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Pac-12 media day: ASU’s Herm Edwards discusses upcoming season

Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards answers questions during the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day Wednesday, July 24, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

There were no shortages of answers from Arizona State football coach Herm Edwards as Pac-12 media day got underway in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The Sun Devils finished last year with a 7-6 record and earned their first bowl appearance under Edwards.

Coming into his second year as the head coach there are some question marks both offensively defensively for the team.

Most notably, they don’t have a starting quarterback figured out yet after Manny Wilkins graduated last year. Even though their running back situation is settled with Eno Benjamin leading the way, the wide receivers and tight end position also sees some unknowns.

ASU’s defense looked solid last season to begin the season after holding opponents under 28 points in each of their first seven games. However, the second half showed a different story as they allowed 30 or more points a game in their last six games.

Although the defensive line has some concerns, ASU’s secondary and linebackers corps looks solid with many players still on the team from last year.

Edwards spoke on why they’ve brought former NFL players to ASU, the current quarterback situation and the importance of establishing the run.

The QB situation

Last year’s backup Dillion Sterling-Cole and freshman Jayden Daniels seem to be the likely candidates to battle it out for the starting job this season.

Despite not knowing who he will go with week one, Edwards doesn’t seem concerned about it.

“We’ll figure it out,” Edwards said. “We’ve got time. We don’t play for a while.”

Edwards noticed that the quarterbacks seemed “very competitive” in Spring practices but didn’t give much detail on anyone specifically.

But he did mention how prepared their quarterbacks on the roster look coming out of high school.

“There’s a lot of great high school coaches out there that do a great job,” Edwards said. “So I think when you get them now as far as the passing goes and how to throw the ball and all those things, they’re very comfortable doing that now.”

Hiring former NFL players and coaches

Edwards believes bringing in people with NFL experience can help beyond the college level.

“There’s a reason that we have — if you count Ray and Scottie Graham, there are 10 people in our organization have some type of NFL experience,” Edwards said. “Marvin Lewis was a big hire for us, as well.

“That’s the road we’re traveling, and I think it’s a good road to travel because most kids in today’s world, they would like to have the opportunity to not only be a college athlete but have the opportunity to play on Sundays.”

In May, former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis joined ASU as a special advisor.

Although Lewis’ involvement won’t be done on the field, he has been involved behind the scenes by watching tape of practice or gameplay to help bring his knowledge to the table.

“We meet every day, Marvin and myself,” Edwards said. “So we have kind of the same ideas in how we implement that, some of the things he’s kind of changed in his head coaching career in the National Football League has kind of added into some of our practice plans.”

Establishing the run

Last season, Benjamin had a breakout season rushing for 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns in his sophomore year.

Expect Edwards to use Benjamin much like he did last year as he tries to establish the run once again this year.

“That’s the foundation of it all,” Edwards said on what the run game means to his program. “Run game travel. Good defense travels. Just put it in a suitcase and go. You can’t stop people from running the ball if they really want to run it.

“I think at the end when the opponents are matched evenly, it’s the team that can run the ball that’s going to win.”

Building a program

When asked about whether the preseason polls showing ASU finishing third in the Pac-12 South, up from being picked sixth last season, Edwards didn’t seem to care about what the polls thought.

“I don’t get into polls, I just get into coaching the football team,” Edwards said. “I don’t worry about all that stuff.”

As far as progress goes, he thinks the team now knows what to anticipate and will be able to build off what they accomplished last year.

“Your first year, players don’t know who you are and the coach don’t really know who you are,” Edwards said. “So I think it takes some time to earn their trust. That’s what I asked them to do for me, let me earn your trust, and I think I’ve done that, and now we can continue to build a program.”

With recruiting, Edwards believes they had a good year getting players that add depth to this team.

“It’s one where I think any good program, there has to be consistency, but there also has to be depth in your roster, and that’s what we have to do, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job this year in recruiting, and that’s critical for any program is how you build it, and we’re in the process of doing that,” Edwards said.

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