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Edwards emphasizes the importance of vetting players in transfer portal

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With thin roster numbers these days ASU head coach Herm Edwards discussed the need the Sun Devils’ for transfer players and which position has the greatest need.

“Offensive linemen, we still have to build that,” Edwards said of what grad transfer players he’ll focus on recruiting. “I mean we got a good group…we have to go out and get some grad transfers because there are guys that have experience, that’ve played, so that’s important for us.”

“Now, hopefully after this year, we’ll build a surplus of young guys that can be in the program for two years. It takes those guys two years for most of them, and so that’s always what we’re looking for.”

Then, Edwards addressed the NCAA’s new transfer portal and the way the Sun Devils plan to approach it. As a double transfer himself back in the ’70s, he had some interesting thoughts on this new era.

“It’s free agency in college football,” Edwards said, “and I think the danger of it is this, a couple things for me…I think it gives (the players) a way out when it’s hard.”

“I also believe that hey, there’s some validity to it, sometimes you go to a place and maybe the coach leaves or the system changes and you don’t want to be involved in that. But more than anything else a lot of them- kind of like the world these young people live in, in this world of technology and video…there’s this reset button on it.”

“If it’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t look like- or the coach is kind of- I always say when the coach is on you that’s a good thing, it means he cares. When they don’t talk to you, that’s not good. A lot of them can’t take that, and they look at the odds, they look at the line they’re in, they look at the competition ahead of them. ‘I’m going in the portal.’”

“If you’re the guy looking at guys in the portal, there’s a reason they left. I always say this, wherever you came from there are good coaches there, so let’s don’t say the coaches. Well, why did he leave? So, you got to do your due diligence and research guys. I mean any guy we bring in here- portal guy or a graduate transfer- we are going to do our research to find out what happened, and if you don’t do that, shame on you.”

Dillon Sterling-Cole utilizing his experience in the quarterback competition

As will be the case on most days until the start of the season, or until the starter is announced, the QB competition will be a main topic of focus. Sticking to the two-and-two schedule of who gets reps in 11-on-11’s, it was redshirt junior Dillon Sterling-Cole and freshman Joey Yellen.

Specifically, Edwards had some comments on the ways Sterling-Cole has progressed and his approach to this competition.

“If you look at him, he changed his whole body, I mean he lost like 20 pounds or something,” Edwards said.

“I think his confidence in the offense, and he’s trying to take some kind of leadership role,” Edwards said of what he’s seen differently from the QB. “He’s the guy that’s been around, he’s actually played in some games…so use that to your advantage.”

Furthermore, Edwards reiterated that no decisions will be made regarding the QB depth chart in the near future.

“This thing’s going to go on until the Summer, we’re not going to make a decision after this because we know what’s coming,” Edwards said. “We’re going to have 20 more guys that walk in here, a lot of them young players, and they’re going to compete for a job. So, the competition will continue.”

Robertson, Lucas updates

While the Sun Devils leading tackler from last season, linebacker Merlin Robertson, was absent from practice, standout cornerback Chase Lucas was back on the field.

Edwards stated that Robertson is fine and made it seem like his absence was nothing serious, but he did provide some vague insight into Lucas’s return to the gridiron for 2019.

“It was good to see Chase back, you know he went through a tough stint there,” Edwards said. “Good to see him back, I had a good talk with him. Danny went to the services, our defensive coordinator, so he’s happy to be back too, this is his second family, so that’s important.”

Last season Lucas was also a phantom presence during Spring ball, which seemingly stemmed more from him not doing things to the coaches’ standards off the field, in the classroom, etc. as well as some injury issues.

Although this seems to be more of a personal matter for Lucas, everything is speculation at this point. Updates will be provided as information becomes available, but for now, the Sun Devils hope that he’s in a good place and can continue being a valuable starter and leader going forward.

Williams and Aiyuk counted on to lead the wide receiver group

One thing that Edwards brought up multiple times was the voids that need to be filled from key offensive players on the 2018 team.

The QB position is obvious, but Edwards had the chance to address multiple players that he feels can step-up in the absence of N’Keal Harry.

Specifically, he talked about Kyle Williams as a veteran leader on the offense as someone who the team can rely on.

“He is a guy that you can depend on, he’s going to do the right thing,” Edwards said. “If you’re a quarterback, you want a guy like that on offense. You want a Kyle Williams, you want an Eno Benjamin that’ve played in a lot of games and when it gets sticky in the huddle, they’re the guys you can look at that’ll say ‘everything’s alright, we’re going to be ok.’”

Edwards also had the chance to talk about Brandon Aiyuk and Geordon Porter later in the session, mentioning them as guys who gained confidence during last year’s bowl game. He even mentioned that Aiyuk has NFL aspirations and that this year is a golden opportunity for whoever can fill the Harry void.

As for who the most likely candidates are, that remains an open competition.

“Who’s going to fill that spot? It’s wide open,” Edwards said. “I don’t care who fills it, just somebody go fill it, right? So, let them compete and see what happens.”

Furthermore, junior Curtis Hodges will be a tight end after seeing game action at receiver last season. This is another player that Edwards believes can find a role in the offense at his new position, especially considering Hodges enthusiasm regarding the switch.

“I think he’s enjoying it, he’s got a role now,” Edwards said. “He’s a long-strider a little bit, that doesn’t bode well for you to play outside, more inside because you’re going to get more of a free release.”

“He’s got the frame, he’s got the size and you look at the guys now, athletic tight ends are like wow, they’re big time, and they’re hard to cover inside the middle of your defense because they’re so athletic they got a bad matchup.”

“He doesn’t always have to be connected to the formation, in other words he doesn’t always have to line up next to the tackle you can split these tight ends out now and put them in space where they can just run overs and the mesh routes where he’s coming across where the quarterback has a big target too.”

Of course, redshirt senior Tommy Hudson- last year’s starter at the position- will return for his final college season. However, he was practically a sixth offensive lineman most of the time he was on the field, so seeing how ASU utilizes both guys will be intriguing.

Edwards sees the benefit of the AAF’s Arizona Hotshots

In case you missed it, the Alliance of American Football played its first weekend of games last Saturday and Sunday in the newly founded pro league’s inaugural season. In fact, Sunday’s CBS games drew higher TV ratings than the nationally televised NBA matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, aka James Harden and co.

Arizona’s team, the Hotshots, play their home games- including last Sunday’s opener- at Sun Devil Stadium, the perfect excuse to ask coach Edwards his thoughts on the country’s newest pro sports league.

“It’s a needed deal, this league is needed for development,” Edwards said. “Our farm system is college football, but where do they go from there when they get cut? They go home, they waste a whole year. In basketball there’s a (development) league, baseball there’s a league, in football, there’s no league, and as long as fans understand that it’ll be ok.”