Arizona State RBs Xazavian Valladay, Daniyel Ngata look to carry the load for room in flux
Arizona State has quite a bit to replace in the backfield this upcoming season. Fortunately, it seems the program has already identified two backs who, for now, can work on building into workhorse backs moving forward.
Running backs coach Shaun Aguano said Monday after practice that newcomer Xazavian Valladay and returner Daniyel Ngata look to be the guys, per Sun Devil Source. He’s still looking for more, and said he’s got confidence in second-year back George Hart III as well, but there’s a clearer picture as the team moves through spring ball.
ASU running backs coach Shaun Aguano on Daniyel Ngata and Xazavian Valladay:
“Those two guys will probably carry the load.”
Aguano also mentioned that respective playing time will expectedly depend on game-to-game production.
— SunDevilSource.com (@SunDevilSource) March 21, 2022
Aguano went on to say the running backs’ role within the offense will likely look a bit different next season as well. Arizona State has a new offensive brain trust in town, so to speak, after the staff turnover of the winter, and with the transfer of quarterback Jayden Daniels, there’s an opportunity to reinvent what they do with the backfield. Aguano said the quarterbacks will play more “under the saddle” than before, according to Sun Devil Source.
That’ll put the impetus on Valladay and Ngata to try and raise the bar set by last year’s rushing attack.
Between Daniels, Rachaad White, and DeaMonte Trayanum, 2,117 of Arizona State’s more than 2,500 rushing yards from a season ago have walked out the door. White is off to the NFL. Trayanum transferred to Ohio State to play linebacker.
Ngata is the leading returning rusher for ASU. He had 309 yards and four scores on 56 carries last season, a nice starting block to build with. Though he struggled as the lead man in the bowl game against Wisconsin—11 carries for 23 yards—that was a unique situation against one of the country’s best run defenses so it’s probably worth looking at with a grain of salt.
“He was a plug-in guy in a lot of those games,” Aguano said. “I want to see if he can handle the load himself.”
Among Pac-12 backs last season with fewer than 100 snaps, Ngata had the seventh-best PFF grade. So, the sample size was small, but in that “next back up” role around the league, he was one of those backs whose snaps gave you reason to be encouraged by the potential.
But Valladay is the big name here.
In 13 games for Wyoming last season, he ran for 1,070 yards and six scores on better than 5 yards a carry. He elected to transfer to ASU this winter.
“I thought he hit the hole pretty well,” Aguano said of his impression of Valladay’s tape. “I was pretty concerned on the long speed, but after a couple of practices, I think he has that long speed. He was vicious in his running. I thought within those first 10 yards he exploded really well. I thought he got skinny through holes and his vision was pretty good, so when I saw that I knew he was going to be pretty special.”
Aguano called Valladay a slasher. A 6-foot, 198-pound back, Valladay looks the part. He said he thought about declaring for the NFL Draft, but he wants to prove himself against Power Five competition.