For all the jokes everybody made about the Herm Edwards hire, Arizona State went 7-6 last year (and was probably better than that record indicated), and signed a good recruiting class in the offseason. QB Manny Wilkins and WR N’Keal Harry are gone, but 1,600+ yard rusher Eno Benjamin is back along with all the stars on the defense. With a favorable schedule, I think improvement is likely.
RB Eno Benjamin is the top returner on offense, a workhorse if I’ve ever seen one, racking up 300 carries last year, the third-most in the country, and he never tired either, averaging 5.5 yards per touch. Backup Isaiah Floyd is back too after 45 touches last year (4.6 YPA) and could see some more action so Benjamin can rest up more. The line returns five seniors with starting experience and could be one of the conference’s best.
The QB spot is a little bit of an open-ended question, Dillon Sterling-Cole wasn’t overly impressive in limited playing time backing up Wilkins last year, and a pair of four-star true freshman, Jayden Daniels and Joey Yellen, will challenge for the job. Daniels seems like the clubhouse leader right now due to his extraordinary athleticism, but the other two have a shot.
In the receiving corps, 1,000+ yard WR N’Keal Harry is gone but they bring back three guys that had over 400 yards, slot man Kyle Williams, senior Brandon Aiyuk, and deep threat Frank Darby (26.0 YPC 2017, 20.0 YPC 2018!). The QB situation is a big question mark, but if they can figure out something there this could be a great offense.
Arizona state’s defense has been an issue for a while, but they improved last year and bring back all the key difference makers from last years team:
DE Jermayne Lole: three sacks, two TFL, four PBUs
LB Khaylan Kearse-Thomas: two sacks, four TFL
OLB Tyler Johnson: four sacks, four TFL
MLB Marlin Robertson: five sacks, 3.5 TFL, leading tackler, Pac-12 Freshman POY
OLB Darien Butler: seven TFL as a true freshman
CB Kobe Williams: 2.5 TFL, eight PBUs
CB Chase Lucas: two sacks, four TFL, five PBUs, three INTs
S Aashari Crosswell: nine PBUs, four INTs
That’s a hell of a lot of talent that is coming back, and five of those guys were freshmen last year. This defense has a core to build around for the future, and with a more experienced group this year after so many freshmen played key roles in 2018, I think this could be one of the country’s most improved defenses.
I feel really good about this Arizona State team, the schedule sets up nicely, avoiding Stanford and Washington from the North and getting USC at home in division play. I think if this team can find a quarterback, its a dark horse Pac-12 title contender in just Herm Edwards’ second year on the job.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|14-Sep||at Michigan State||20||-5.8|
|16-Nov||at Oregon State||101||6.8|
Average Projected Record: 7.3 wins, 4.7 losses (5.2 wins, 3.8 losses)