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Arizona State football is a trendy early top-25 pick

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) reacts toward the bench after throwing for an 81-yard touchdown against Oregon during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State won 31-28. (AP Photo/Matt York)

It’s easy to find optimism about the Arizona State football program.

Head coach Herm Edwards’ recruiting has picked up steam as he puts his roster together for 2020, and his Sun Devils closed 2019 on a three-game winning streak to finish with a 8-5 record. Their star freshman quarterback, Jayden Daniels, projects to make a leap as a sophomore.

But there are questions to be answered. One of the most talented running backs in school history, Eno Benjamin, is off to the pros.

Edwards needed to hire new coordinators on both sides of the ball, replacing fired offensive coordinator Rob Likens with Zak Hill, who was previously at Boise State. Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales left for the New Mexico head-coaching job, and his replacement was Tony White, an in-house promotion.

There’s even noise, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, that linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Antonio Pierce could make a move to the NFL sooner rather than later.

That kind of turnover is commonplace in college football, and a lot can change from now until the start of the 2020 season. Turnover, however, can also shift momentum in a bad way.

But as it sits today, ASU football is projected to be a force next year. While early top-25 rankings by ESPN and USA Today omit the Sun Devils, several others do include them.

Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports

No. 24

The Sun Devils should be a challenger for the Pac-12 South. Herm Edwards has done what Todd Graham could not: recruit California. Fourteen starters return, including budding quarterback Jaylen Daniels. Edwards must find a new defensive coordinator for the departed Danny Gonzales. Not to gush, but Edwards’ emphasis on physicality reminds me of the early USC days of Pete Carroll.

Pat Forde, Sports Illustrated

No. 18

The Sun Devils finished with a surge in 2019, shocking Oregon, beating rival Arizona and defeating Florida State in the Sun Bowl. They lose running back Eno Benjamin to early entry but keep rising star quarterback Jayden Daniels, who had an excellent freshman season. Nine of ASU’s top 11 tacklers are expected to return as well, as the Herm Edwards hire continues to pay dividends.

Stewart Mandel, The Athletic

No. 24

New OC Zak Hill from Boise State gets to work with breakout freshman QB Jayden Daniels, but replacing standout RB Eno Benjamin will be tough. ASU also needs to upgrade its offensive line. But the Sun Devils could field a deep, experienced defense under new coordinator Tony White, led by DE Jermayne Lole, LB Darien Butler, S Aashari Crosswell and CB Jack Jones.

Bill Bender, Sporting News

No. 22

Herm Edwards has the Sun Devils in position to make a run at the Pac-12 South championship. Quarterback Jayden Daniels should make the jump as a sophomore after finishing with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions, but they will need to find a replacement for Eno Benjamin at running back. Jermayne Lole has breakout potential at defensive lineman. Four of Arizona State’s five losses came by 10 points or fewer in 2019, and they get Utah at home next season. Road trips to Oregon and USC are the most difficult part of the schedule.

Brad Crawford, 247 Sports

No. 22

Herm Edwards and Arizona State is a confident bunch, expecting big things from Jayden Daniels as a sophomore.


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