Enter Eno Benjamin.
Benjamin joined the Sun Devils in January of 2017, just in time to participate in spring practices. However, he had two substantial hindrances in any potential of a breakout season. These, of course, were senior running backs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard. Now, I’m not saying Ballage and Richard were damaging to Benjamin’s college career (in fact they probably made him even better). All I’m saying is ASU already having two star running backs didn’t leave a lot of opportunities for Benjamin to showcase his skill last season.
Benjamin committed to ASU as a 4-star prospect with a rating of 94. He was ranked #6 among running backs nationally and #131 among all prospects on 247Sports composite rankings. This leaves him as one of two players of that position ranked in the top eight that aren’t in the SEC or ACC (the other being Stephen Carr at USC).
Compared to Richard and Ballage, these rankings are insane. Both previous running backs were 2014 commits; Ballage received a 4-star rating but fell to #338 nationally when it was all said and done. Richard was given a 3-star rating and placed #21 among running backs.
Now, this isn’t to say anything negative about the skill level of these two running backs, both of them have secured a spot on an NFL roster and were well-known — especially Ballage — by people with otherwise little knowledge of ASU. This simply puts into perspective the sheer skill and potential Benjamin possesses.
During his freshman season, Benjamin received only 23 attempts but averaged 6.2 yards per attempt and, given his limited carries, 14.2 yards per game. When Kalen Ballage was a freshman, he had a similar opportunity, given 42 attempts. He, however, only achieved 3 yards per attempt — a disheartening number that wouldn’t have predicted his later tying of the FBS single-game touchdown record in 2016.
Arizona State RB Eno Benjamin was a top recruit in the 2017 class. Last season he averaged 6.2 YPC on limited carries. This year he takes over as RB1 and I expect him to top the 1,000 yard mark. pic.twitter.com/WfBqVxFmdT
— the CFB Spot (@theCFBSpot) July 13, 2018
Yes, I know there are a lot more factors that go into performance than just how many yards a running back was able to carry for. Teams change, defenses change, dynamics change. But this is just to serve as an incredibly simplified comparison to highlight how much Eno Benjamin is being overlooked in this 2018 ASU offense. Plus he’s now had an entire year of practice behind both Richard and Ballage, two backs whose knowledge would be invaluable to a young, talented player adapting to the college game.
Now back to Herm Edwards. He is known for being a mainly defensive coach, and given the only main shocks to the Sun Devil offense were at running back, I wouldn’t expect the offensive dynamic to change much, at least in the beginning of the season. And it doesn’t necessarily need to.
With a few tweaks to the offensive line, Benjamin could easily have a season just as good, if not better, than Richard or Ballage.