Running Back Ideal scholarship roster number: 5-6 Potential 2016 returning number: 4 (De'Chavon Hayes, Kalen Ballage, Demario Richard, Nick Ralston, Morie Evans, Jaason Lewis*(a versatile back who could be more of a 3-back)) Likely returning number: 5 Commitments: 1 (Freddie Holly) Remaining ideal number: 0-1 The Skinny:
Arizona State remains in strong position at running back transitioning to 2016 but can't easy up on the throttle too much, as Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage will be juniors that year and it's difficult to project whether one of them could end up an early NFL Draft entrant.
Also, running back is a position group which needs to be very well stocked with talent at all times, particularly with how the Sun Devils like to use two-back formation groups frequently.
With the decision to play Nick Ralston at running back and the impending addition of Morie Evans in the fall, ASU has two backs in the last class and fellow incoming freshman Jaason Lewis is a versatile back who could end up carrying the football a fair amount as well.
The addition of Freddie Holly means the Sun Devils probably don't need to take a second pure-running back in the 2016 class, but likely will do so if they can find one they love to also commit. If they don't take two, they'll probably end up wanting to take two in the following class to make sure they're ready for the departure of stalwarts Richard and Ballage down the line.
Given Holly's size and productivity (eight straight 200-plus rushing yard games and 31 touchdowns as a junior) in an Inland Empire-area known for being competitive and producing a lot of talent it's surprising that he didn't have other Pac-12 offers beside ASU. While Holly isn't especially fast or freakishly athletic -- perhaps the reason for the lack of offers -- he has very impressive film and is a natural back with a lot of attributes that should allow him to transition quickly to the college game. He absolutely is a Pac-12 caliber back, in our estimation, and one with a good potential for success at that level.
In a lot of respects Holly is evocative of former USC running back Javorius "Buck" Allen, who was selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, after measuring 6-foot-0, 221 pounds and running 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Allen was the player ASU coach Todd Graham called the best back his team faced last season going into that game.
Holly and Allen are both north-south rushers who aren't flashy but are extremely productive because of their sure feet and ability to cut at speed and see the field at depth. There is no hesitancy in Holly as a ball carrier or wasted energy, and very little searching. He's a decisive back who has enough patience to not get ahead of his blocking but is not turning down where he should go with the carry in order to try to find something a little better that usually isn't there. There's very little wasted movement with his feet and he has great, low foot turn over in a way that reminds of Demario Richard. Holly is very comfortable with who he is as a running back and understands his strengths and plays to them.
Holly is a slalom style inside zone rusher, something Richard exhibits at a high level. They both will plant and adjust course with fluid transitions at speed in a way that gains lateral separation from traffic -- and can actually accelerate through the adjustment -- which increases their elusiveness at the second level in a way that compensates for non-elite top-end speed. They present a moving target for linebackers and run through low arm tackles.
Holly may be even better than Allen was in high school or early in his college career at not slowing into collisions, and though he's a bit upright and has non-ideal pad level/forward lean, is very inclined to drop his shoulder to deliver a blow. Holly also does a nice job of using a stiff arm to ward off would-be tacklers, and seeks contact on short yardage and goal line situations in order to be physical through the goal-to-gain mark. He can be effective on sweeps or stretch runs in the alley, but isn't the type of back you want to have running laterally too much.
From a ball security standpoint, Holly effortlessly changes arms when appropriate and has the ability to play at his top gear with the ball tucked away, tough sometimes he'll get a bit loose with it. He's not someone who looks to be a fumble threat.
Holly looks like a willing blocker and someone who has decent ability to catch the ball out of the backfield though it's not really something he's asked to do much at the high school level.