Player capsule: Eno Benjamin
Position: Running back
Weight: 205 pounds
2016 season quick review: Benjamin spent the 2016 season playing out his final year at Wylie East (Texas) High where he rushed for more than 2,600 yards and 32 touchdowns en route to becoming the 5A state Offensive Player of the Year. Benjamin's senior campaign capped off a high school career in which he amassed over 7,500 total yards and 100 touchdowns which helped him become one of the most highly regarded backs in the Class of 2017. After the 2016 season ended, Benjamin participated in the U.S. Army-All American Bowl, where he announced his commitment to Arizona State, but then suffered a serious injury that forced him to miss the entirety of the Sun Devils' spring practice slate.
SunDevilSource.com analysis: The No. 104 ranked recruit in the Scout300 and the No. 10 ranked running back nationally, Benjamin is the highest-rated back to sign with the Sun Devils in a Todd Graham era that has featured multiple other four-star signees. One of the most productive backs in the country at the high school level, Benjamin showcased a broad skill set that has ASU running backs coach John Simon touting his potential as an every down back in the Pac-12.
Though Benjamin was forced to sit out this spring following a surgery that left him in a walking boot, he was able to enroll early and begin classes at ASU while also beginning the process of assimilating to the college level. While Benjamin couldn't participate in ASU's position drills this spring, he had the opportunity to sit in on meetings, learn new offensive coordinator Billy Napier's playbook and take in Simon's instructions and coaching points off to the side of the Sun Devils' running back drills.
Much like ASU sophomore Nick Ralston, Benjamin had an exceptional workload at the high school level, so the opportunity to take the spring off from a physical standpoint likely didn't have the same type of negative effects it might for a player at a different position. Fortunately for Benjamin, running back is one of the easier spots on the field for freshmen to contribute, and he should still have plenty of time to get in playing shape prior to August because he announced via Twitter he's been cleared to participate in ASU's strength and conditioning program this summer.
On tape, Benjamin demonstrates plenty of physical tools that suggest he'll compete for playing time immediately if he's healthy, even in a backfield that returns its top three backs from a season ago. Though Benjamin may not see extensive opportunities as a true freshman, he has the type of advanced footwork needed to be successful on inside zone plays and the vision to find cutback lanes when presented. Benjamin also has the acceleration to make opposing defenders pay for overrunning gaps and the quick-twitch burst to break runs to the outside and win footraces in the open field.
What stands out about Benjamin's abilities are that stylistically, he's similar to ASU senior Demario Richard because both players have comparable frames and broad skill sets, but Benjamin has better top-end speed and the versatility to make defenders miss or run through defenders at the second and third levels of a defense.
At the high school level, Benjamin wasn't just an impressive ball carrier. He showcased a commitment to pass blocking and the quickness needed to vacate the backfield and become a target for his quarterback on routes which indicates he has the capability of becoming a full-service back down the line.
One of the attributes that makes Benjamin a good fit for an 11-personnel, shotgun, no-huddle offense is that he grew accustomed to taking handoffs from offset shotgun alignments in high school and demonstrated the ability to hit the hole at top speed. This is a challenge for many backs, including ASU senior Kalen Ballage, but Benjamin has enough initial power and agility to take a handoff, read a defense and get upfield in a hurry. Additionally, when a blocking scheme breaks down at the line of scrimmage, Benjamin has the lateral quickness to adjust a running lane and make something out of nothing, which is one of the many reasons why he found such tremendous success at Wylie East.
Projected depth chart status: Even though ASU returns four scholarship running backs and adds Benjamin and fellow freshman Trelon Smith, it wouldn't come as a surprise if Benjamin pushed sophomore Nick Ralston for reps this season or if ASU found a way to get Benjamin on the field in some of the program's two-back sets. Benjamin has rare talent at the position and if ASU doesn't feel the need to redshirt him, it's on the coaching staff to figure out ways to make the most of Benjamin's broad skill set. There's a variety of ways Benjamin can contribute, whether it be as a ball carrier, pass blocker or receiver, and as long as he's completely healthy, he should be able to make his presence felt in some fashion.