ASU Football's 13 Most Important Players in 2013: #11 - RB D.J. Foster

Posted: Updated:

When you were 18 years old, you didn't do things like D.J. Foster does things.

You didn't outrun the Colorado secondary to make a sensational diving over-the-shoulder catch for a touchdown.

You didn't run a route, turn to see your quarterback under pressure, make an adjustment to find an open zone, and make a leaping grab—while staying in bounds—for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter against UCLA.

You weren't a freshman All-American (well, perhaps you were. I don't know you, but chances are, no).

Foster did these and many more during his dazzling true freshman season in 2012. Despite the heavy expectations thrust upon him as a "hometown hero", he lived up to the hype and established himself as one of the more dynamic playmakers in the Pac-12.

He wasted no time in making his presence felt, as he was on the receiving end of Arizona State's very first snap of the season. Foster would top 90 yards of total offense in six games in 2012, including his masterful performance against UCLA in which he had 107 yards receiving and 61 rushing.

The Saguaro High School product finished the year with 493 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and added 38 catches for 533 yards and another four scores as a receiver, earning a spot on Fox Sports NEXT's Freshman All-American team.

While many expected Foster to add a speedy rushing threat for the Sun Devils, it was his talent as a receiver that was both surprising and essential to the team's success.

Foster would often line up out at wide receiver, where his combination of speed, rout running ability and soft hands immediately made him one of the quarterback Taylor Kelly's top targets. His importance was only heightened by the well documented struggles of the Sun Devil wide receivers.

Heading into 2013, Foster's multi-dimensional skills will once again be crucial should ASU build upon last year's success. 

The two most productive wide receivers from 2012—Rashad Ross and Jamal Miles—are gone, and while the team signed five at the position in the new recruiting class, none of that group has taken a snap at the FBS level. Given the uncertainty there, plus Foster's demonstrated skill set, it's not hard to make the claim that he could be the top option at the position.

On the ground, Foster will once again team with Marion Grice to form one of the nation's best 1-2 punches. The larger Grice will be the team's "lead" back, but a newly bulked up Foster (now 199 pounds) will rightfully see plenty of work, where his speed, elusiveness, vision and experience should help him build upon his 4.8 yards-per-carry average from 2012.

With a ferocious defense that should be among the nation's best, the Sun Devil offense will simply need to be efficient in order for the team to succed. With a top-notch tight end in Chris Coyle, a productive back in Grice, and a veteran quarterback in Kelly, they can do just that.

For the team to make the jump to the next level and contend for the Rose Bowl, they will need that game-breaking X-factor that keeps defensive coordinators awake at night.

That's D.J. Foster...not your typical teenager.