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Monday Mailbag: Transfers, swim & dive, NIL, spring practice and more

Round 3

NCAA Swimming: Men’s Swimming Championships Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The third edition of our Monday Mailbag. We have thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with our users, and this week provided some of the best questions we have received. Any overflow will be addressed next week as the number of questions are limited to two per user.

Who is your least favorite troll on this site? - Troll S.

REDFERN: How could I not enjoy anyone who interacts with the site? I truly look forward to reading the comments every day. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning.

The Men’s swim team is really killing it this year, with the lack of diving being the heavy weight holding the results down. Where does that put the team next year relative to swimmers/roster still with eligibility, etc.? And the Diving. The loss of that part(s) of the program was a serious debacle. What’s that look like relative to rebuilding it? – Arizonason and sundevils

KR: First of all, obligatory kudos to ASU Men’s Swimming for taking sixth at nationals. For those who missed, ASU freshman Leon Marchand set an NCAA record for his 200 IM championship-winning performance on Thursday, before winning the 200 breaststroke and finishing under a half a second over the NCAA record.

The kid is a stud, and led the Sun Devils to a sixth-placed finish at nationals, the best in 40 years. The majority of the squad will be returning.

While a diving team would not have done much for the swim points at nationals, the thinned-out squad sorely hindered the swimming and diving team in conference play. Most of that is a result of Mark Bradshaw’s rather abrupt departure last year, and NCAA transfer rules.

Marc Briggs still has to build up his recruiting-base, and it will likely be another year before they start to roll in at full strength and have an impact. In the meantime, transfers Thomas Wesche and Zachory Lundgren are completely eligible after having to miss some time this season.

Were you expecting a mass exodus of players to the portal after this season ended? We lost quite a few players, but I was expecting more. – Zoon P.

JOHNSON: This could apply to both football and basketball, but I’m going to use a similar response for both. In short, the answer is not really.

Much of what I am seeing at spring practice for football is a common thread between the players who stayed. The characters may change, the students, the teachers may come and go, but the institution remains the same. Relatively speaking, few schools in this country offer the opportunity that Arizona State offers as a Power Five, Division I school that fields a team consistently playing on national television.

These guys might not have unbreakable loyalty to the school, the town, the fanbase. But let’s be real here, who does in this era of player empowerment and relaxed transfer rules? What they have is an opportunity to be seen and have their stature raised, maybe in a way they wouldn’t have if they transferred to another school.

If you’re in line at the DMV, and you get out of it. For whatever reason, your expectation is that the spot will be filled by the time you get back. The same applies to football. Maybe players are disappointed in the program or their coaches, that’s an answer we won’t know for some time most likely, but a spot opened in line right in front of them, and they have stepped in.

Everyone at this level believes they can play in the NFL, and many have the talent to be correct on that appraisal. It really depends on a measure of resolve and some good fortune. So for many players, maybe the players transferring in front of them is a door opening.

The same applies to basketball. Jalen Graham’s transfer can be connected to NIL. This is an arms race that Arizona State is falling behind in quickly. But aside from Graham, there is an opportunity for new big men to come in and earn more playing time, and potentially open up more opportunities for themselves.

What happened to Amiri Johnson? - DevilForce1

JJ: In short, several injuries. He has the ideal build for a competitive pass rusher at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds. But he got placed down behind the pecking order because of all his injuries.

Simply put, the best ability is availability. So far, Johnson has yet to procure that at a consistent rate.

Him staying with the team tells me he sees a path to a starting role and potential stardom. The wheel of experience continues to turn and Johnson has every opportunity to work on his skills during this offseason. The Sun Devils love to rotate defensive lineman, and maybe he sees the field this fall as a member of that rotation.

How are the RBs and slots looking so far this spring? Pros and cons? - Lisa A.

KR: Media viewing is limited to only the first hour or so of practice, so we don’t see anything too intricate, especially offensively. At running back, it’ll be a battle for the feature-back role between returning back Daniyel Ngata (5.5 yards per carry, four touchdowns in 2021) and the Wyoming transfer Xazavian Valladay (1070 yards, 5.5 yards per carry, six rushing touchdowns).

After that, my guess is George Hart III will have an extended role and be the third back in 2022. Hart III, from the limited drill work I have seen, has impressed and offers a different skill set than Ngata and Valladay.

Again, it’s really tough to compare them to anything in the spring, but I’d say they all look strong and healthy. Running backs ran the offense last year, and I imagine they will do the same this fall.

As for the slot, Elijah Badger has to be used somewhere in 2022. He is versatile, and was primarily a motion-man under Zak Hill. He also played X on scout team. It looks like Glenn Thomas will simplify things from a play calling standpoint.

Badger and Andre Johnson have caught my eye as wide receivers who could make a leap this year. Both have mixed in with the ones and twos in 11-on-11 drills.

The lack of timing, or any established connection, between Jayden Daniels and his receivers last season was heavily criticized. I don’t see how quarterback questions that will likely last deep into the summer will be optimal for the first-stringers. Regardless, it will take time.

When will the track and tennis facilities be upgraded or, better yet, replaced? They are both the worst in the conference. - sundevils

JJ: The answer is yes, but the timeline is unknown. When Ray Anderson became athletic director in 2014, he mentioned his desire to undertake a sweeping upgrade of any facility that needed upgrading.

Most notable, and first up, was Sun Devil Stadium. That facility update was completed officially around the middle of 2019, but the most notable changes (reduction in capacity) were visible by 2018. Then attention turned to the desperately needed upgrade for the men’s and women’s hockey programs, which has now turned from a regional story to a national story with the entrance of the Arizona Coyotes into the fold. This season was the last at Oceanside, and the new arena should be spectacular.

So after that, where does that leave us? Anderson mentioned he wanted to update Desert Financial Arena in 2017, but that has yet to happen. That arena is absolutely showing its age, and as other programs have renovated their arenas across the country, Arizona State should look to make a similar move in the coming years.

Then, after that occurs, I’d say the tennis center gets a look.

What’s the deal with this new NIL thing Adidas is doing for their schools? - Alonzo L.

WEIPZ: In case you missed it, Adidas became the first major sports brand in college sports to launch an NIL initiative for athletes at its member schools. The brand will begin this partnership with the Power Five (which includes ASU) and HBCU schools within its network.

Although it is starting on a much smaller scale, they are projecting over 50,000 athletes to be able to profit under this new “Impossible is Nothing” campaign, across the 109 schools and 23 Division I sports.

To start out, it seems like Adidas will hand-pick a lead athlete to be a “brand ambassador” from each sports team, based on social media following and performance. So if we were to look at the men’s basketball team, Marcus Bagley would probably be one of the first selected based on his 320k followers on instagram.

This is just the start of something potentially big for the NIL marketplace and has the potential to benefit the Sun Devils immensely. The Adidas initiative will begin this fall with each “phase” slowly rolling out through the next calendar year.