Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards walks on to the field before an NCAA college football game against Utah Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP)
A number of Pac-12 football coaches weren’t necessarily thrilled to learn that they might potentially face a 9 a.m. kickoff when the season begins next month. But Arizona State coach Herm Edwards is ready to go whenever the conference tells him it’s his team’s turn to go out and play.
It has been seven months since the coronavirus pandemic put the sports world on hold, so most are excited about playing any time. Edwards is among those.
All 12 conference coaches spoke during a virtual media day on Wednesday, with Edwards the last up.
“We practice in the morning. For us its business as usual as far as the body clock. As far as playing a live football game, we haven’t done that. No one in our conference has done that,” he said. “When you get to play on national television against a team like USC, it brings excitement to our players. We have a lot of players from the Los Angeles area so its like a home game for them.”
The coaches spoke ahead of the start of practices on Friday. Cal and Stanford have not yet been cleared to conduct those drills by local heath and government officials but are expecting that to be resolved in the next 48 hours.
Most coaches said they are just excited about having a game plan and a schedule when it looked two months ago like that might not happen.
“Any time something is taken away from you that you really enjoy, you realize the importance of it. Our guys understand that. We get an opportunity now to go play football again, whether it’s six, 10, nine games. Doesn’t matter. Every game is important,” Edwards said.
The Pac-12 released its media poll Wednesday morning just before the first coach, USC’s Clay Helton, spoke with reporters. ASU was picked second in the South Division, just behind the Trojans, with Oregon favored in the North.
Edwards is returning eight starters on defense and four on offense, so a lot of positions will be held down by incumbents. But like every team, there are some question marks.
“I wouldn’t say we’re set. There are still some things going on at certain positions. We feel like we’re headed in that way; we understand who the starters are a little bit but there is still some competition at certain positions that makes it kind of interesting.”
Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) celebrates with head coach Herm Edwards, right, after an NCAA college football game win over Washington State, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (Photo: Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Edwards, starting his third year, singled out the skill positions on offense. Sophomore Jayden Daniels is looking to build upon a stellar freshman campaign but the other skill positions is where ASU will have some youngsters competing for playing time.
Edwards called out the receiving corps, with two his three top players graduating, including Brandon Aiyuk who is now making a splash in the NFL. Senior Frank Darby is back but after that ASU will be relying on underclassmen with incoming freshmen Johnny Wilson and LV Bunkley-Shelton, coveted four-star recruits who will challenge for playing time.
With Eno Benjamin gone as well, the Sun Devils have four newcomers in the backfield — three freshman and a community college transfer. So questions loom there.
While there are veterans on defense, ASU is moving from the 3-3-5 it has played the past two years to a more conventional four-man front. The biggest question marks are at the ends, with ASU looking to generate more pass rush. Junior Tyler Johnson is moving from linebacker to end to help shore up that area after a couple of injury plagued seasons.
All coaches spoke about the threat the virus still presents, and some know that firsthand. Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin is now in quarantine after testing positive a week ago; UCLA’s Chip Kelly had it in April.
“I think that the thing we all realize is that as we prepare for opponents, we’re actually playing two,” Edwards said. “There’s the one you prepare for that you see on tape, on film and there’s the one you cannot see. You can’t let your guard down at any time. That’s evident know. It’s an equal opportunity virus. It doesn’t care who you are.”
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