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Quarterback competition is the main event at ASU spring practice

TEMPE, Ariz. — There are plenty of storylines to keep an eye on as Arizona State opens spring practice in the middle of winter this week.

Which receivers step up in the absence of NFL-bound N’Keal Harry? Will a running back emerge to help lighten the load on Eno Benjamin? And how does the defensive line absorb the losses of Darius Slade and Jalen Bates, who both announced they were transferring out of the desert?

Those are all important topics, but none compare to the biggest question facing the 2019 Sun Devils: who is the starting quarterback?

With four candidates – including three true freshmen – in the mix, we probably won’t have a definitive answer when the spring game rolls around on Feb. 28. But we should at least have a better idea of where the four candidates stand heading towards the summer. And Herm Edwards is already keeping a close eye on his new group of signal callers.

“I was pretty impressed with all the quarterbacks, to be quite honest,” he said after ASU’s opening practice on Tuesday. “They’ve been in the building every day since they got here, and it showed on the field.”

Those quarterbacks are Dillon Sterling-Cole — the only “veteran” of the group — plus incoming freshmen Jayden Daniels, Joey Yellen and Ethan Long. And while Sterling-Cole’s experience gives him a head start, all four bring impressive talent to the field.

Daniels was considered the No. 2 dual-threat recruit in the nation, picking the Devils over an impressive list of suitors that included Alabama, Georgia and nearly every team in the Pac-12. While he can do a little bit of everything, Yellen is more of a prototypical pure passer — and an extremely accurate one at that.

Then there’s Long, who Likens compared to Tim Tebow on Signing Day, in terms of what it’s like to have a conversation with the signal caller out of Oregon.

Edwards followed up that high praise with some strong words of his own on Tuesday.

“I love him,” Edwards explained. “I love that kid. He makes your football team better. His persona, his energy, his enthusiasm. He’s a wonderful kid. I want him on my football team. That’s it. You want guys in the locker room like that. Comes here every day with a smile on his face.”

Those three freshmen make up maybe the best quarterback class in the country, and arguably ASU’s most talented incoming crop at the coveted position ever. But bringing them to Tempe is just step one. Now Edwards and his staff have to figure out where they all fit and develop them into actual college QBs.

“They’re very competitive, all four of them,” Edwards said. “They know what’s at stake. One of these guys is going to walk out of that room – whether it’s in the summer, or whenever it may be – and he’s going to be the starting quarterback. And that’s big. As we know, ASU has had a history of really good quarterbacks. And you’re stepping into a position where, if you’re that guy, there’s pressure.”

Now it’s a matter of finding out who’s ready for that pressure.

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