Sometimes, college football provides a glimpse into the dynamic of a team. One such glimpse came Saturday night when, after tying an NCAA record with eight touchdowns in a 68-55 win over Texas Tech, Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage brought the Sun Devil offensive line to his postgame press conference.
But those glimpses are just that: glimpses. So much more goes on behind the scenes that those of us outside the locker room are never privy to. Arizona State’s Todd Graham cracked the door open on Tuesday when sharing a story about the lead-up to Ballage’s big night.
“After the game, he took ’em to the press conference. But what people didn’t see is before the game, you see him and Demario [Richard] standing up in front of those linemen,” Graham explained. “Those linemen are sitting in chairs getting ready for the game, and those guys are talking to the linemen, talking about their commitment to them, and how hard they’re going to run for them, and how much they appreciate them.”
Ballage’s promise to the offensive line manifested in a record-setting performance. Richard delivered with 109 yards on 30 carries. The former is now the recipient of a wave of national attention, which he happily turns back to his team.
— Sun Devil Football (@FootballASU) September 12, 2016
Graham said Arizona State’s young offensive line still has improvements to make. The Sun Devils feature new starters across almost the entire front five, and they’ll see some stiffer challenges as Pac-12 play begins in a few weeks.
“We’re only about 60 percent of the way there,” Graham said.
But lining up in front of a pair like Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard flattens the learning curve.
“Both of them are exception, and they’re very different in what their skill sets are,” Graham said. “There are a lot of plays we’ve got both those backs on the field at the same time. I love how we’re doing it now. I love we have two guys who are so talented.”
So talented, and according to their head coach, mature. Graham cited the pregame talk with the offensive line as a testament to the maturation of both the Sun Devils’ backs. That’s another process that unfolds away from the public eye.