Healthy, Foster Looks to Finish Season Strong

D.J. Foster set the bar pretty high for himself last year when he became just the sixth true freshman to ever start a season in the program's history on his way towards earning Fox Sports NEXT Freshman All-American honors. His sophomore season has been quiet in comparison but now recovered from various injuries Foster is returning to his usual form.

The multi-dimensional D.J. Foster totaled more than 1,000 yards of offense in his first season in Tempe (493 rushing, 533 receiving), providing the Sun Devils with yet another versatile weapon for Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell to utilize in the quick-pace ASU offense.

But things haven't quite gone as Foster and many Sun Devil fans had expected for Foster in year two as the running back-converted-slot receiver has had to battle a series of lingering injuries throughout the season that have put the shackles on him better than some opposing defenses.

First, it was the badly sprained ankle he suffered during the team's final scrimmage at Camp Tontozona that halted the momentum he had been gaining throughout the offseason. Then, just when the sophomore was nearing a full recovery, he was derailed once again by a knee contusion in the team's game against Colorado.

While Foster tried his best to stick it out each week and play through the discomfort, it was clear he was never at his full capacity.

So while the Sun Devils continued to rack up wins, the team's bye week in mid-October couldn't have come at a better time for Foster. Not only did the additional time off allow him to return to full health, but it also served as motivation to finish the season while playing at the level he originally intended.

Following the bye week, Foster helped guide Arizona State (8-2, 6-1) to its first road win of the season over Washington State with a season-high 15 touches - eight carries for 30 yards and seven receptions for 77 yards - and a pair of touchdown receptions.

"It feels good," Foster said. "My body feels good again. I think our coaches are doing a good job of taking care of us. It feels good to be back and just being productive again. It's definitely a good thing."

Foster continued his upward trend with another strong outing last Saturday against Oregon State, punctuated by his first rushing touchdown since September of last year in the team's 45-14 rout of Illinois.

"It felt good," Foster said with a smile. "I really didn't even notice that. Somebody actually told me that that was my first rushing touchdown this year and I didn't even know, but it felt good. I just do whatever I can to help the team out. But yeah, it definitely felt good to get back there and run the ball a couple times last game."

For the season, Foster has already eclipsed his receiving totals from a year ago with 50 catches for 523 yards (10.5 yards per catch) and three touchdowns, including a 74-yard score against USC. However, the bulked up and speedy back has seen a decline in his rushing production on account of his nagging injuries and the staff's desire to use Foster more as a slot receiver in 2013.

But while the self-proclaimed "complete back" admits to occasionally missing his natural position in the backfield, he's still finding enjoyment in his new role in the Sun Devil, especially now that he's healthy once again.

"Most definitely but at the end of the day, I love seeing my team win and just the success that we've had this season and getting to watch Marion do his thing," Foster stated. "I still have plenty of time. It's been good to see him do his thing this year and see our offense come together and gel. I'm just glad that everything is working out.

"But I mean, I'm not worried about that. Whatever happens, happens. I love the position I'm playing now and I love getting the ball in space and stuff."

With last Saturday's win over the Beavers, Arizona State notched its first five-game winning streak since 2007 while remaining atop the Pac-12 South. It also set the stage for a showdown with divisional foe UCLA (8-2, 5-2) this weekend and the chance for ASU to claim its first ever division championship with a win over the Bruins in Pasadena.

"It's huge," remarked Foster. "Just the fact that we control our own destiny and have one game to win, especially with how it ended last year with UCLA and how they took that from us on our home field. We definitely have a chip on our shoulder. We've been practicing hard and working our butts off this year and it's come down to exactly what we wanted. We control our own destiny and just need to win one game and against a great team too."

Of course, the scenario isn't unfamiliar to the Sun Devils as they found themselves in a similar situation last season. Arizona State hosted UCLA last season in a pivotal mid-season divisional matchup and despite trailing for most of the afternoon, appeared to put the finishing touches on its nine-point fourth quarter comeback when quarterback Taylor Kelly found Foster in the back of the end zone to jump ahead by one with 1:33 to play.

Alas, the Sun Devil defense couldn't hold on as Brett Hundley led the Bruins down the field for a game winning 33-yard field goal as time expired, which ultimately helped UCLA secure the South division for the second consecutive season.

"We're always talking about it," Foster admitted. "That was kind of the main topic in the offseason; just that one minute left. We'd talk about that when we were running and stuff. We've been talking about it year-round and we're here now, so it's our chance to take it."

Defensively, the Bruins are led by senior linebacker Anthony Barr and their linebacker core. Despite having one of the better front sevens in the Pac-12, UCLA has shown an ability give up big plays throughout the year, most notably due to a young secondary and undisciplined approach (UCLA ranks 121st in penalties).

"They're fast, aggressive, and really physical," added Foster. "They've got a very athletic team all around. We just got to take advantage of some stuff. We're a very disciplined offense so we've got to take advantage of the fact that they're the most penalized team. They've got a bunch of studs on defense but I mean, we've seen a bunch of them already this year, so we've just got to play our game.

"I definitely feel the support. I think our whole team does. We can feel the excitement in the community. It's pretty cool. We just got to go down there and take care of business now."


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