Ideal Scholarship Roster Number: 5-6
Potential Returning Number: (Demario Richard, Kalen Ballage, Nick Ralston, Tre Turner)
Likely Returning Number: 4
2017 Commitments: 2 ( @Trelon Eno Benjamin)
Top remaining targets: None
Remaining ideal Number: 0
When Wylie (Texas) East star Eno Benjamin announced during the televised broadcast of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game a few weeks ago that he will play for Arizona State, it gave the Sun Devils their top-ranked running back commitment of the Todd Graham-era at the school.
In 2012 as Graham scrambled to piece together his first recruiting class at the school just weeks into his tenure he received his biggest early commitment, Saguaro running back D.J. Foster. A player who had set flame to the state record books, Foster was the No. 12 overall running back prospect nationally and No. 104 overall recruit in the 2012 class. He would go on to become one of ASU's most important offensive players in the ensuing four seasons.
After Foster the Sun Devils signed a pair of starter-caliber running backs in the 2014 class, four-star Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. In 2015 the Sun Devils signed four-star running back and state champion Jason Lewis.
But none of those players, not Foster, Richard, Ballage, or Lewis, was higher rated than Benjamin.
A 5-foot-10, 203-pounder, Benjamin is the No. 10 overall running back prospect in the 2017 class by Scout. He is also the current overall top-ranked commitment in the class for the Sun Devils. Thus, his addition for the Sun Devils is impressive in any year and any situation, to be sure.
Considering Benjamin made this decision with the Sun Devils set to returning both seniors Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage is an especially impressive feat for Graham and his staff. Benjamin can get his feet wet without being needed to be an immediate heavy lifting running back, and then be able to pick up from Richard and Ballage in 2018 after an acclimation season.
And to be sure, Benjamin isn't just a good running back prospect. In his career at Wylie East he rushed for over 7,500 yards. In 13 games as a senior, Benjamin had 2,604 yards rushing, an average of just over 200 yards per game. He also rushed for over 2,000 yards as a high school junior.
So Benjamin is an incredibly productive players, in fact one of the top performing running backs in the ultra-competitive state of Texas. That doesn't happen without being a ready-made player for the college level, and Benjamin is more than physically capable, at 200-plus pounds and well constructed physically.
Running back is already a position at which it's easier than a lot of other positions to immediately translate to the college level. It's an instinctual position with skill being developed and demonstrated in a forced way through literally hundreds of game reps and carries of the football.
While there could be challenges with handling protections at the college level, or route running for teams that rely on throwing the ball a lot to the backs, Benjamin is the type of player who should be able to adapt quickly. He's also got the benefit of being an early-enrollee, which will give him a spring ball to adjust to some of those aspects of the college game even before his first season.
Benjamin enrolled early at ASU, has been in classes for several weeks, and is living with fellow Texan Ty Thomas, a safety addition for the Sun Devils. It sets up the depth chart extremely well for the Sun Devils.
Benjamin had a plethora of options in his recruitment. He was an early commitment to Iowa but offers came in from dozens of schools including Baylor, Miami, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas and Utah. Ultimately he de-committed Iowa following an ASU official visit in early October and ASU immediately became the leader. He picked the Sun Devils over Michigan, Utah and Texas. He officially visited only ASU and Utah, but Benjamin had earlier visited Michigan and he was on the campus at Teas several times.
Utah seemed to be the biggest competition for Benjamin late in the process, but an offensive staff shake up that brought in a new offensive coordinator likely secured his committed for ASU.
Following his last unofficial visit to Texas, Benjamin elected to drive to ASU on a whim, a 15-hour trip. During that December visit to ASU, which came two months after his official visit to the school, Benjamin committed to the Sun Devils. He elected to keep that pledge quiet so that he could make his announcement public during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on live television.
Stylistically, Benjamin is somewhat similar to Richard at the same stage, and a good fit for the ASU offensive scheme run by coordinator Chip Lindsey last year. We'll see if that remains the case under a new offensive architect, but Benjamin has great scheme versatility. He has very good feet as feel as an inside runner, and enough initial quickness to handle the rough starts from shotgun offset alignments, which give a lot of bigger backs trouble.
Benjamin is probably a little faster than Richard in the open field, and he gets lateral quickly and instinctually in an effort to find open space. One of his best attributes is Benjamin's ability to break tackles and play with great balance as as rusher. He gets a lot of yards after contact and manages to stay alive as a rusher much better than the typical player his size.
He also attacks protection blocks in the pocket and is physical in such situations. He has quick feet as a route runner releasing from the backfield or even flexed or motioning to the near slot, and has shown good ball skills, including a diving full extension catch during an Army Bowl practice this week.
Wylie East uses Benjamin often as a Wildcat quarterback, or what ASU would call its Sparky package. Benjamin told us that is an additional selling point for ASU because of the opportunity to get those types of touches in goal line situations.
ASU has two running back commits in the class, with Benjamin joining fellow Texan Trelon Smith, who is from the Houston area (Benjamin is from the Dallas area). They're complimentary players who both fit the scheme and make a lot of sense as far as ASU's decision to recruit them. The Sun Devils are now set up very well for their future at the position.