With sophomore running back Demario Richard limited in practice Tuesday, it's possible Arizona State coaches may elect to use versatile senior D.J. Foster in the backfield more against Utah on Saturday.
Though there's been no indication as yet that ASU is making such preparations, Foster has had success aligning in the backfield at times for the Sun Devils in recent games. He had five carries for 80 yards including a game-best 63 yard scamper in ASU's 48-23 win over Colorado last Saturday, and in earlier games against USC and UCLA, Foster had several catches out of the backfield that resulted in 15-plus yard gains.
The emergence of junior Tim White at wide receiver and continued development of senior wide receiver Devin Lucien may enable ASU coaches to feel comfortable using Foster more at running back this week if needed. No matter how he's ultimately used, Foster -- the only FBS player in the country with more than 2,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards, said he's ready to play the role he's asked to.
"At the end of the day we have a lot of great backs," Foster said. "If they need to move me back a little more they will but I think we're very similar to what we've been doing, just got to get our gameplan ready."
Two years ago ASU beat Utah 20-19 in a slugfest in Salt Lake City, and Foster is trying to prepare teammates who weren't there for that experience what to expect in what may be the biggest Pac-12 South game of the year to this point in the season.
"It's a tough place to play," Foster said. "That's one of the things I've communciated to a lot of younger guys who haven't been up there. It's definitely a hostile environment. We've got to stay focused for four quarters and go out there and play.
"My freshman year we really took it to them and the last two years they keep finding themselves and I think we are too. That's what we're doing this week. We've got to keep putting the pieces together. I think we're getting better every week. Two weeks ago we were rough and we're starting to build every week and I think we're continuing to do that."
Fiso named a captain
Linebacker Salamo Fiso has been named a team captain by ASU, the first junior to receive such a distinction. Senior quarterback Mike Bercovici and senior safety Jordan Simone have been the team's two most prominent captains this season, and have been joined by Foster and others at times at center field before games.
With 45 solo tackles, Fiso is leading the nation and third in solo tackles per game at 7.5.
"I've never seen anyone make the steps and strides that he has this year," Foster said of Fiso. "Leading the nation in solo tackles, the intensity he plays with on game day. It's unbelievable. Even in practices. That's where his biggest improvement has been, just in practice. He's leading those guys over there and being a great example."
ASU coach Todd Graham is of the opinion the that while Fiso isn't as much of a vocal leader as others on the defense, nobody is held in higher regard.
"I would tell you that he's the most respected guy on our defense, in my opinion," Graham said. "I know I respect him the most. He's had the most improvement. I think our players really look to him. He's obviously the communicator. He makes all the defensive calls and does a great job. I really just, and our staff felt, he was deserving of that.
"You need everybody to be a leader. But he's definitely deserving of that recognition."
Tautalatasi shines on special teams
Coming into the season it appeared undersized sophomore safety DeAndre Scott would assume the mantle as ASU's top special teams performer after a strong showing as a freshman. But Tautalatasi, a redshirt freshman, may be shining brightest through the first half of the season. He blocked a punt against Colorado and then located the ball and recovered it.
"He's just a winner," Graham said. "Obvously he comes from a program that produces that, produces winners. He's got great character. His parents are tremendous people. It's the only way he knows how to do it, full tilt. I told him he needs to learn what he's doing and continue to progress because he can help us defensively."
- Demario Richard wore a heavy brace on his right knee and appeared to be favoring the leg quite a bit as a limited participant in ASU's Tuesday practice.
- Junior Spur and key defensive player Laiu Moeakiola was in a green non-contact jersey and in the injury line in practice Tuesday with a heavy brace on his left knee. Moeakiola didn't participate in team reps or individual period drills observed by media, but did appear to jog rather normally during warm ups.