Christian Appreciates Hard Work by ASU's RB's

The high level of talent of the Sun Devil running backs has been well-documented. What their position coach Jamie Christian also sees is the great effort put forward by his players, which should translate into a very effective ground attack by the maroon and gold in 2007.

"We're looking pretty good," said Christian of his running backs group as they wrap-up the pre-season. "They worked their butt off, minimizing their mistakes, and we have a lot of depth and options. Obviously we have Ryan (Torain) who has really turned it on in fall camp and is ready for a big year. We have Dimitri (Nance) back healthy and with Keegan (Herring) we have a pretty good group right there with those three."

Those three players are ahead of junior college transfer Jarrell Woods, who figured to be seeing some playing time this year. With an injury to Nance, Woods saw his workload increase, and ironically the tables were turned as Nance got healthier and healthier just about the time that Woods succumbed to his own injury.

The odd man of the rotation is Shaun DeWitty who will redshirt. The decision to have him sit out the season wasn't a hard one, according to Christian, and was done not only because of the numbers at this position. For starters, Woods already redshirted, and DeWitty didn't. And then there was a health issue.

"DeWitty didn't have a full spring ball because he was injured," explained Christian. "So he hit a lull in fall camp and didn't have his legs. He saw what was going on and is OK with the redshirt decision. He knows that now he can play two years, instead of just wasting one year where he won't play. We're lucky to have that talent for two more years."

After a season where he rushed for 1,229 yards and seven touchdowns, it's easy to take Ryan Torain for granted and expect him to put up big numbers this year as well. However, Christian pointed out that Torain's dedication for excellence is truly what will help him reach new heights. "He learned the offense a lot better than we expected," Christian remarked. "He's picking up the blitzes a lot better. He looks faster (reportedly runs a sub 4.5 40-yard dash), has better pad level…everything I asked him to work on he did and he's got better."

"Sometimes you ask a guy to do certain things better and he makes the same mistakes. But he has worked very hard, and that's why he got better and will be more successful. He's not only talented, but he works so hard at it."

With three healthy backs, and soon to be four, keeping everyone in the group happy is a mission that no one can predict its outcome. Yet, there's one thing ASU's running backs is quite sure of. "They're all humble kids and they know that the door is open and they can always talk to me if they're unhappy," he stated. "There will never be a build-up of a bad situation. Hopefully we can get them all playing, but it will be hard."

In a Dennis Erickson offense, where three wide receiver sets are played at a high frequency, coupled with no fullback, pass blocking by the team's running backs is at a premium. "There's no doubt that they all improved in their pass blocking," claimed Christian. "I always stressed to them that a running back isn't just about running the ball, but also having the right blocking technique and knowing who you're blocking. We practice that everyday and they know how important it is."

Erickson has mentioned numerous times that the strength of his offense will be rushing the ball, and one should expect that to ultimately be the staple of the Sun Devil offense. "I don't know if that gives us more confidence, because we're a pretty confident group as it is," said Christian. "I think it makes them excited because they know they'll get a lot of opportunities. They're already motivated, but they're excited for the chance to make plays."

Christian fully respects San Jose State, a team he coached against, and stresses that they're not just a stiff challenge in the passing game, but that their run defense is formidable as well. "I want my guys to play hard, not make mistakes and let the game come to them," he said of his wishes for the 2007 campaign. "They did well in fall camp and I want to see the carryover to the season."

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