As soon as Arizona State University announced that ESPN NFL Analyst and former Chiefs and Jets head coach Herm Edwards would be Todd Graham’s replacement to lead the football program, there was excitement as well as skepticism for the future of Sun Devil football. In a news conference following his hiring, Herm immediately drew in national attention when forgetting his new program’s mascot name, the Sun Devils. A reporter for Devils digest was preparing to ask a question when Edwards interrupted him saying, “Devils digest, huh? Where are you located my man?” and when the reporter explained that he was based in Tempe, Edwards continued to confuse the crowd when he said, “I’m Catholic now, I’m a Christian. Watch out with them Devils. I’m just sayin’, we’re good brother, we’re good!” ESPN and many other sports news outlets as well as local Phoenix TV stations picked up the clip and everyone began to wonder the same thing: does this man even know his team’s mascot? Edwards figured out why the magazine was called Devils digest and a few months later, Edwards and co. started off the 2018 season hot, with a 49-7 spanking of UTSA followed up by a 16-13 win over a ranked Michigan State team. Just like that, the Sun Devils saw themselves with a 2-0 record and ranked in the top 25 of the AP poll. However, their scheduled stiffened and the Sun Devils quickly came down to earth losing back-to-back one possession games on the road against San Diego State (who was coming off a 10-win season) and Washington (who would go on to win the Pac-12 title). An up and down season for the Devils included a decisive home win against Pac-12 South Champion Utah, an 18-point 4th quarter comeback victory against rival Arizona, and a 31-20 bowl game loss to a No. 17 ranked and 11-win Fresno State team. Junior safety Aashari Crosswell was one of several impact players in a building block 2018 recruiting class and saw valuable playing time as a true freshman that season. Crosswell along with Kobe Williams, Cam Phillips and Chase Lucas became the young stars of one of the best secondaries in the country in 2019 that also saw former 5-star high school recruit and USC All-American CB Jack Jones as well as Washington powerhouse O’Dea high school (Seattle) standout CB Thomas Shorack join the group. As the 2018 recruiting class was a turning point for the Sun Devil defense, the 2019 recruiting class was a turning point for the Sun Devil offense, as they brought in 4-star quarterback and eventual 2019 starter Jayden Daniels along with 3-star JUCO wide receiver Brandon Pierce Jr., a projected 2020 starter alongside wide receiver Frank Darby. 2019 was another season of improvement as the Sun Devils got out to a hot start. The team started 5-1, headlined by victories on the road against No. 18 Michigan State and No. 15 California. But after an embarrassing offensive performance on the road against No. 13 Pac-12 South Champion Utah, the Sun Devils season went downhill as they dropped 4 straight games to find themselves all of a sudden at 5-5. They finished the season strong with a huge upset victory at home against No. 6 ranked Oregon and victories against rival Arizona and in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl against Florida State. But in December 2019, Sun Devil fans did not have their eyes on the upcoming Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl game against the Seminoles. Their eyes were on the early signing period for the 2020 recruiting class. Herm Edwards landed one of the best recruiting classes in program history, a class that is currently ranked #23 in the nation and #4 in the Pac-12 conference. The Sun Devils used a recruiting strategy that they had always failed to execute. They went into California, the best high school football state on the West Coast, and landed 7 of the top 35 players and 13 total players from the state. The 2020 recruiting class includes four 4-star receivers (Johnny Wilson, Eli Badger, Chad Johnson Jr., and LV Bunkley-Shelton), 4-star running backs Daniyel Ngata and DeaMonte Trayanum, 4-star defensive tackle Omarr Norman-Lott, and 4-star linebacker Jordan Banks. With quarterback Jayden Daniels only being a true sophomore this upcoming season along with the majority of their starters returning, the Sun Devils have emerged as one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 South and many expect Herm Edwards to take the program to the next level this upcoming season. 9, 10, or 11 wins seem to be realistic goals for this young and very talented Sun Devil team. With all these new weapons coming in on offense along with new offensive coordinator Zak Hill coming in from Boise State’s high-powered passing attack as well as a secondary on defense under new defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce that was among the nation’s elite against the pass and only saw cornerback Kobe Williams leave, the Sun Devils are in great position to become one of the Pac-12’s and one of the nation’s elite football programs.
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