Player Capsule: Demario Richard
Position: Running Back
Weight: 208 pounds
2015 season quick review: One of six Pac-12 running backs to carry the football for more than 1,000 yards last season, Richard was the only such player to reach that mark while also receiving fewer than 200 carries in the regular season (198). All told, Richard rushed for 1,104 yards on 210 carries with seven touchdowns and 5.3 yards-per-carry, a slight dip from his output of 5.7 yards-per-carry as a freshman in 2014. Richard had five games in which he rushed for more than 100 yards, including three in a row early in the season against Cal Poly, New Mexico and USC, when fellow running back Kalen Ballage was out of action, or limited due to mononucleosis. Richard also finished fifth on the team with 303 receiving yards on 31 receptions with three additional touchdowns. He received honorable mention all-conference honors and is one of four backs returning in the Pac-12 who totaled more than 1,000 yards last season.
2014 season quick review: After a delayed start out of the gate due to a late NCAA Clearinghouse approval, Richard had a remarkably impressive rookie season in Tempe, especially considering he was the youngest true freshman on the roster, still 17 years old until last December. Richard led the Sun Devils with a 5.7 yard per carry average and was second on the team with 478 yards on 84 carries with four touchdowns. He had 116 carries yards on 14 carries against Utah, led ASU with 68 rushing yards against Arizona and had four touchdown runs against Duke in the Sun Bowl leading to game Most Valuable Player honors.
Running back coach John Simon's recent assessment: “He’s a lot quicker. He’s moving better. He’s improving in the route running phase of the game and that was one of the things I really wanted to focus on with him because he had the skill set to do it and he’s been doing a good job in that area.”
SunDevilSource.com analysis: (04/16) Richard carried a little too much weight last season, moving into the 220s and that seemed to impact his elusiveness and ability to get onto the second level as quickly as he did as a freshman. He was still one of the top backs in the league as only a true sophomore, and a year younger than a lot of his peers in the class, still just 19-year-old. It may have contributed to Richard's reduced yards-per-carry from 5.7 to 5.3 but he also handled much more of a workload and again demonstrated that he's a difficult to player to tackle, with more yards coming after initial contact than any ASU running back in recent years.
There was a focused effort to lean Richard out in recent months and he entered spring ball at 208 pounds, 12 off his listed weight from 2015 and what Simon said was about 15 pounds off what was at the end of the season. That's substantial for a running back and Richard appears to be in as good a shape as he's been in since he arrived in Tempe. He's extremely strong and durable, and when well conditioned and in shape is capable of handling a 20-plus carry workload, which can only be said of a few returning players in the league, primarily Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, a Heisman Trophy Candidate, and Oregon's Royce Freeman, who figures to be a top NFL draft option as soon as 2017. There have been questions about Richard's speed at the second-level, and while he isn't necessarily considered a breakaway back in the open-field, ASU sports performance head coach Shawn Griswold said Richard hit 20-plus miles per hour in a practice this spring, while shows clearly that he has more than enough speed for his size.
(03/15) Extremely powerful and instinctive as a running back, Richard is quite simply a natural at the position. He has very good vision and feel as an inside runner, hits the proper hole aggressively and operates with ideal pad level and leverage. Those things combined with his oak-strong torso and legs allow him to generate impressive yards after contact and he also tends to have good lateral elusiveness that prevents a lot of on-center hits. Arm tackles and glancing blows don’t really tend knock him off his line and because he is explosive into the hole he often has more space than other backs to operate because linebackers haven’t closed down the gap as quickly as more hesitant ball carriers.
Stoutness, strength, toughness and a low center of gravity also make Richard a very good protection back when ASU decides to keep him in the backfield on passing downs and he’s able to attack and block in space as well. Additionally, Richard has natural footwork, good hands and change of direction as a route runner, which affords ASU the ability to use him as a full service player in every personnel grouping it uses on offense, and makes him a great upside three down running back. Though he doesn’t have elite speed at the second level, Richard has very good quickness for the type of back he is, and has NFL upside. This is one of the young best running backs ASU has had on its roster in the last several decades.
Projected 2016 depth chart status: A very broadly skilled back, Richard fits well into the offensive system of new coordinator Chip Lindsey. The Sun Devils are going to want to rely quite heavily on their potential two-headed monster of Richard and Ballage as they get a young and inexperienced quarterback up to speed this season, particularly with four new offensive line starters as well. Lindsey led the only Division I offense nationally to have two 1,000 yard rushers and as such, has proven that he's able and willing to get a lot of carries to two backs in his offense. Additionally, Lindsey likes to throw the ball to his backs a lot and Richard and Ballage are both well suited for this, with Richard in particular a capable route runner. Another 1,000 yard season seems likely as long as Richard stays healthy.