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ASU Football: Media Day Notebook

Almost football season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 28 Arizona State Spring Game Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s officially the start of Fall practices and we are less than a month away from opening kickoff against Kent State at Sun Devil stadium.

With the beginning of college football just around the corner, players and coaches met with the media once more on Tuesday to discuss the early season happenings surrounding Sun Devil football.

Head coach Herm Edwards and special advisor Marvin Lewis discussed their relationship while the coordinators both detailed their sides of the ball. And of course, the quarterback situation was a big focus. Here were some of the talking points:

Who’s the Quarterback?

It’s one of, if not the biggest positions on the field and ASU doesn’t yet have an answer for who its signal-caller is going to be. That’s no reason to panic for Sun Devil fans, though.

After going through Spring Ball and taking a look at freshmen Jayden Daniels, Joey Yellen, Ethan Long, and redshirt junior Dillon Sterling-Cole, there will be a battle of arms under center. It’s no secret, and it will continue to be discussed over the next few weeks.

Daniels and Sterling-Cole appeared to be the frontrunners for the job in the Spring, but that’s no reason to rule anyone out. Edwards is looking forward to seeing all of his gunslingers play in 11-on-11’s with a full defensive line, something the team didn’t have during the spring.

And if you are hanging by the edge of your seat to see who the starting man is, there might not be a wait much longer. Both Edwards and offensive coordinator Rob Likens emphasized that Camp T is going to be a big week for the position, with the hopes that someone takes control. After that, it appears the verdict on who is No. 1 should take place.

“It’s possible that we could name a guy coming right out of camp,” Likens said. “But we will definitely name one two weeks before the first game...I don’t want him having to field a million questions the week before the first game and not think about playing in the game. We will get all of that out of the way.”

The gameplan for the quarterbacks is to get them fitted with the offense during the first week, then turn up the dial at Camp T with goal line and situational procedures. At that point, both Edwards and Likens believe it will become clear who the starter is.

“We will know sooner than later. I think when we come off Kush Mountain, everything will come into focus,” Edwards said. “Hopefully we will know by then. That’s why you go up there. It’s the light air and you can breathe with all the trees, you can gain knowledge up there. You come off the mountain, and we’ll find out.”

A Receiving Core without N’Keal

It’s hard to replace over 1,000 receiving yards, nine touchdowns, nearly 3,000 career receiving yards, and a first round NFL selection. Nobody is expecting ASU’s receivers to try and be the dazzling show that N’Keal Harry put on for the last three seasons.

However, that doesn’t mean that the Devils still don’t have talented wideouts between the likes of Aiyuk, senior Kyle Williams, and redshirt junior Frank Darby. Likens, who has studied the air raid offense, expects them to be a three-player dilemma.

“I really do believe this...The best offensive football is all about distribution,” Likens said. “When you got three guys with Frank Darby, Kyle Williams, and Brandon Aiyuk that can equally share that burden, thank goodness they are all going to be on the field at the same time. I am going to concentrate on the distribution of those three guys to replace N’Keal’s production.”

Marvin Lewis on the Herm Train

On Tuesday, Edwards detailed a story about an old photo he recently saw that included himself, Athletic Director Ray Anderson, and special advisor Marvin Lewis. Edwards joked, calling the photo, “The Three Amigos.”

The story of Edwards and Anderson has already been told, but he also goes way back with Lewis, thus dotting the lines between his connection to Tempe.

According to the Sun Devil head coach, Lewis is allowed to schedule his own hours and help in any way that he sees fit. Lewis has gone above and beyond that while regularly sitting in on coaches meetings and having long discussions with defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales about different schemes.

“We go way back. I watched him develop and become a head coach, and he can help me. He’s a sounding board for me...He doesn’t need this job. I remember calling him up saying, ‘Peggy (Lewis’ wife) has got to be going crazy. You are in the house all the time. What are you doing?’ You are retired and playing golf. You can only play 18 holes, you can’t play 26. Come over here. We got air conditioning and we can watch some tape,” said Edwards with a smile.

“You can be a ball coach and make your own hours. This is literally true. I told him, I said, ‘You can make your own hours.’ He’s here at a quarter of seven. The guy has been a head coach for 16 years and he walks in the building at a quarter of seven. He told me, ‘Herm, I am not getting up with you,’ and I told him, ‘Marv, don’t. I don’t expect you to be here at 4:15 a.m.’ That’s Marvin. He’s all in, man and he’s excited about this.”

Defense Wins Championships

Perhaps the most intriguing part of Tuesday’s Media Day among coaches was the history lesson given by Gonzales, who in one five-minute spurt, discussed ASU being No. 1 in innovation, the history of Camp T, being 10-0 against Big Ten opponents at Sun Devil Stadium, and ASU’s history of conference championships.

As for his players on the field, though, Gonzales expressed an eagerness to get going with practice. On the d-line, Gonzales feels as if his team is solid up front, despite losing Renell Wren to the NFL. According to the coordinator, sophomore Jermayne Lole has made big strides, and new defensive line coach Jamar Cain has been a huge boost.

At linebacker, ASU has a solid core with Merlin Robertson, Darien Butler, Tyler Johnson, and Khaylan Kearse-Thomas, but Gonzales expressed concern at the depth of the group. Although, he did mention that Kyle Soelle could help in that regard after putting on weight this offseason.

“I think we have the makings to be great around here,” Gonzales said. “My thoughts are that we will make tremendous strides this year. We should be significantly better. You have a class with as many young guys, and we are going to be young again this year. Over the next two years, we have a chance to be dominant on defense around here. Coach says it all the time, ‘Words and actions. If you don’t believe it, don’t say it.’ That’s the attitude that I want our kids to play with.”

Gonzales noted that he expects his defense to fly all over the field and from sideline to sideline in their 3-3-5 scheme that is full of athletes, and he has set lofty expectations for the next couple of years.

“We’ve got an opportunity. It’s the best time of year,” Gonzales said. “We have 17 conference championships, well guess what? Arizona State is going to win an 18th one before I leave...Here’s a great number. From 1969-1975, Coach Kush went 51-6. He almost leaves here in 1969 to take the head job at the University of Pittsburgh and he decides that they lied to him, which happened.

“He comes back and goes 51-6, and in 1975, they win the Sporting News National Championship. That’s what we aspire to do around here...Once again, words and actions. If you don’t believe it, you don’t say it. Guess what? If it doesn’t come to fruition, they are going to fire me and I won’t be here and somebody else will have an opportunity. I believe we are going to do it. You got to be willing to bet on yourself.”

Fall practices start tonight at 7 p.m. and are open to the public.