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September 25, 2012After turning in his offensive playbook earlier this month to switch to defensive back, Arizona State sophomore Deantre Lewis raved about the opportunity to deliver hits on the field as opposed to absorbing them like he did as a tailback.
But even though he hasn't had the chance to put an opponent on his back just yet, Lewis is slowly gaining footing in the Sun Devil secondary, earning more and more reps as the weeks go by.
"I think I've gotten a lot more comfortable than I was," Lewis said. "I felt like things slowed down a little bit and I think I'm continuing to make progress but I've still got a lot to learn."
In his first game as a defensive player in Missouri, Lewis played just a handful of snaps. But against Utah last week, the former running back lined up in the nickel and dime nearly every third down.
"We're bringing him along, the faster he learns, the more he'll play," ASU coach Todd Graham said. "He's done a good job and he's had a great attitude for us."
Once handing him the ball in the backfield, ASU sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly has been impressed with Lewis' transition, which he sees first hand while throwing against him in practice.
"He's athletic, he's got to understand what he's doing on defense scheme wise but he makes plays and he's physical," Kelly said. "He's doing a great job so far."
On Tuesday, the ASU coaching staff even lined Lewis up at safety, a sign of their continued commitment to his development as a defensive mainstay.
"Safety is something I have to learn, that's going to take time," Lewis said. "But it's good though, I like that. It's been fun. I don't miss the offense yet, that's a good thing. I'm going to continue studying and get better."
So while Lewis has only two tackles so far in his new role, he knows with improvement, some game soon he'll be able to deliver that crushing hit he has been yearning for.
"I'm still looking for it," he said. "It'll come when I start getting more comfortable and I start being able to read plays better but it's coming, it's coming, I can feel it."
Kelly learning to heal
Playing in live action on a weekly basis for the first time since high school, Kelly's body wasn't used to the consistent damage a mobile Division I signal-caller typically takes.
So through the first four weeks of the season to begin his first-string career, the ASU sophomore quarterback has had to make adjustments to his routine to recuperate after every game.
"Just ice baths and seeing the trainers and trying to get massages as much as possible," Kelly said. "It's those aspects that I've done more of, along with eating better and lifting."
Also helping the quarterback has been the knowledge and expertise of Sun Devil strength and conditioning coach Shawn Griswold.
"Griz got us good throughout the summer but we lift throughout the week too," Kelly said. "And that's good to get the soreness out of my body."
So far this year Kelly has rushed 33 times to go along with the sacks and pressures the offensive line has allowed. Those hits take a toll, but the quarterback maintained he always is better by the next game day.
"It hurts that Sunday and Monday," Kelly said. "By the time Tuesday and Wednesday come around though, I'm feeling good so by Saturday I'm fine."
Foster and Cal
Back in January in the early stages of Graham's regime, the first-year ASU coach managed to sway four star recruit D.J. Foster to stay home instead of leaving the state for Cal-Berkeley.
Through four games as a true freshman, Foster's commitment has already paid off in a big way and figures to be a central component to the Sun Devil offense over the next three to four years.
On Saturday, the former Scottsdale Saguaro standout will return to the school he nearly landed at when ASU takes on Cal. But even though he was almost a Golden Bear, Foster isn't buying into the notion that this week's game means more to him than others.
"Every week is a big game for me and the team in itself," he said. "But I have a lot of family out there so it's going to be a fun game and I'm excited to go out there."
Taking an official visit to Berkeley on Dec. 16 of last year, Foster knows the Sun Devils are in for challenge as they attempt to halt their road woes.
"They are 1-3 but they are still good," he said. "They are a tough team and they are well coached. We have to play our game there. We have to play like we do at home, I know that's hard but if we do that, we'll be okay."