Player capsule: Kalen Ballage

Kalen Ballage arrived at Arizona State as one of the most highly anticipated and heavily recruited players in its 2014 class and showed glimpses of his potential on the field as a true freshman. Now he will look to expand on his role.

Player Capsule: Kalen Ballage

Position: Running Back

Eligibility: Sophomore

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 220 pounds

2014 season quick review: As a true freshman, Ballage played in 12 games and had 42 carries for 138 yards and three touchdowns and six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown, which was a memorable and important explosive play at Colorado. Ballage also had a 96 yard kickoff return in the Sun Devils’ Sun Bowl win over Duke, earning the game’s Special Teams Most Valuable Player Award.

Running back coach Bo Graham’s recent assessment: “I know he looks really strong but there are some deficiencies: core strength, getting in there squatting and cleaning, (fellow sophomore running back) Demario (Richard) is well ahead of him in those regards. And he does have some bad habits but nothing he does you can't coach. He's a big guy, he's going to take some shots. Demario is so quick that even at the point of collision he's not getting hit hard. Kalen has a lot of work to do catching the ball and some thing but it's just harder because he's tall and so long. But when he breaks, he's really fast for his size. You're talking a guy who ran a 10.5 in high school in the 100 (meters)." analysis: In the open field, Ballage is an extremely potent athlete due to his combination of size and strength. When he’s able to get a head of steam built up, he’s extremely difficult to bring down at the second level because of this and also because he has good elusiveness in space for a back with such a large amount of surface area as a vertical runner at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. While Ballage looks like a Greek God from a physique standpoint, it belies to some degree where he’s at from a functionally athletic standpoint as it relates to football.

Last year he played through a lot of physical discomfort and soreness due in part to these issues and also as he adjusted to a college strength and conditioning program. His flexibility through his trunk and hips and core strength are in need of improvement and will make a big difference in his capability as he develops in those areas. As a back, he has a tendency to be a bit upright and want to spill the ball too much on designed inside runs instead of hit the proper gap, but he showed improvement in this area as the last year unfolded. The fact he was able to be a very solid contributor and yet still have a lot of areas in which he can improve is a good sign for his future.

Projected depth chart status: With senior D.J. Foster moving to wide receiver, Ballage will be battling classmate Demario Richard at tailback in two-back formations that include one of the backs -- likely De’Chavon Hayes -- in the near slot role, and likely be the No. 2 player at the position in the spring. He’s one of three players who figures to be getting a lot of reps at the position in the coming month.

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