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Valladay Ready to Lead Backfield to New Heights

Transfer running back Xazavian Valladay is ready to make a splash at Arizona State.

TEMPE -- Arizona State running backs coach Shaun Aguano wasn't exactly sold at first on the film of transfer running back Xazavian Valladay. 

He quickly became a fan when Valladay showed him what he could do at spring practice. 

"I was a little concerned on the long speed, but you know, after a couple of practices, I think he has that long speed. But he was vicious in his running," Aguano said. 

"I thought within that 10-yard, the first and second levels that he exploded really well. I thought he got skinny through holes and his vision was always pretty good. And so when I saw that, I knew he was going to be special. X is that slasher guy. I love his ability on a one-cut and getting vertical, he's quick. I think he is versatile in the pass game as well, kind of Rachaad-ish in a way. I think he's a little bit smaller than Rachaad (White), but I think he hits the first and second level with authority."

Valladay (6-foot and 200 pounds) transferred from Wyoming after averaging over five yards per carry in 2021. He also led Wyoming in rushing with 1,070 yards on 209 attempts and scored six times. Valladay added 23 receptions for 233 yards.

Now, he arrives at Arizona State to replenish a Sun Devils backfield after White and Chip Trayanum moved on. Valladay joins Daniyel Ngata, George Hart and Tevin White among others in a ASU backfield that will again look to be one of the strongest in the Pac-12. 

Valladay said, "I feel like the running back room, every year it felt like you guys (Arizona State) had transfers coming from all over. But I feel like the running back room is close and it's real genuine, I can say that. I feel it in the atmosphere."

As a player, Valladay doesn't possess the elite pass-catching prowess White once displayed at ASU. He also isn't built to move through defenders in similar fashion to Trayanum. 

Valladay, however, has proved capable of doing whatever is asked of him, acting as more of a Swiss army knife than a one-trick pony. 

He said, "I'm very versatile. I can catch and run the ball, I'm pretty sure you guys saw that on film. I definitely just want to get better in both aspects because I'm not comfortable and complacent by any means."

Valladay said he entertained the thought of potentially entering the NFL draft, but ultimately decided his next stop would be Arizona State. 

The transfer portal has changed the landscape of college football, as it virtually acts as college football's version of free agency. Valladay didn't spend very long in the portal, as he entered on Dec. 27 and announced his commitment on Jan. 11.

"It was definitely a process that felt like high school all over again. One thing I will say, it was definitely faster. It was my first time in the transfer portal and I had no intentions of going in there. It was pretty fast and I didn't want it to be too long," Valladay said.

"I just wanted to come up (to) a better level and play with the nation's best guys and get some better looks. I like competing. So wherever the best competition is, you'll see me there and be I'll be competing."

It can be difficult for a player to transition into a new climate, school and locker room, yet Valladay says his new teammates have been nothing short of spectacular upon arrival. 

He said, "It hasn't been challenging, but it's been a little bit of a process just learning guys and what they have to bring to the table. Just being around new people, you don't want to give off a bad vibe, you just always want to be a helping hand to everyone that needs the help. Whatever I can do to be in a position to help this team and be a great leader on it, I'm going to do it,"

And yes, that even extends to the very guys he's competing against.

"They've been very accepting," Valladay said. "Daniyel, George and the rest of the guys in the running back room and honestly, the rest of the guys on the team, they welcomed me with open arms and everything's been great so far. So there's not anything negative to say about this team. I feel like everything in this situation is very positive moving forward.

"It's been a transition for sure. I know everybody's familiar with Wyoming (laughs), but believe it or not I enjoyed my time there. Love those guys. I wish those guys the best. I moved on and the transition wasn't that big because I'm from Chicago and this is obviously a nice city as well. So I love it here and can't wait to experience the weather for sure."

When temperatures reach their lovely highs in the dog days of summer, we'll see if Valladay can withstand it. At the moment, he's doing just fine handling the heat in the kitchen of ASU's backfield. 

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