With a top-17 matchup on the horizon between the No. 13 Utah Utes and his No. 17 Arizona State Sun Devils, head coach Herm Edwards took to the podium for his weekly press conference on Monday. Here are a few things he had to say.
The building process
Since the day Edwards took over in Tempe, he’s constantly talked about building something special. With his team now at 5-1 and possibly taking the driver seat in the Pac-12 South on Saturday in Salt Lake City, he was asked about if he felt if his plan was ahead of schedule. He took a second and answered with this, it’s long but it’s insightful:
“In certain areas, yeah. In certain areas, no. We still lack depth. That is our problem, we lack depth and you have to have depth if you’re going to have consistency in the program. You shouldn’t have to play 29 redshirt or true freshmen. That should not be the case but that is the case. Hopefully two years from now we can say those guys are developed and young players just can’t crack the lineup. Then you know you got a good team.
“Recruiting is real simple. Can you out-recruit the class you just brought in? That’s what you strive to do. Can you out-recruit the class you just brought in? And to the class we just brought in, we’re getting ready to recruit some guys just as good as you. If you allow it to happen they’re going to play for you and that’s the competitive environment that is here and the players are learning that, they’re learning it very quickly. These guys will know when the season ends, there are some guys that are coming in here, there are about 25 or 20 recruits or something, I don’t know, somewhere in the 20s. They’ll know who they are, they’ll know the positions they play and they’ll go, ‘OK, competition begins.’
“There will come a point where those young guys won’t have an opportunity to just walk right in. We’ve got a left tackle and right guard that are freshmen. That ain’t fair. They shouldn’t be playing this much, they really shouldn’t be. But, you know, I mean it’s hard. They shouldn’t have to play as much as they’ve played but good for them because it’ll make them better. But that’s what the program is here right now and we’re still light in some areas and we’ve got to do a better job of recruiting. It’s on us, we’ve got to recruit better and get some guys in here that can fill those things. Look at the running back situation. We’ve got Eno. There are some positions that are light and we’ve got to do a better job. That’s our task and we’ll get it done. That’s why I keep saying we’re building. Not done yet.”
Close games and dealing with tight situations
For every diehard Sun Devil, their favorite team seems to take a little bit off their life since Edwards’ regime began. Arizona State opened on most betting lines at around 14-point underdogs to Utah. Under Edwards, the Sun Devils have yet to lose by more than a touchdown in a regular season game.
Here’s his thoughts on if he had concerns about the close games going forward:
“We’re in our second year with this program. Let’s make no mistake. We haven’t had a lot of potholes yet. There could be some on the horizon. And I think when we hit them, we have to stay steady, and I’ll stay steady, and we’ll continue to build this thing. This is a new program, guys, it’s brand new, and say what you want, but it is. I’ve watched enough college football, visited with numerous coaches that have coached in college football. When I took this job, I actually talked to a bunch of them that I really respect about the process of building something and how you have to go about doing it… You know that we play a lot of young guys. They got to eventually figure out how to close the game out. But to their credit, they don’t blink. They play. And they play until there’s no time left on the clock.”
On the play of Chase Lucas
Last year against Colorado, Chase Lucas had a very rough performance. He was very emotional about his play and wanted to change for the better, and now he’s doing just that. Edwards, a former defensive back himself, knows he can be a roller coaster in the secondary, but is very proud of where Lucas has come.
“I think he’s playing a lot better. Last year was tough on him because he had a new coaching staff, there was some things required of him that he wasn’t required (to) in previous years. And because he was a young guy, he was a running back, they did a smart thing by moving him to defense. I mean, for him to continue to play, that’s what he’s going to have to play. Then we came in, it’s a new system, we’re asking him to do all these things and he was a little frustrated, at times. And I think I’ve earned his trust, and he’s the guy now, that he kind of gets it. ‘OK coach, I got it. I understand what we need.’ And he’s really playing good, last couple games, he’s really playing good.
“They (Washington State) caught some balls on him, but he’s tight coverage, can’t cover them any better than he’s covering them right now. And the more he plays and the more he’s around us and the more he’s familiar with the system, the better player he’s going to be, because he’s got a lot of talent. I’m happy for him.”
The difference between this year and last year’s 38-20 win over Utah
The Sun Devils arguable played their best game last season against the Utes. Although, the battle in Tempe had different variables to it. The biggest being Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley leaving with an injury.
“Yeah, but let’s make it perfectly clear, it was a pretty tight game going into the third quarter, and then the quarterback got hurt. And that, all of a sudden, is tough for anybody, the quarterback goes down. We were able to run the football, and I think the heat got to them, wore them down some. It was a very physical game, I do know that, for both parties. And a lot of the players that were here last year are not here on defense. You know what, on offense too. So it’s a different group.
“These guys are a really good football team. I think they were picked to win the whole (league), and I can see why. It’s a veteran-laden group, they’ve played together for a while. And this is going to be tough going there, on the road. It’s going to be probably under 60 degrees it sounds like. Our guys haven’t dealt with that. We’re trying to get the bubble turned down to 50 degrees.
“It’ll be a wonderful environment to play in, because it’s going to be loud. It’ll be Michigan State, going on the road, with a good team, supposed to win the conference. And I can see why they picked them, they’re really good. They’re really good, and we got to go experience that. Let’s go.”