The burning questions Arizona State football fans want answered

Michelle Gardner
Arizona Republic

There is no doubt the Arizona State football program is in crisis mode. The NCAA investigation into ASU's recruiting practices during the COVID-19 shutdown has had widespread repercussions, from the departure of five assistant coaches including both coordinators, to a poor high school recruiting class and major discontent in the fan base.

The Sun Devils signed just six high schools prospects and three community college transfers, meaning they've had to hit the transfer portal hard. The high school signing class is pegged last in the Pac-12 and 103rd nationally by 247Sports. 

The Sun Devils have salvaged some sense of a roster thanks to the portal, with that slate of 10 acquisitions ranked 35th.

But depth has taken a definite hit not just because the signing class this year was small, but the one in 2021 was a small one as well because ASU had so many players coming back and taking advantage of the extra season the NCAA gave athletes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team is coming off an 8-5 showing which included a 6-3 record in Pac-12 play that was just good enough for second place behind Utah. It might not seem catastrophic but given the expectations and the fact that 20 starters were returning, it was a major disappointment.

It wasn't just the games ASU lost, but the way it lost them. The turning point of the season came at Utah when ASU led at the half 21-7, then gave up 28 unanswered points and lost 35-21. That was followed by the abysmal performance against Washington State which came at home and after a bye week.

The Sun Devils lack of discipline has been a major talking point. Only two FBS teams were penalized more than ASU. What makes that all the more unforgivable was the veteran presence across the board.

The latest blow came on Thursday when three-year quarterback starter Jayden Daniels entered the transfer portal. So right now there is little reason for optimism moving forward.

We're going over some of the questions Sun Devil enthusiasts have on their mind.

Will head coach Herm Edwards resign or be fired before the 2022 season starts?

It seems unlikely unless the NCAA investigation were to produce something new that would demand an immediate removal. There seems to be little support left from the fan base but the question that needs to be answered is, if Edwards were to leave, then what? There already has been quite a bit of movement of coaches across the NCAA and with the dark cloud over the program now, the position likely wouldn't draw a great pool of applicants. There aren't quality coaches still sitting around unemployed in February. The other option would be elevating someone currently on staff to head coach and there are five on staff who have been in the program two years or less. Running backs coach Shaun Aguano just finished his third year but he was a high school coach before coming on board at ASU. The longest tenured coach is special teams coach Shawn Slocum, who is in his sixth year and the lone holdover from the previous regime.  The team is three weeks or so away from starting spring football and there needs to be some consistency, and the players still seem to be  in Edwards' corner. Athletic director Ray Anderson was Edwards' agent in his NFL days and the long association of the two makes it unlikely that Anderson would pull the plug now.

What positions are still in need of athletes?

You can never have enough offensive linemen and ASU is losing three starters there so it is a major area of concern. It has landed Chris Martinez, a transfer from San Diego State, as well as Emmit Bohle out of Division II Northern State (S.D.) but Bohle will need to develop and likely won't be a factor right away so help is still needed there. The Sun Devils also need to upgrade at wide receiver, with no new additions there as of yet, either through a high school prospect or a portal addition. The most notable additions thus far have been in the secondary, backfield and defensive line.

What can be made of the decision of QB Jayden Daniels to transfer now?

There has been some speculation that Daniels' move was a matter of he and his family wanting to go to a higher profile school where he could draw more lucrative NIL deals but a source indicates that is not the case.  Many expected Daniels to transfer with the investigation looming and uncertainty there, not to mention depleted personnel around him making it more difficult for him to elevate his draft status. It is no secret that he wasn't on the same page with former offensive coordinator Zak Hill and there didn't seem to be great connect between Daniels and his receivers either so it would have made sense for him to look for a better situation. ASU had a good shot at landing Oklahoma transfer Spencer Rattler, the former standout out of Pinnacle. But Edwards was loyal to Daniels and upon hearing his quarterback was coming back, opted not to pursue Rattler.

So it's more the circumstances at ASU?

Yes, for the reasons already stated. Daniels is looking at the big picture and the crossroad he is at in his career. Since he and Hill didn't seem to click, one would think Hill departing and the chance to thrive in an offense better suited to him would have been a positive, not necessarily a negative. Glenn Thomas has come over from UNLV and filled the void left by Hill and ASU brought in Brian Billick to aid on the offensive side of the ball. Only time will tell how those additions pan out.

Is there a chance Daniels changes his mind and returns?

It's possible. He is still enrolled in classes at ASU. He very much likes ASU and has always been particularly close with Edwards so if Edwards were to resign or be fired, any chance Daniels returns would be gone. It's really about examining all options. Players that enter the portal can opt to return, although their scholarship wouldn't necessarily be guaranteed. It is likely Daniels threw out some feelers and gauged the interest in his talents long before he chose to enter the transfer portal or he wouldn't have done so, especially after making a public declaration in December he was returning to the program. Despite coming off a sub-par season, a three-year starter at that position is in high demand and he has a unique skill set. You can always teach better throwing mechanics and reading defenses but his knack for running and extending plays is an instinct one has or doesn't. The video that surfaced on social media of  players rifling through Daniels locker hours after the transfer was made public could complicate matters though although it is hard to tell how many players were involved. Either way, the video was not a good look for the program.

What happens at quarterback now?

Trenton Bourguet, a native of Marana, served as Daniels backup last season and saw some time in a mop-up role. He is well-liked and respected by his teammates and seen as  heady player in which the staff has confidence. He is the only player to see time at the position last season other than Daniels. Also on the roster are Finn Collins and Daylin McLemore. Newcomers are Paul Tyson,  backup at Alabama acquired through the transfer portal and true freshman Bennett Meredith who enrolled in January so both newcomers will participate in spring drills. Although Tyson played little, the fact that he comes from a winning program with solid tradition should set him up to be the biggest challenger to Bourguet. Should the Sun Devils braintrust not like what it sees in March, it could look to add another athlete from the portal. Another wave of players typically hits the portal after spring practice when depth charts start taking shape.

Reach the reporter at or 602 444-4783.  Follow her on Twitter @MGardnerSports.

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