Miami Dolphins rookie RB Kalen Ballage leveling out after tough start to OTAs

Dolphins fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage has high potential to be an explosive playmaker. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Even in the lower stakes of offseason practices, it’s a bad feeling to line up for a play and not be entirely certain where you’re supposed to go. It’s especially unnerving when you’re in the process of trying to prove you belong in the NFL.

Dolphins rookie Kalen Ballage battled that early in Organized Team Activities when Adam Gase hit the accelerator and had the offense running quicker than he’d seen before. He struggled to keep everything straight as Miami called play after play, and it illuminated how much work he still needs to do.

“I’m from a no-huddle offense at Arizona State, so I’ve been in the no-huddle stuff, but going really fast and not knowing all the plays is completely different,” he said after practice today. “There was a few times where my mind was running 100 miles an hour trying to figure things out.

“It’s not that I don’t know, but am I 100 percent sure? You kind of have an idea of what you’re supposed to be doing, but maybe you aren’t fully sure about it. Just being consistent and knowing what I’ve got so I can be very decisive and play fast.”

The Dolphins, who took Ballage in the fourth round two months ago, hope he’ll be a quick learner. He’s got the combination of a bruising 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame, great speed and the versatility to hurt a defense as a runner or receiver and aspires to reach the level of dual-threat stars like Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson.

If he’s ready to contribute right away he’ll be a significant weapon for Gase as he tries to revamp the offense. He’s settled in since those first few days, working on memorizing plays with fellow rookie running back Buddy Howell of Florida Atlantic, and has looked more comfortable in the offense this week.

“He’s progressing quickly,” Gase said. “He’s consistently been one of those guys that’s trying to find a way to get extra (work) and spend time with other players, just trying to really nail down the offense.

“We’re trying to do as many things as possible in the spring to get him used to things, because once you hit training camp you don’t have a ton of time to spend on one specific thing. A lot of things are going to be flying at him once we hit training camp.”

Ballage believes he was underutilized at Arizona State, where he still managed to run for 669 yards and six touchdowns last season. Over three years as a regular part of the Sun Devils’ offense, he totaled 1,858 yards rushing, 620 yards receiving and 25 total touchdowns.

The upside is he did all of that without taking much of a beating physically because he had only 450 carries in his college career.

As he tries to master the playbook before next month’s training camp, Ballage has been learning from future Hall of Famer Frank Gore and third-year running back Kenyan Drake. Both have gone out of their way to help him acclimate. Gore and Ballage hang out and scour film of other running backs around the league to pick up new moves.

All the on-field reps and off-field study sessions are helping make things run more smoothly for Ballage, who prides himself on being reliable.

“I’m not a guy that makes a lot of mental errors,” he said. “There’s gonna be stuff here and there because I’m learning a new playbook and it’s a lot of information to learn, but I’m just trying to be the most consistent football player I can be right now.”

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2018 NFL Draft: Fourth-rounder Kalen Ballage is Dolphins’ most exciting pick

The Dolphins have two young running backs now that they’ve pickedd up Kalen Ballage to pair with Kenyan Drake. (Getty Images)

DAVIE — This is the most exciting pick the Miami Dolphins have made in this year’s NFL Draft, and it’s unusual to say that about a fourth-round pick.

An offense that’s been dangerously low on electricity got a big jolt of it by choosing Arizona State running back with the No. 131 overall selection. He’s a thicker back at 6-foot-2, 228 pounds and he’s still got enough speed to clock a blazing 4.35 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.

Much of the Dolphins’ draft to this point had been about filling crucial needs, which is important, but Ballage is the first pick that brings the thrill of posing a big-play threat at all times.

“I don’t believe there’s 130 guys better than me, and definitely not 11 other running backs,” Ballage said.

This is a guy who once scored eight touchdowns in a game against Texas Tech, and anybody who can do that is worth the attention. Last year, as a senior, he put up 669 yards at a rate of 4.3 per carry and scored six touchdowns.

Ballage also possesses the pass-catching ability Adam Gase covets as he tries to assemble Miami’s backfield of the future. Kenyan Drake will be the primary back this year and has put together convincing evidence that he can do damage as a runner and receiver, and Gase’s imagination will run wild with ways to use him and Ballage together.

As a nice bonus, he’s already well-versed in special teams and could be a big factor for Miami in the return game.

Take a look at the skill players Miami has now, and the offseason departure of Jarvis Landry hurts a little bit less.

The Dolphins have exceptional speed at receiver in Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, plus the potential that always comes with DeVante Parker if he can get it together as well as a steady veteran in Danny Amendola.

They’ve got two new tight ends, one with the athleticism and leaping ability of an NBA wing player and one who made his name as a gritty blocker. The former, Penn State’s Mike Gesicki, could provide Miami with the red-zone target it’s been badly missing the last two years.

And the backfield now has dynamic speedsters in Drake and Ballage, both of whom will learn from one of the all-time greats in soon-to-be-35-year-old Frank Gore.

“Frank Gore is one of the best running backs ever,” Ballage said. “It’s cool to be able to learn from him.”

That’s a perfect attitude for Ballage, who admitted he’s raw and could use some guidance. He endured plenty of turnover on the Arizona State coaching staff during his time there and comes to Davie ready to be molded by Gase’s staff.

He also comes in with low mileage after getting just 450 carries in four years with the Sun Devils. That’s part of why Ballage thinks he got overlooked and drifted all the way to the late fourth round, but he won’t be short on opportunity when he joins the Dolphins.

In Gase’s economy, being a big-play threat is worth more than anything, and finding one this late in the draft is great work by Chris Grier and the Dolphins.

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