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Herm Edwards preparing glut of ASU’s inexperienced players as opener nears

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The quarterback decision has been made. The battle has been won in Tempe.

Now, the Arizona State Sun Devils can zero in on being game ready come Aug. 29.

The first game of the season is two weeks out, and head coach Herm Edwards is looking to find the perfect balance between getting his young guys ready to play at the college level and preparing for Kent State.

“It has to be more game situations now and just situations in football, and we talked about it in our meeting today,” Edwards said Tuesday night after practice. “We talked about a lot of scenarios today and they’ve got to be well aware of that.

“Where the ball is, situations in games, using timeouts … but I think the more we get to that, the better aware we’ll be and a smarter football team we can become.”

Redshirt and true freshmen make up 39 players on the team. That’s a considerable amount of youth, with most about to get their first taste of college football.

Edwards knows this, so focusing on the nitty-gritty of the gridiron, especially defensively, is a crucial step toward not only the team’s short- and long-term success, but the growth of their signal-callers, led by starter and true freshman Jayden Daniels.

“We want to be a defense to take the ball away and give our offense opportunities and give them short fields,” Edwards said when asked about the defense’s interception number being 10 this season.

“More positions offensively you can score more, and we’ve got young quarterbacks. So we’ve got to get them help. They can’t do it all by themselves.”

While the defense works on setting up Daniels and the offense on gameday, the starting quarterback doesn’t have to look far to find a leader in the backfield in junior running back Eno Benjamin.

“That’s required of him,” Edwards said of Benjamin taking on a leadership role. “He’s one of the premier runners in the country and he knows there’s a lot of weight on his shoulders too. That’s what happens when you’re a junior, an upperclassman.”

Benjamin was a workhorse for the Sun Devils last season, recording 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns on 300 carries. He also added another 263 yards and two scores on 35 catches.

With the senior leadership gone from 2018, it’s his turn to not only meet and exceed expectations statistically — with a bump in his receiving numbers looking likely — but help lead a young offense in 2019.

EXTRA POINTS

– Edwards on what makes Daniels special on the football field:

“It’s the poise and when he makes an error he knows it right away. He can almost feel like he made a bad throw. He said ‘I was late on the throw,’ so he can correct himself, and he’s not one of those guys that’s sensitive to criticism.

“I think if you play quarterback, period, it’s like being a head coach. You can’t be sensitive to criticism. That’s the last thing you’ve got to worry about. Just make sure your teammates believe in you, and they do, and they know they got to help these guys out.”

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