Christian Confident in Running Backs Unit

When starting running back Ryan Torain was declared out for the year, the assortment of opinions concerning the prospects of the Sun Devils' running game have been ranging from apprehension to assurance. We sat down with ASU's Running Backs Coach, Jamie Christian, to discuss his feelings regarding his group and the players that will now have to shoulder a bigger load in the team's ground attack.

Dimitri Nance and Keegan Herring have amassed 663 rushing yards and six touchdowns between them, which does ease Christian's mind, as well as has him eager to see how the tandem will perform in extended duty.

"We all knew we had some good running backs, so it's time for those guys to step up," said Christian. "We're gonna miss Ryan, but we have to move on and those guys have to step up. Dimitri and Keegan, the way they have been playing, I'm confident in them. They deserve more playing time and now they have their opportunity."

It's only natural for the intensity of a back-up player to pick up in practice, once the starter is ruled out and increased playing time turns from a possibility to certainty. Yet, the even keel attitude that defines the maroon and gold as a whole, didn't skip the running backs according to their position coach.

"To be honest with you, they've been practicing hard all the time," Christian remarked. "More is expected from then now and they'll get more carries, so they're more excited more than anything. We're all sad to see Ryan gone, but they will step up."

Christian added that Torain's absence will not cause any changes in the playbook, and the running game plays won't see any overhauls. "Those guys have been running the same plays in practice since fall camp," he said. "It's the same game plan."

When asked which one area he feels that both Nance and Herring have improved on the most since fall camp, Christian replied with out hesitation that pass protection is the one area he was very pleased with in terms of their skill development.

"That's something I've stressed and they have been working on. That's really the main change," Christian stated. "They're both natural runners with great speed and a great feel for the game, but pass protecting is the one area they both needed to improve on and they've done that, so has Ryan."

A running back who stands not to see only increased activity, but really just seeing the field for the first time this year, is JC transfer Jarrell Woods. "He's coming along," said Christian on the status of Woods who missed good portions of fall camp with an ankle injury. "The injury set him back, and he has to step up too. When something else happens to one of the running backs, he has to be ready to go. He's doing a good job, and if his number is called this week he'll be ready."

Shawn DeWitty, who has redshirted so far this season, was taking reps with the second team in Sunday's practice. Erickson hasn't declared that the redshirt tag will be taken off DeWitty, and his increased involvement in practice is being labeled as a precaution. "When one of those guys goes down we have another guy," said Christian. "He took reps just to be familiar with the plays if that happens."

Over the bye week, as ASU's running backs coach was on the road recruiting, the reception he was getting was a warm one. Naturally the 7-0 record and high rankings have paved a smooth path. "Recruiting is a little bit easier now than if we were 2-5," Christian commented. "You're getting a lot of respect and that's obviously a good thing. You can tell the difference and you can tell here's some buzz out there."

That proverbial buzz is creating a stir among ASU fans, but has done nothing to change the mood among the always-grounded Sun Devils. "They've been focused, because they know that at any given time it can be taken away from them," said Christian. "The upsets they see every week…they know they can't let down and that's how they carry themselves."

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