Wait Worthwhile for Nance

As the state of Texas's 5A Player of the Year, Dimitri Nance is used to achieving success. Yet, like many decorated prep players, this running back had to prove himself all over again in college. He came to a Sun Devil team loaded with talent at his position but almost every time he was given an opportunity to display his skills, he didn't disappoint, just like in last week's game vs. Washington.

"I was just doing my job, waiting for my name to be called," said Dimitri Nance who rushed for 92 yards on 13 carries against the Huskies, including a 57-yard TD scamper. "I just have to step up when needed and do what I do best. I knew when (Ryan) Torain went down I had to play well because that's why they brought me here. I just waited for my turn and then do what I had to do."

The discussion of depth at the running back position has never revolved just around Torain and second stringer Keegan Herring. Nance has always been part of that topic and Head Coach Dennis Erickson has been singing the praises of this sophomore since spring practice.

"I just had to stay humble and just make sure then it was my turn I was ready to play and do what I'm capable of doing," Nance commented. "It's great that coach said that stuff about me, but I still had to go out there and play hard."

By his own admission, he's just a shade slower (runs a 4.5) than former State of Arizona 100m champion Herring. Nonetheless, he lists his speed and quickness as attributes he improved on coming into the 2007 season. "As long as I made it to the end zone on my (57-yard) touchdown it's all good," he said laughing. "Being fast and quick is very important for my position so I worked hard on that."

Picking up the blitz has been one of the only blemishes of the Sun Devils' 7-0 campaign. Part of those duties naturally falls on the running backs, and Nance feels that his position in general has been doing a better job in this area as of late.

"It wasn't really about knowing what to do," he explained. "It was more about just being physical and making sure you get the job done. I think I've done better at that as the season went on. We all have to get better at this because we can't have Rudy (Carpenter) keep on getting sacked. We know people are gonna blitz us a lot every game and we're gonna continue to work harder and protecting better."

As the team goes into its bye week, the message from the coaching staff to its players is not to rest on the laurels of what has been so far a very special year. "The mentality this week is to get better," Nance stated. "They tell us that you either get worse or get better, and we have to get better, rest on the weekend and make sure that we're ready for Cal. We started to look at film this week and we'll really crack down next week looking at film and getting ready."

Nance added that the Golden Bears' defense plays mainly in a base setting without applying much pressure. "But when we were exposed a little bit at that Stanford game," he said, "It seemed like every team was bringing it more than they used to. We're gonna prepare for that pressure every week." One way to combat blitzes is quick passes to the running backs and Nance noted that he feels very comfortable being used in that role.

Despite the numerous and prestigious honors he received back in the Lone Star state, there's been a somewhat underdog perception attached to Nance. Because of an average junior high school season, he wasn't recruited heavily by Big 12 schools, which are known to receive most of their oral commitments before prospects begin their senior year. Couple that with the fact that he had only 56 carries in his freshman year with the maroon and gold, and no one could blame Nance for perhaps feeling slighted at times.

However, the always unassuming Nance is more than happy to keep his nose to the grindstone and continue to let his play speak for itself. "I guess I have to prove myself all the time," he said. "I'll just continue to do what I do and hope the best will come out of it. Just like the team's attitude, I have to stay humble and hungry and after that everything will take care of itself."

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