Herm Edwards commits to run game ahead of ASU’s 2021 season opener
TEMPE, Ariz — For the first time in two years, Arizona State head football coach Herm Edwards and Co. are getting prepared to open a regular season at Sun Devil Stadium with a crowd in attendance.
Arizona State hosts Southern Utah on Thursday night in front of an expected 45,000 spectators, which will include two full ASU classes who as students have never seen the Sun Devils play at home after the coronavirus pandemic sidelined fans for all of 2020.
During Edwards’ press conference on Monday, the old-school head coach reiterated his commitment to running the football offensively as part of an overall game plan to exploit the opponents’ weaknesses while utilizing his team’s strengths.
“We’re going to find a way to run the ball. We ran it last year I think [pretty well],” he said. “We’re pretty good running it and you better be able to stop it. And if you don’t, then okay, but we’re going to run the ball.
“We’re going to try to be balanced. You want to try to get 70-plus plays offensively, I think that’s kind of most offenses’ goal. Where do the numbers lie, I think the game dictates that. How many did you throw? How many did you run? We have to be able to run the ball. We have three really good players who can run, so we have to give them the ball.”
Along with potential Heisman candidate quarterback Jayden Daniels — who has already shown his ability as a runner in his ASU tenure — the Sun Devils also boast the likes of running backs Rachaad White, DeaMonte Trayanum and Daniyel Ngata.
Edwards added that being able to run the football gives a team the ability to play against the clock with a lead late in the game, as well as control the game tempo and bleed the play clock all the way down to one second on every play.
“Football — it all starts there, you have to stop the run. When people can run the ball on you, it’s hard to look at because they control the clock,” he said. “When you run the ball, you control the clock, you control the game, you can dictate how you want the game being played when you can run the football.”
The Arizona State head coach also has a philosophy about how running the ball on offense in practice is paramount for his defense’s toughness and mentality.
“You still have to run the ball because when you don’t run the ball in practice and you don’t practice against the run, you become soft on defense. That’s what I believe,” he said.
Edwards expects to see some missed tackles in the early stages of the season because of the lack of tackling that happens in practice due to player safety reasons. However, he still anticipates his team’s tackling to improve as the season goes on.
“That’s not football anymore: the way you practice,” Edwards said of the old “You play how you practice” adage.
“You don’t practice live tackling hardly anymore. To protect the players, rightly so. There’s something to be said about protecting the players.”
In the Sun Devils’ four games in 2020, ASU led the country with an average turnover margin per game of +2.0 after forcing 13 takeaways (eight fumble recoveries and five interceptions) compared to the offense losing four fumbles and throwing one pick.
“You have to be able to play man coverage. If you’re not playing a lot of man, you have to make sure you get the ball turned back to the people in pursuit where they can hit the guy,” Edwards said. “The more people that hit the guy with the ball, you got a chance it comes out.
“You steal possessions away when you can take the ball away in football. And when you can steal two or three possessions, that’s a good thing. Now the offense has to capitalize on it.”
Edwards added that with today’s college game being more about spread offenses and scoring 40-plus a game, there are times that being able to run the ball will have its advantages in playcalling during short-yardage situations such as 3rd- or 4th-and-one.
“I’ve always said: When you start throwing it around the yard a lot, it all looks good and it’s all fun and games until somebody takes it from you, then it’s not a lot of fun.”