As the summer heat continues to ramp up, so does the circuit of preseason football honors and predictions. Arizona State hopes to surprise nearly everyone in the Pac-12 conference in 2022 despite some of their strongest talent leaving in the transfer portal.
Athlon Sports recently released their preseason Pac-12 All-Conference teams, and the Sun Devils were well represented throughout the four different levels of teams.
Eight Arizona State Sun Devils Land on Athlon Sports All-Conference Team
D.J. Taylor (Punt returner)
Arizona State fans are well aware how dangerous Taylor can be when fielding punts. Despite his struggles fielding the ball last season, the Sun Devils hope Taylor can once again emerge as a threat any time opposing teams dare to kick his way. He also made the list as a second-team kickoff returner.
Xazavian Valladay (Running back)
Transferring from Wyoming, Valladay looks to maintain the high standard of play in the backfield left by Rachaad White last season. Valladay projects as an all-around back who can stay on the field for all three downs if needed. The Sun Devils expect big things out of him in 2022, and after reviewing his tape, those expectations are warranted.
LaDarius Henderson (Guard)
The Sun Devils lost three of five starters from last season on the offensive line. The good news? Henderson has the capability to become one of the best guards in the Pac-12, as his consistency last season in paving rushing lanes for runners should be displayed once again in 2022.
Merlin Robertson (Linebacker)
Robertson's 2021 season didn't exactly go to plan, as his play dropped while Eric Gentry saw a considerable surge in performance. However, Robertson is still projected to be a pro-ready prospect after an offseason where Arizona State will surely need him to swim rather than sink. The talent is there as a linebacker, but it's up to him to hit the next level.
D.J. Taylor (Kickoff returner)
Ben Scott (Center)
Scott is the other starter returning for ASU along the offensive line, making the transition from right tackle to center after losing Dohnovan West to the NFL. Scott managed to successfully establish himself as the undisputed center in spring practice, but how will his level of play stack up against true competition in the regular season? We'll see how the move to the interior impacts his game.
Kyle Soelle (Linebacker)
For the last two seasons, Soelle has been a captain on Arizona State's squad and 2022 will be no different. His presence on the field provides leadership and perhaps most important: reliability. The Sun Devils have lost strong players on the defensive side of the ball, yet Soelle (acting as the heart and soul of the defense) will be critical in ensuring things continue to run smoothly on his side of the ball.
Nesta Jade Silvera (Defensive line)
Silvera was a strong defensive lineman for Miami last season, and after losing D.J. Davidson to the NFL and Jermayne Lole to the transfer portal, the Sun Devils will need him even more in 2022. With 5.5 tackles for loss last season, ASU's ability to disrupt the backfield looks to keep pace from 2021.
Khoury Bethley (Safety)
Bethley might just be one of the more underrated transfers not only at Arizona State, but for the entire Pac-12. ASU lost all four starters in the defensive backfield from last season, and helped replenish the talent pool by adding the Hawaii ballhawk safety. His first-team All-Mountain West honors last year provide a baseline for what Sun Devils fans should expect next season.