No. 24 – Arizona State Sun Devils Season Preview
When Herm Edwards was hired to be the head coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils in late 2017, the reaction throughout the college football world was either befuddlement or amusement. The decision was largely panned in the media, but Edwards has not been the abject disaster many media members expected the former New York Jets head coach to be in Tempe. Arizona State went 7-6 in 2018 and 8-5 in 2019, and the Sun Devils could be a dark horse contender in the Pac 12 South in 2021.
Arizona State Regular Season Win Total
Over 9 Wins -115
Under 9 Wins -115
The Sun Devils have struck gold with sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels. Daniels became the starter as a true freshman in 2019, and he has been fantastic since winning the job. He completed 60.7% of his passes for 2,943 yards with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions two years ago, and he threw for 701 yards with five touchdowns and an interception in four games last season. Daniels is an excellent running threat too with 223 yards (6.8 YPC) and four touchdowns in 2020.
Arizona State welcomes back almost all its skill position contributors from last season too. Running back Rachaad White ran for 420 yards (10.0 YPC) and five touchdowns last year, and he was named Second Team All-Pac 12 in the preseason. Chip Trayanum and Daniyel Ngata saw a good amount of action last year as well and will see a number of carries themselves.
Frank Darby is the only player that caught multiple passes in 2020 that is not back with the Sun Devils this year. Arizona State won’t throw the ball a ton in this scheme, but senior tight end Curtis Hodges and freshman receiver LV Bunkley-Shelton figure to be bright spots.
This offensive line figures to be solid too. Center Dohnovan West was a First Team All-Pac 12 selection in 2020 and was named Preseason First Team at conference media days. Offensive tackle Kellen Diesch is a Preseason Second Team Pac 12 selection too.
Arizona State’s secondary is the strength of the defense. All four starters are seniors with plenty of experience, and cornerback Chase Lucas was a Preseason First Team All-Pac 12 selection after being an all-conference selection in 2020. Safety Evan Fields was the Sun Devils’ leading tackler last season, cornerback Jack Jones is very solid, and the team added two highly touted freshmen in Isaiah Johnson and Tommi Hill.
This defensive line stands to be pretty good too. Defensive tackle Jermayne Lole and defensive end Tyler Johnson were both preseason all-conference selections, and Lole has the potential to be the best defensive lineman other than Kayvon Thibodeaux in the conference.
These linebackers figure to be solid given their experience. Darien Butler has 27 starts, Merlin Robertson has 26 starts, and Kyle Soelle has succeeded at strong side linebacker after starting off as a tight end.
The Sun Devils only have to play four conference road games this season. It won’t be easy to play Utah in Salt Lake City and they will likely be underdogs to Washington, but they should be favored in their other two Pac 12 road games.
This schedule doesn’t get too difficult until late October, and there’s a chance that Arizona State is unbeaten going into November. A road trip to BYU doesn’t seem nearly as daunting as it once did with Zach Wilson in the NFL, and the Sun Devils’ first four conference games are vs. Colorado, at UCLA, vs. Stanford, and at Utah.
Experience should ensure Arizona State is a contender in the Pac 12 in 2021. Daniels is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference, and this team is loaded with returning starters from last year. Herm Edwards should ensure the defense is solid, and the Sun Devils do host the Pac 12 South’s best team in USC. Arizona State was very unfortunate to lose to USC last season, so the Sun Devils could be poised to make their first Pac 12 Championship Game appearance since 2013.