Herm Edwards took to the podium for his weekly press conference. Here are a few items that stood out as the team prepared for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Defending Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault
Unless Sun Devil fans chose to forget, wide receiver Laviska Shenault scored not one, not two, not three, but four touchdowns in Colorado’s 28-21 over Arizona State last season. Add on 140 total yards, Shenault created a handful of headaches.
Edwards included the Desoto, Texas native in his opening statement on Monday, declaring him, ‘one of the best players in the Pac-12, maybe one of the best offensive players in the country.’
In 2018, Arizona State replicated Shenault for the defense with N’Keal Harry, but now they need to find a new plan, and well, a more effective one.
“Oh boy. He’s really hard. He’s a really good football player and it’s fun to watch him on tape,” said Edwards on Shenault. “You just know that, like last year, guy scored four touchdowns. He scored four. They scored 28 points and he scored all of them. You better be ready for him because there’s times when all of a sudden you don’t hear from him but you know in big moments they’re going to find a way to get him the ball.
“What they do now, they know when they need a play they’re going to orchestrate the formation, whether he’s in the backfield as the quarterback, whether they get him in motion or fly motion to give him the ball, whether they get him out on the edge and throw it up and the quarterback does a really good job at throwing the deep ball that’s what they do well, he really really has a nice touch. So we have to know where he lines up and see if we can slow him down some.”
The Sun Devils beat Michigan State last season, everyone knows that. The other fact all remember is the uninspired loss to San Diego State the following week after multiple polls ranked Arizona State.
Now, the situation has repeated itself. A young squad coming off an underdog upset to welcome a Colorado team coming off a disappointing loss to Air Force. Edwards needs his team to hold their heads high, but not even to overlook the Buffaloes, another test they’ll need to pass.
“We’ll find out because this is a big week for them,” he said. “It’s an opponent that can play very well, that can put points on the board and I think it’s a good test for us again, it really is. You have a little bit success and how do you handle it? Last year, we were in a similar spot. We had some success and we got our nose punched in and so we’ll find out. All the warning signs are there. And I’m going to talk about it all week. Then we’re going to go on the ballyard and we’ll find out. But we’ll see how we handle it.”
Offensive line’s musical chairs
Arizona State played another different hand with the offensive line group. Cohl Cabral moved back to his normal center position. Dohnovan West slid over to right guard after neither Jarrett Bell or Roy Hemsley provided consistency at the spot. Then the staff threw 17-year-old true freshman Ladarius Henderson at left tackle for his first career start.
Edwards had a pretty comical response for the Henderson choice.
“And then after watching us play, I came to the conclusions and said, ‘look, we got a freshman quarterback to start some more of them over there, it doesn’t matter. That’s what we got. So what are we afraid of?’, “ he said with a smile.
He got more serious and explained the entire process in the plan behind the shuffle:
“I said let’s just move him (Cabral back to center) back and he can solidify the offensive line, can take a lot of pressure off (West) we moved him from center to guard and we’re going to have a left tackle that is going to be a freshman and we can help him at times, chip and bring the tight end to protect him especially against the team we just played going on the road. So that was kind of my thinking.
“And I think it is the best thing for our offense because we went three weeks in a row changing our offensive line and I said, ‘this is it. I won’t change it anymore. This is it this.’ So I said, call them in.’ So we call them all in on Tuesday, I think it was Tuesday and said ‘here’s the deal,’ and they said ‘brilliant.’ So this is what we’re gonna do and so they’re all good and we went to practice and went to work. And they did a pretty good job, actually. The right guard played really good and Ladarius did good for the most part. He did a pretty good job as well.”
The kicking situation
Brandon Ruiz has yet to kick in a game this season. Meanwhile, his backup Christian Zendejas has gone a cool 8-for-8 on field goals. Edwards had this to say about Ruiz and Zendejas:
“Yeah, we’re going to find a little bit more,” he said. “He was a little bit sore and we thought actually Brandon was going to try to kick this week. Then he went out and practiced and he felt sore again we said, ‘OK, let’s shut him down,’ and we’re fortunate enough to have a good kicker, it’s unbelievable to have two of them and (Zendejas) has done a really good job for us. What he’s made eight (FGs)? So, you know, when (Ruiz) comes back we’ll find out but until then (Zendejas) is our kicker.”
The answer seemed pretty non-committal to the idea Ruiz will just walk back into his starting job once healthy, but that’s for when he returns.