TEMPE, Ariz. -- The first seven games of Arizona State's 2013 season have produced a number of outstanding offensive high points and moments.
While Marion Grice's run at the record book and Jaelen Strong's jump ball catches have garnered most of the attention, perhaps the most uplifting development from the season's "first half" is the return to form of junior running back Deantre Lewis.
Once the victim of a random shooting in early 2011, Lewis' comeback trail has been long and arduous, but his performance this season has been nothing short of inspiring. He currently ranks third on the team with 192 yards, has caught four passes for 83 more yards, and has been a key contributor on special teams.
Best of all, he has shown the speed and game-changing explosiveness that wowed ASU fans during his freshman year in 2010.
I caught up with Lewis after practice as he and his teammates prepare to face the Washington State Cougars. We discussed a few of his best plays of the year, his role now and into the future, and the keys to getting a big road win on Halloween.
One of the best moments of the season thus far was your touchdown against USC. After your long journey back, what was the first thought that went through your head?
Deantre Lewis: "I made it. The doctor never said that I would get my athleticism back. That (touchdown) proved that anything can happen with hard work. Anything through God if you have him on your side, he can bring you back.”
Perhaps the most talked about play this year was your crushing block on a punt return against Colorado. Walk me through that play.
Lewis: “On that play, I was supposed to go in for a block, but I got blocked so I ended up turning around. I sprinted back and I saw Rob Nelson start to jet outside. I saw my opportunity to get a big block and help him. So I just went for it.”
What is the mindset of the offense heading into Thursday's game against Washington State?
Lewis: “We have to keep attacking. Against Washington, once we started clicking, no one was stopping us. Our offense, we have a lot of athletes. Our O-line, they are starting to pick it up a lot more. At the beginning of the year, we struggled a little, but now, we’re starting to trust each other and coming along together. We’re having way better practices than we did, and we’re starting to click more.”
What are some of the lessons that you have learned over the first seven games about this Sun Devil offense?
Lewis: “We’re learning that we have a lot of people that can play in space. A lot of people that can make one person miss, or two, and then have the speed to get downfield. We’re realizing that, and we’re utilizing it more.”
How would you describe your current role on this team?
Lewis: “I’m helping the team. Marion gets tired, or they will just give me a drive to change stuff up a bit. I played a lot at the beginning against Washington. I played a lot at the beginning against USC. It changes from week to week. They usually tell me before game time, ‘We’re going to need you early’. I love my current role right now. I just pray that it gets bigger and bigger.”
Have you given any thought to next season, about perhaps taking over the team's feature back job from a graduating Marion Grice?
Lewis: “I’ve thought about it, but that is something that will come over time. I just have to take it day by day.”
The running game has had its share of highs and lows this year. How are you and the rest of the backs working to ensure greater consistency?
Lewis: “We do a lot of studying. We work on hitting the hole harder and faster. The O-line is doing a lot better on getting their blocks. It was confusing at the beginning of the year, what we were doing, so we changed it up. Now we feel like we are back to our old selves. We should be able to pick it up from here.”
What is your scouting report on the Cougar defense?
“They are a very physical defense. By far, one of the most physical teams that we’ve played. We know that they are not going to come out and lay down for us. We are at their house. We have to go in and take it to them. It’s going to be a very physical game.”
What will be the keys to victory for the running backs this week?
“We have to establish the run game. When we establish the run game, that opens up everything. The backs need to be physical so we can maintain the run game.”