The Arizona State Sun Devils are a week away from their season opener against the Kent State Golden Flashes. Luckily for College Football fans in general, Week 0 is upon us. Florida and Miami (FL) will kill it off on Saturday afternoon followed by Hawaii and the team down south to finish the night.
With the biggest question surrounding ASU football already answered after Jayden Daniels named the starting quarterback, we look at five other questions that can shape the season.
1) Who is the Sun Devils most important player outside of Eno Benjamin?
Answer: Jayden Daniels
Why: Eno Benjamin took the Pac-12 by storm last year, and quietly the nation. If you play college fantasy football you’ll know that Benjamin is generally inside the top three picks. But it is no secret to other teams how talented the running back is. Now without N’Keal Harry, teams will lock their focus on Benjamin and attempt to make other ASU players on offense beat them.
It might be easy to point to a proven defensive player for this, but the best answer is Daniels. The highest rated quarterback recruit in ASU history doesn’t need to be an impact star many believe he can be, he just needs to be good enough to start. Benjamin will most likely see loaded boxes. If Daniels can make his throws that opposing defenses will give him and even make backyard plays as well, it’ll make teams respect ASU’s passing game and open up more lanes for Benjamin.
2) What position group is the biggest worry?
Answer: Offensive line
Why: Before fall camp started, it seemed the offensive line was far from a worry, it was truly the other side of the trenches, the defensive line, that scared most. However, presumed starting left tackle Zach Robertson was absent on the first day and has been gone with a personal matter. That forced starting center Cohl Cabral to move to his old position of left tackle. There’s then been the position battle for center that has been won by redshirt senior Cade Cote.
The right guard spot is still undecided between redshirt senior Roy Hemsley and redshirt freshman Jarrett Bell. Both probably play, with Hemsley there, the line is entirely seniors.
Although, what about depth? Say Cabral goes down with an injury, who plays left tackle? True freshman LaDarius Henderson, who has taken a lot of second team reps at left tackle? Will ASU have to shuffle the line around again? It’s a nightmare situation that’s currently only a what if, a big what if that could derail the season.
3) Who will be the star of the defense?
Answer: Aashari Crosswell
Why: What about Merlin Robertson? There’s no doubt that Robertson is good, any Sun Devil linebacker could become the star. Cornerback Chase Lucas could bounce back and be better than he was in his freshman season. Tyler Johnson or Jermayne Lole may lead the team in sacks and be a force for any offensive line. Instead, the pick is Crosswell.
Defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales has said it plenty of times, Aashari Crosswell played poorly his first few games last year. The staff trusted him and he made strides to play at a high level. Now another full offseason in the program, Crosswell has the chance to establish himself as one of the dominant ballhawking safeties that have evolved into this era of football.
4) What other freshman will make an impact outside of Daniels?
Answer: Ethan Long/Stephon Wright
Why: This list could be a mile long. Head Coach Herm Edwards has established ASU will play freshmen and it will play a lot of them. From that group of 15-20 that Edwards has proposed, who will be the one(s) that looking back on the season make you question how they were only freshman.
Ethan Long didn’t win the quarterback battle, he did win the hearts of the staff with his ability to compete and just trying to earn a spot to play. He’s lined up at slot receiver, there’s been packages where he runs the Sparky (Wildcat for those unfamiliar) formation. He’ll be on punt and kickoff coverage. Ethan Long will make plays in 2019, just about anywhere and any fan will probably love him.
Now, Stephon Wright was a prize piece in ASU’s recruiting class last season. He’s been a tad disappointing in fall camp because he’s spent most of it conditioning after having surgery last December. He did start to more on field work lately at practice. It’d be no shock if he turns into a guy that starts making an impact midseason and before you know it ends the season as the team’s leader in sacks.
5) What is the ceiling for the Sun Devils in 2019?
Answer: Pac-12 Champions
Why: Many laughed, wrote Herm Edwards off in Tempe before he ever stepped foot into Sun Devil Stadium. His counter to that was being in every game and nearly stealing the South division of the Pac-12.
A season later, he has another group of his recruits and the culture has been set. The goal is 18, to acquire that 18th conference title. The defense is filled with a lot youth returning from last season. The offense is led by a true freshman quarterback and a star running back behind him.
The vibe around the team is belief they can win the Pac-12. They feel they left too much on the field last year. Wide receiver Frank Darby would want to make sure his feet were in bounds (they still probably were) in Eugene and leave no doubt to the refs. Cornerback Chase Lucas wishes he could redo the Colorado game. Here or there ASU could’ve won against San Diego State, Stanford, Oregon, or Colorado. Even the Washington game it seemed the Sun Devils were outplayed, but they were a third down away from getting the ball back and having a chance to tie it.
Edwards is starting to build an idea at ASU, and if his team rids the feeling of leaving too much on the field, they can be Pac-12 Champions.