D.J. Foster’s diminished role hurting Arizona State


At 4-3 through the first seven games of the season, we could point to any number of issues with these Arizona State Sun Devils. The offense has been inconsistent and largely anemic as a result. The playcalling has been rough, to say the least. The defense has had its moments, but is still a questionable group overall. Coaching takes the lion’s share of the blame, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, but one of the more alarming factors, or lack thereof, in this Arizona State season has been the notable absence of D.J. Foster as an impact player.

It’s unfortunate that a senior who looked destined to get a crack at the NFL via the draft, and not have to work his way onto a roster afterwards, looks to be going out without so much as a whimper. But that’s where D.J. Foster finds himself in this offense.

The excitement that was created when Foster announced he’d be returning from his senior season was followed by questions when the team announced that they’d be moving him to receiver. A crowded backfield resulted in the move, but the transition hasn’t been kind to Foster. His touches have been extremely limited as a result and his role in the offense has primarily relied on him turning short pass plays into long gains. This obviously hasn’t transpired as the coaching staff would have liked it to.

Through these seven games, Foster has 32 receptions, in addition to just 28 rushing attempts. Three of his past four games have featured just one carry in the ground game, while the last three have featured receiving totals of four, three, and three, respectively. His longest reception over that three-game span came on a 28-yard play against UCLA, which accounted for almost exactly half of his yardage in that game. His longest receptions in each of the last two games have been for just 12 and nine yards.

There are theories and rumors out there that Foster is not playing at 100 percent. That would be entirely possible, given the low level of production, as well as the three drops he committed against Utah this past weekend. At the same time, there hasn’t been much from the Sun Devils that would indicate that. What’s more likely is that the fit and the scheme are bad for D.J. Foster.

Moving him to wide receiver was understandable. At the same time, though, keeping him involved in the running game may have been in his, and the team’s, best interest. Allowing him to maintain that versatility and be a jack-of-all trades seems like it might have been the best possible situation for his particular skill set. Instead, he’s limited to a position he’s still trying to adjust to, in an offense that doesn’t like to push the ball particularly far down the field.

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Long-term, Foster’s draft stock is obviously suffering. There’s a place in the NFL for a player like Foster if he was utilized as that hybrid-type of player that was being used as a weapon in all phases of the offense. But being limited to this point could push him not only to Day 3 of the draft, but off the board completely.

Obviously our larger concern here, though, is his role with the Sun Devils. While moving him to receiver involved a hope that he’d be featured more with a crowded backfield, it has seen his contributions to the offense diminish. It’s a move that just hasn’t worked out, and the offense, and Foster, could continue to suffer as a result. Perhaps other avenues to get his production up will be explored. Perhaps not. But it sure is frustrating to watch a player of his caliber and upside limited to such a degree as has been the case to this point.

Randy Holt is the managing editor for Devils in Detail. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.