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Arizona State cracks ESPN post-spring top-25 football rankings

Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) looks for a receiver during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

A choppy four-game sample size didn’t reflect extraordinarily well on Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels last season.

But the freshman tape of the returning starter from 2019 stands, so there’s reason to believe he’ll bounce back in 2021 with a team featuring minimal losses.

Daniels also returns with a few more known factors around him, plus a series of key additions.

There’s enough optimism that ESPN’s Mark Schlabach included ASU at No. 24 in his top-25 ranking that’s been refreshed as football teams break into the summer offseason.

While ASU lost receiver Frank Darby to the NFL Draft, where he was selected in the sixth round by the Atlanta Falcons, Daniels should have more firepower around him this coming season compared to the pandemic-impacted 2020, writes Schlabach.

Last season, he struggled with his accuracy, completing only 58.3% of his passes. He still has thrown only three interceptions in 17 games, and he increased his rushing average from 2.8 yards per carry to 6.8 in 2020. He’ll have two new weapons in Elijhah Badger, who sat out last season because of academic reasons, and Utah transfer (Bryan) Thompson, who averaged 25.6 yards per catch in 2019. Oklahoma transfer (Jalin) Conyers was the No. 2 tight end prospect in the 2020 class.

Running back Rachad White led ASU in total receiving yards (140) a year ago, but Thompson, Badger and Conyers join a group of wideouts that includes Geordon Porter, L.V. Bunkley-Shelton, Chad Johnson Jr., Ricky Pearsall and Johnny Wilson.

Unlike the unproven group of receivers who couldn’t find their footing last season, the running back corps took advantage of those four games. White, Chip Trayanum and Daniyel Ngata each impressed in select moments.

On the other side of the ball, 11 of the 2020 starters return with the potential to retain their roles as well.

The 2020 season went south due to coronavirus cases hitting the program hard, but the Sun Devils did close it strong with a 70-7 win over Arizona included in a two-game winning streak to end the year.


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