ASU’s Herm Edwards: We have to be able to pass the ball with consistency
TEMPE — The 2021 Arizona State Sun Devils football season has been a bumpy one.
After starting out with a 5-1 record and hopes of a third Rose Bowl appearance, ASU put in some inconsistent offensive performances that now have the team at 7-4 (5-3 Pac-12) heading into the Territorial Cup.
And despite Utah clinching the South Divison title last week, head coach Herm Edwards is calling for his offense to find a groove — specifically in the passing game — against the Arizona Wildcats and whomever Arizona State might play in a bowl.
“I just think the flow of the offense is kind of where we’re at and how we get better with that — that’s the critical part for us to get it going on offense,” Edwards said Monday. “We have to be able to throw the football with consistency. Guys getting open in man-to-man coverage — that’s important … We’re going to have to get open and Jayden (Daniels) is going to have to hit them when they get open.”
“When you looked at our offense vs. UCLA passing wise it was like, ‘Woah, pretty good,'” he added. “We have to get that back. We have the running part. Now we have to get the passing part.”
That’s because the 42-23 road win over the Bruins was the offense’s — and junior quarterback Jayden Daniels’ — best game of the season. The Sun Devils put up a season-high total of 467 yards, while Daniels threw for a season-high 286 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
But since then, the junior QB has only thrown for over 200 yards just twice in six games, which weirdly enough both came in the back-to-back losses at Utah and to Washington State. In fact, Arizona State ranks 10th in the Pac-12 at 207.7 passing yards per game and is 2-3 when Daniels throws for over 200 yards — with all five of those games taking place within a six-game span.
However, the 2021 Sun Devils are also missing something that previous ASU teams have had: an NFL-caliber pass catcher. Not to mention the plethora of injuries to wide receivers and tight ends that have kept the likes of WRs Bryan Thompson (two), Andre Johnson (four), Johnny Wilson (six), and TEs Curtis Hodges and Jalin Conyers out of games.
“The chemistry with guys being in and out of the lineup hasn’t helped,” Edwards said. “I told Jayden when he first became a starter his freshman year he had a pretty good receiver. His name was Brandon Aiyuk — first-round pick. And that can bail you out.
“We don’t have that guy yet, right? We don’t have that guy. We have some players, some good players, but they’re young. A lot of them with not a lot of experience. These guys have been in and out of the offense the whole season. I’m not making excuses, but that’s the reality of it. And so I just think we have to get that thing tuned up and get it going.”
Edwards’ philosophy when it comes to getting his quarterback’s confidence level up is to have him see some catches made — very much in the same way a jump shooter would after seeing their shot go in. So if offensive coordinator Zak Hill can get some easy completions in early for Daniels, perhaps it could provide a much-needed spark to the Sun Devils’ passing attack.
“It’s just we haven’t been consistent and you’re always looking for consistency,” Edwards said. “If you say running game you’d go, ‘Wow, A+’ I mean really, we’ve been pretty good running the football and it’s been consistent, it’s been our staple. But really since we’ve been here we’ve been able to run the football. We’ve had some good running backs and some good offensive line play.
“But I think coming into this we wanted to be a little bit more explosive at the wide receiver position and in the passing game. And we’ve seen in little spots but lately it just hasn’t been what you want. And I’m not criticizing. That’s what it is. I’m not pointing a finger at a coach or a player. I don’t do that. It’s just we have to come together collectively and get more out of our passing game.”
With Saturday’s Territorial Cup also being senior day for Arizona State, Edwards hinted a few more guys may be coming back for another year in a Sun Devil uniform than originally expected:
“We’re talking about that: what guys are going to walk, what guys are going out — we’re trying to figure that all out, it’s kind of interesting,” he said. “There’s some good news. I’m hearing some guys who I thought were going to leave are going to come back.
“So it’ll be interesting to see when we get it all figured out. We have until Saturday. We’re working on that today. Tomorrow, it’ll be more come to find I think when we actually talk with the players that we’re saying, ‘Are you going to do this? Are you going to wait? What are you going to do?'”