Herm Edwards preaches adaptability with ASU football assistants on leave

Aug 11, 2021, 9:10 AM | Updated: 11:49 am

Herm Edwards found himself delayed for about seven hours while traveling back to Arizona on Tuesday following his inclusion in friend John Lynch’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

It forced his Arizona State Sun Devils to push their practice into the night, a preferred but unplanned move for the head coach.

The change presented another, although smaller, lesson for the Sun Devils about adaptability. On Monday, the team learned that two assistants, receivers coach Prentice Gill and defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins, were placed on paid administrative leave due to the NCAA’s investigation into improper recruiting practices over the past year.

“We’ll fill those spots with some guys who have been here,” Edwards told reporters after practice. “I talked today to the team about adaptability. I told them a story about adaptability, not as a football team, but as a person in life. I think we all had to deal with that 15 months ago when (COVID-19) hit. The world had to come to a stop and we all had to adapt.

“Then I even put another reference (in front of them): I was a pretty good baseball player. … As I got a little older, I continued to try to play baseball but I couldn’t adapt to the curveball, couldn’t hit the curveball. That’s kind of like life. Life throws you some curves. If you can’t sit in there and hit it, you’re going to be in trouble. One thing I know about this football team, we handle curveballs — always have. Built that way, that’s our mindset, that’s mindset of life in general. We just move on.”

The Sun Devils have shuffled bodies to replace Gill and Hawkins, who join tight ends coach Adam Breneman on paid leave due to the NCAA inquiry.

Graduate assistant Bobby Wade, a local product who played for the Arizona Wildcats and in the NFL, is now listed as an interim assistant receivers coach. Analyst Trey Anderson has taken on more duties and is also officially an interim assistant.

On defense, consultant and veteran NFL and college coach Donnie Henderson will help cover defensive backs in Hawkins’ place, while first-year analyst Juston Wood had replaced Breneman as interim tight ends coach.

Asked how losing three of the team’s younger coaches — two of whom have reputations as talented recruiters — will hurt the team, and Edwards said Wednesday that ASU is not currently recruiting.

“Right now they’re on administrative leave,” the head coach said. “We’re not recruiting right now. We’re talking to kids. I think the best recruiting you can do is win.”

During Pac-12 media day, Edwards said the NCAA investigation into his program’s recruiting practices was not a distraction. That was when only Breneman was on paid leave.

On Wednesday, Edwards expressed more confidence his team remains in a good place despite it appearing that the Sun Devills will head into the 2021 season without a trio of position coaches.

“We don’t know how this thing — we don’t anything, I don’t know anything. I just adapt,” Edwards said. “Yesterday I was sitting in the airport in Washington, 8 o’clock in the morning trying to get here, flight kept getting canceled. … I finally got out of there at 3 o’clock, sat at the airport for 7 hours.

“This team is built to do that. They’ve done a good job of following my lead. They get it. They know who I am as a person.”

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