A new position is another new opportunity for ASU's Marcus Washington

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By Brad Denny By Brad Denny

TEMPE, Ariz. -- A new season brings with it a familiar storyline: Marcus Washington has a new position.

The Phoenix native and redshirt senior has been all over the practice field during his Sun Devil career, but is still looking to find a spot that will translate to success on game day.

“I could have done a whole lot better," said Washington of his career. "Most of the time, I’ve given effort, but just not enough to my abilities. I could have done better. It should never have come down to now, where the coaches are doing everything they can to get me on the field.”

Washington came to ASU in 2010 as a running back, and after a redshirt year, logged 11 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against UC Davis. He would get two more carries seven games later, and those would be the last times he has touched the ball in a game to this day.

When Todd Graham and Mike Norvell arrived in 2012, they moved the 6-foot, 220-pounder to tight end. While he didn't log any receptions, Washington did provide a solid special teams presence, making eight tackles over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

In their latest attempt to get Washington on the field more, the Arizona State staff moved him over to defense. Washington has been taking second-team reps throughout spring practices at SPUR linebacker. Along with his continued work as a key special teamer, Washington has been impressive.

“Right now, I’m doing pretty well on special teams and I want to keep doing that," Washington said. "That’s my favorite, just being able to rock people as hard as I can. On defense, I want to just try to get some playing time on the field.”

His hard-hitting mentality has translated well to his new spot. Washington has often been in on several plays during team sessions, and he made an athletic leaping interception in one of the team's recent scrimmages. 

“For me, it’s good, and hopefully the coaches keep me there," Washington said. "They’ve been giving me more reps with some of the ones in different formations. I love hitting, but I have to work on coverage. That’s one of the biggest things for me. I really do like it a lot.”

One of the major reasons the staff moved Washington to linebacker was the lack of depth at the position. Just one starter from last season—SAM backer Salamo Fiso—returns, so the opportunity to make an impression this spring is one that Washington is embracing.

“It’s always going to be an intense battle, but we’re always going to help each other,” Washington said of the competition at SPUR linebacker. “I’m right behind Laiu (Moeakiola), and I know Luke Williams is behind me. With those guys, I can always talk to them no matter what, even if we are trying to go after the position. I can always ask them, they can always ask me. Most of the time, I’ll ask them about plays and they are grateful to help me.”

So far, Washington has enjoyed his time on defense, where he previously had only spot duty in high school.

“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m liking it," said Washington of the transition. "It’s different. I don’t know how to really explain it. You can feel a difference.”

One of the reasons that Washington has played well thus far has been the instruction from new defensive coordinator and new linebackers coach Keith Patterson.

“It’s awesome. I didn’t work with any of the other linebacker coaches, but working with Coach Patterson, it’s cool just to hear him talk," Washington said. "Everything he says is knowledge, and you just take it in. He knows all this stuff. As players, we sit here and eat it up and take in what he is teaching us.”

With a home hopefully found on defense, Washington looks back and is unsure if his career was hindered by the instability so many new position changes over his career. 

“I don’t really know. It’s always different," Washington said. "Starting as a running back, then going to tight end, then maybe going back to running back. There’s always stuff I have to try to re-learn. I feel like it’s always the same opportunity.”

But he now thinks that this recent shift will be the last.

“I think the defense may be permanent. I’ll be ready for wherever they take me.”

As I ask Washington about what he'd like to accomplish during his final year as a Sun Devil, someone pops in out of nowhere and answers on Washington's behalf.

It was ASU Hall of Famer and former All-American wide receiver J.D. Hill.

“As a Sun Devil wearing No. 20, when I wore that jersey, I made an impact," Hill told Washington. "So for you to wear that jersey going into your senior year, you want to be an impact player. That’s your vision. That’s what you got on your mind. Wear that jersey with pride.”

Hill then walked away, and after taking in the Sun Devil legend's advice, Washington set forth his goal. Predictably, it fits no matter where he lines up on the field.

“Hopefully, I get that starting position," Washington said. "It would be awesome to know people would say, ‘Oh yeah, Marcus did good out there.’

"I’m always going to be happy wherever they put me, because I want to do everything I can to help the team, especially as a senior this year. I want to help our team go to the national championship. I want to go to the national championship. Wherever they put me, I’m going to take it full blast.”