TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State is still trying to determine its starting quarterback and still waiting on a wide receiver (or two) to assert himself. The offensive line, too, still has strides to make, but the likely linchpin of the offense is already in place.
Senior running back Cameron Marshall has provided ASU some offensive certainty by embracing the expectations for his most productive season yet and an increased leadership role on a team in transition.
"I think it's another big test this year of what I'm able to do and what I can do for this team," Marshall said. "I expect to be successful. I expect that when I go out there we'll move the ball and that we're successful as a whole offensive unit."
It will not be easy for Marshall to improve on a junior season that saw him rise through the ASU record books. He tied the single-season rushing touchdown record with 18 and ran for 1,050 yards to move into 12th on the career rushing list.
With 11 touchdowns this season, Marshall would set a new school record for career rushing scores. And with 2,131 career rushing yards already, another 1,000-yard effort would put him at least in the top five. A 1,500-yard season would leave him second all time, behind only Woody Green (4,188).
Assuming Marshall remains healthy, the touchdown record should be no problem, and a 1,500-yard season doesn't seem at all unfathomable considering the workload he'll have in coach Todd Graham's supposedly run-heavy offense. Graham suggested at ASU's media day that Marshall could see upwards of 30 carries per game.
"I've been dying for a workload like that the past couple years," Marshall said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Marshall has made it abundantly clear that he is unfazed by expectations. There is no added pressure, he said, because moving the ball and scoring are just part of his job. He expects of himself just what coaches and fans do, perhaps more.
"I expect to go above and beyond what I'm called to do," Marshall said. "If they want a first down, I want to get 20 yards."
Running backs coach Larry Porter hesitated to say definitively what another successful season from Marshall would mean to the team's success, but he knows the two are intertwined.
"We need to be extremely productive in the run game," Porter said. "What we need him to do when his name and number is called is be productive, run with toughness and physicality. We also need his leadership. We just need Cam to be Cam.
"He's embraced Coach Graham's vision, and he's a guy we're truly counting on."
Marshall is one of few returning starters on offense and one of the most veteran players on the team. He knows that carries an expectation of maturity and leadership. Learning exactly what kind of leadership has been a new undertaking for Marshall.
In the past, Marshall admits, he was more of a quiet leader, setting an example through his work ethic, performance and attitude. But with his veteran status, particularly on a team under new direction, Marshall knows he must also become a vocal leader.
"I think, in order to be an effective leader, you can't just lead by example," Marshall said. "That's something I've embraced this year, whether it's addressing the team as a whole, addressing the offense as a whole or going to individual guys."
Marshall could become for the offense what redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Magee is for the defense. There's a pretty good chance the pair will be captains this season, as Marshall's embrace of a greater leadership role has not gone unnoticed at the top.
"He's stepped up big-time as a leader," Graham said. "Sometimes a guy gets to be a really good player and they think they're entitled to be coached a little bit easier. We're the opposite of that, and he's embraced that and done a great job."
Graham has also seen in Marshall a selflessness that identifies his personal success and contributions -- of production and leadership -- as simple pieces of the bigger picture.
"I dont think he's thinking one bit about Cam Marshall or any of the expectations on him," Graham said. "He's thinking about one thing, and that's the Sun Devils winning."