It didn't take long for Grice to introduce himself to Sun Devil fans in 2012 as he rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener against Northern Arizona, setting the tone for what would eventually become one the all-time breakout season's in the program's history for a first year player.
Grice led the Sun Devils in rushing, totaling 670 yards on just 103 carries (6.6 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns. He showed off his versatility by hauling in 41 receptions for 425 yards (10.4 yards per catch) and another eight scores. His 19 total touchdowns on the year ranks third all-time at ASU, behind the late Wilford "Whizzer" White (22 touchdowns in 1950) and Terry Battle (20 in 1996) and his 114 points ranks 5th all-time at Arizona State.
Grice averaged a touchdown every 7.5 times he touched the ball in 2012 and with the departure of Cameron Marshall, he immediately vaulted to the top of the running back depth chart in the spring.
"My approach is, basically, I still have a lot to prove," he said after practice on Sunday on his new role as starter. "I understand that I'm the starting running back now but I feel like I still have more to prove to my coaches and to have a more comfortable role and prove to them that at the end of the day, they can give me the ball when we need it the most."
Grice saved his best for last in 2012, rushing for a career-high 159 yards and two scores in the team's 62-28 victory over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, where he was named the game's Offensive MVP. He also helped guide the Sun Devils in their 10 point comeback win over rival Arizona with 156 yards and three touchdowns, earning the MVP of the Territorial Cup game.
Despite leading the Sun Devils with 1,104 total yards in 2012, Grice committed himself to an upgraded offseason workout regiment with ASU Strength and Conditioning Coach Shawn Griswold to prepare for the increased workload he expects to handle in 2013. Not only did he add an additional 10 pounds to his 6'0" frame, but he also increased his speed to improve his big play potential.
"I've been working hard, you know," Grice commented. "(Coach) Gris has got me on a bunch of different workouts and I've been putting in some overtime. We all have our off days but I've been coming in to do extra work. I'm just trying to prepare myself for this season. Just trying to have a great season and show everyone what I can do.
"I feel like I got faster. Just going through the drills and the conditioning, I've been out in front leading the guys, just going as fast as I can."
Grice leads a trio of Sun Devil running backs, including sophomore D.J. Foster and junior Deantre Lewis, that figures to be one of the best in Pac-12. Arizona State averaged 205.5 yards per game on the ground in 2012, the second most in the last 25 years for the program, but looks to raise the bar in year two under Head Coach Todd Graham and Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell.
In Grice and Foster, the Sun Devils will feature two of just five returning players in the nation that posted 400+ yards rushing and receiving in 2012.
"Those two are great, great players," said Grice of his backfield teammates. "They're young guys so they have more time to develop but it's my last year and I feel like we can all push each other to be the best backs possible. I'm really trying to become a complete back and D.J., he's trying to become and every down back too. Deantre, he's just getting back into it but overall I feel like we can be very good backs in this offense."
The Sun Devils have experimented with a variety of new looks so far this offseason in effort to utilize the talents of Grice and the running backs, including implementing the pistol formation to its offensive arsenal, a scheme Grice says he's comfortable with running from his high school days.
The running backs are led by new position coach Bo Graham, who has quickly become a popular member of the staff and someone Grice expects to help elevate their play on the field.
"He's a great coach and he knows all the plays and what we need to do to become better," Grice said. "I like to think that this year we have more responsibility and he's real, real big on pass protection and I like that a lot because I know it's something I need to work on. We work on pass protection a lot."
After such a productive first year in Tempe, Grice and the Sun Devils now faced raised expectations for the upcoming season. Arizona State was recently picked to finish second in the Pac-12 the conference's Media Day, though their ultimate goal is to win the South and contend for Rose Bowl appearance, while Grice has helped headline a variety of preseason award watch lists for the Sun Devils.
ASU placed a player on 14 of the 17 total preseason awards lists, which ranks as the second most in the Pac-12 behind Oregon, who showed up on 15 lists. Grice is a candidate for the Maxwell Award, which is presented to the College Player of the Year and the Doak Walker Award, for the nation's top running back. Despite the national attention, Grice insists he's focused on working hard each day while becoming a better leader for the Sun Devils in 2013.
"It feels really good but I just accept it and keep working hard," Grice commented. "I'm still working like I'm at the bottom though. Basically, it just lets me know they're out there looking for me and that I just need to keep working hard each day.
"My biggest thing this year is that I want to be one of the leaders of this team. I feel pretty good about it. I just have to work my hardest each day. Being a leader isn't easy, so you got to stay positive and be sure to pick up the young guys."