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What the preseason college football annuals are saying about Arizona State

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2017, file photo, new Arizona State University NCAA college football head coach Herman Edwards smiles during a news conference in Tempe, Ariz. The Pac-12 has five new coaches this season, so there was extra importance on spring football this year at UCLA, the two Arizona schools and the two Oregon schools. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

If one word could encapsulate the national media’s preseason outlook for the 2018 Arizona State Sun Devils football team, “uncertainty” might be it.

A regime change took place after a 7-5, second-place Pac-12 South finish in 2017. Athletic director Ray Anderson fired head coach Todd Graham and plugged in former NFL head coach Herm Edwards.

Along with the appointment of Edwards, Anderson unveiled an NFL-type of leadership organization that other prominent programs follow but none have trumpeted as much.

Due its off-the-radar nature, the hire was panned by most nationally. But Edwards and his staff pulled magic out of their hat late in the recruiting process to earn middle-of-the-conference rankings from several publications.

On offense, Edwards will rely heavily on senior three-year starting quarterback Manny Wilkins and junior receiver N’Keal Harry, who might be the best at his position in the entire nation.

Defensively, Edwards grabbed respected coordinator Danny Gonzalez from San Diego State to employ a 3-3-5 scheme. Getting linebacker Koron Crump back from injury for a fifth year of eligiblity should be a plus on that side of the ball.

But the Sun Devils have a tough schedule which includes a non-conference home game against Michigan State, a road trip to San Diego State and conference trips to Washington, USC and Oregon.

How the season shakes out is anybody’s guess, but preseason publications aren’t expecting much from the transitioning Devils.

Here’s a thumbnail of what four prominent college football annuals portend for ASU this season, in one convenient spot. Don’t take this as an excuse not to buy any of them, because, let’s face it, there are 129 other programs you can read about.


Athlon Sports

Athlon’s picks ASU to finish in sixth place in the Pac-12 South with a record of 5-7 overall and 3-6 in conference play.

The publication has Arizona State ranked 68th in the nation among the 130 FBS teams.

It does not project the Sun Devils to play in a bowl game.

Athlon ranks the hiring of Herm Edwards as the program’s new coach as the 21st-best in the nation. There were 21 FBS head coaching hires before publication. In the middle of an article concerning the hiring entitled “Why?” Athlon had a ranking of the top 10 most puzzling coaching hires.

Individual Performers

• WR N’Keal Harry – Second Team All-American Offense
• WR N’Keal Harry – First Team All-Pac-12 Offense
• CB Chase Lucas – Second Team All-Pac-12 Defense
• RB Eno Benjamin – Third Team All-Pac-12 Offense
• DE Koron Crump – Third Team All- Pac-12 Defense

Athlon’s Analysis: The presence of a handful of top-shelf Pac-12 players may mask to some degree the scope of ASU’s overhaul, but at least it’ll give the staff a boost in the transitional phase. While the Sun Devils likely won’t challenge for the Pac-12 South division title, they have potential to remain relevant into November. All eyes will be on Edwards, one of the most intriguing hires in college football in years.


Lindy’s Sports

Lindy’s picks ASU to finish fifth in the Pac-12 South.

The publication has Arizona State ranked 50th in the nation among the 130 FBS teams.

It does not project the Sun Devils to play in a bowl game.

Individual Performers

• WR N’Keal Harry – First Team All-American Offense
• WR N’Keal Harry – First Team All-Pac-12 Offense
• CB Chase Lucas – Second Team All-Pac-12 Defense
• OL Casey Tucker – Third Team All-Pac-12 Offense
• LB Koron Crump – Third Team All- Pac-12 Defense
• K Brandon Ruiz – Third Team All-Pac-12 Special Teams

Lindy’s ranks Harry as the conference’s best deep-threat wide receiver and the second-best receiver in the nation behind West Virginia’s David Sills.

Lindy’s Overview: The hire of Edwards was ridiculed nationally, mostly because the former NFL head coach had not coached anywhere in nearly a decade. Athletic director Ray Anderson remains unfazed. For years, people have asked the same question: Why isn’t Arizona State better? So in this case, Anderson decided to try something different. Will it work? At this point, it’s too early to tell, but it will be fascinating to watch.


Street & Smith’s

Street & Smith’s picks ASU to finish in sixth place in the Pac-12 South.

The publication has Arizona State ranked 50th in the nation among the 130 FBS teams.

It does not project the Sun Devils to play in a bowl game.

Individual Performers

• WR N’Keal Harry – Second Team All-American Offense
• WR N’Keal Harry – First Team All-Pac-12 Offense

Street & Smith’s also rates Harry as the receiver with the best hands in the Pac-12.

Street & Smith’s Blurb: Just in case Edwards doesn’t light enough of a fire under everyone, there’s also a home game against Michigan State, plus road trips to San Diego State and Washington, all in September. It won’t take long to discover if the Edwards model is working.


Phil Steele’s 2018 College Football Preview

Phil Steele picks ASU to finish tied for fourth place (with Colorado) in the Pac-12 South.

The publication has Arizona State ranked 53rd in the nation among the 130 FBS teams.

Steele does not project the Sun Devils to play in a bowl game.

Individual Performers

• WR N’Keal Harry – First Team All-American Offense
• WR N’Keal Harry – First Team All-Pac-12 Offense
• C Cohl Cabral – Third Team All-Pac-12 Offense
• LB Koron Crump – Third Team All-Pac-12 Defense
• CB Chase Lucas – Third Team All-Pac-12 Defense

• Merlin Robertson ranks as 14th-best freshman LB in the country
• Aashari Crosswell ranks as the 26th-best freshman DB in the country
• Dominique Harrison (DB) ranks as the 48th-best JC transfer in the country

• Has ASU’s QB group ranked 16th in the nation
• Has ASU’s WR group ranked 14th in the nation
• Ranks the Sun Devils as having the seventh-toughest schedule in the nation

Phil Steele’s Analysis: Herm Edwards takes over and I like both of his coordinators. Despite just 12 returning starters, they have solid talent on the roster. While the Sun Devils are #40 on my Experience Chart, they also draw my 7th-toughest schedule in the country this year including the top three teams out of the Pac-12 North and Michigan State and San Diego State on the non-conference slate.