|Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press|
|Arizona State senior Marion Grice has scored 18 touchdowns in seven games this season.|
Arizona State running back Marion Grice is the catalyst of the best red-zone offense in the Pac-12, but Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham struggled to find a natural comparison for the senior in a recent conversation with offensive coordinator Mike Norvell.
"He doesn't really remind us of anybody. He is really unique, and I think that is the thing that makes him a special back, that he wants to get in the end zone and has a special knack for getting into that end zone," Graham said Tuesday on the Pac-12 teleconference.
How about LaDainian Tomlinson? There is the same dominance inside the 20-yard line -- Grice has an FBS-high 31 carries in the red zone this season, resulting in 11 rushing touchdowns to tie for the national lead. There is the same versatility in the passing game -- Grice has four red-zone touchdown receptions.
Not surprisingly, given his efficiency, Grice is averaging 15.4 points per game, best in college football. And thanks largely to the 6-foot, 207-pound senior, ASU has scored touchdowns on 26 of 43 trips inside the red zone.
Grice's elusiveness is magnified by the ASU spread offense, allowing a player that Graham says "has a knack for sliding" to be even more dangerous.
"Man, what is it about him? We can't put our finger on it," Graham said. "He never takes a direct hit. He just kind of slides and he is kind of a glider."
Those attributes will make Grice that much more valuable in the NFL, where the top 10 teams in scoring touchdowns in the red zone this season have a combined record of 46-29. Only the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins are in that group and have records below .500.
Even though his position is being deemphasized, Grice's consistent ability to punch the ball into the end zone could set him apart in what is setting up to be a weak crop of running backs in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.