able to utilize his many talents this season has failed to do so.  Foster realizes he can only contribute when he’s given the ball.  And he’s been patient and understanding so far.

But he sees his senior season slipping away.  And with it a chance to re-write some other records and lead the Devils to another 10-win season.

This is not what he had in mind when he announced on Dec. 30 that he was returning to finish what he started.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)