Marshall Solid As A Rock
By Jackson Long
Despite suffering an ankle injury in preseason camp and being limited in practice each week throughout the 2011 season, Arizona State junior running back Cameron Marshall hasn't let it slow him down.
Marshall is in his third year in the backfield for the Sun Devils, having contributed as a freshman and leading the rushing attack as a starter the past two years.
"I think my role here has been important in the sense that we have stability here in this position," said Marshall.
As ASU's wins have increased over time, so have Marshall's stats. He ran for nearly 300 yards and two scores his first season, racked up just short of 800 yards and nine touchdowns in his sophomore crusade and after just six games this season, he has amassed 421 yards and a surprising eight trips to pay dirt.
Arizona State has experienced an infusion of talent through recruiting to help turnaround the team, but Marshall and his veteran teammates have purely bolstered their game.
"The guys that have been here have stepped up," said Marshall. "Most of these guys on our team have been here for those tough years and now we are putting things together. Last year we lost a lot of close games and now we are doing a much better job of finishing."
While the Sun Devil defense is having a stellar year, allowing just 19.5 points per game (second in the Pac-12), the ASU offense is what's getting people's attention this season. Marshall and company are putting up just over 35 points per game and Marshall is getting more carries than ever as the offense in Tempe continues to heat up.
"I add balance to the offense, so that they aren't always scheming against the pass," Marshall said. "I think (the coaching staff) is trusting me a little more, as some of the opportunities I am getting this year, I wasn't getting last year."
But it is junior Brock Osweiler, at quarterback, who is garnering much of the credit for the Sun Devils. While the acclaim is well deserved - Osweiler is one yard away from being in the top ten nationally for passing yards - it has been Marshall who is recording his best season so far, entirely under the radar.
"I am not too worried about who gets credit. As long as we get a win in the column, that is all that matters to me," said Marshall.
Arizona State did just that on September 24, dominating USC 43-22, launching the Tempe-based university into the driver's seat in the Pac-12 South.
It was an all-out offense bombardment from ASU, with Osweiler throwing for 223 yards and two scores, while spreading the ball around to eight different receivers. But it was Marshall, who in ASU's toughest conference battle yet, stole the spotlight.
On his first carry of the game, Marshall bolted 70 yards for a touchdown. He didn't slow down all game, bruising Trojan defenders for 141 yards on 25 carries accompanied by three TDs.
"I think it was a statement game, that we can run the ball here and we can do it well," Marshall said.
Running the ball well is certainly something Marshall has done this season. While it has not been entirely unexpected that Marshall would one day develop into a feature-back, his massive progress from year to year has been stirring.
"I definitely think I have gotten better in the time I have been here, in areas like pass blocking and becoming an all around better runner. I think I run the ball better this year than I did last year," Marshall said.
Marshall stands at 5-11 and packs 215 pounds of linebacker-punishing muscle. He is speedy (4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash) but his strength is where he makes his mark, literally. And one aspect of Marshall's game where he has vastly improved: pass protection. In ASU's spread offense, the ability for a tailback to stay behind the line and pick up blitzes is key.
"I am physical in everything I do," said Marshall. "Pass blocking wasn't something I was naturally good at. I am a big dude, but when I got here I wasn't a very good pass-blocker, but I have since improved through fixing technique."
Arizona State has the potential to thrust itself into the BCS bowl picture if the squad can pull off an upset of Oregon this weekend and finish strong. Which is something Marshall and his teammates both expect and strive for.
"In my class, when we came in here we knew in a few years we would be something special. We have expected (this year's performance) and it hasn't surprised anybody, we are just finally putting it together," said Marshall.
The Sun Devils travel to Eugene to take on Oregon this Saturday at 7:15 p.m. PT on ESPN.
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