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Edwards Sounds Off on Recruiting, Transfer Portal

Arizona State will still look to utilize the transfer portal after spring practice concludes.

The transfer portal has often been a topic of heavy discussion in the world of college football. 

Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards should know because his program has utilized college football's version of free agency frequently the last two seasons. 

Edwards, following Arizona State's first spring practice, said the Sun Devils aren't done plucking talent from other schools. 

"We're probably in the market (to add players in the transfer portal) because we have some flexibility to still go out and get some players after spring because as you know, the portal is free agency in college football," he said. "It will ramp itself up again after spring ball. We anticipate that, so we've saved a couple (scholarships) in our pocket to make sure that we can go out and play in that market of free agency."

ASU has added 10 new players through the transfer portal for the upcoming 2022 season, with some expected to emerge as major contributors right away. 

The transfer portal has often been criticized for taking opportunity away from high-school talent. Edwards emphasized that point despite racking up frequent flier miles in the portal. 

He said, "You have another way of collecting talent. Now I do believe, and I think this is the sad part of the free agency in college football, you're going to deny some high -school players some scholarships, right? Because now you go into free agency; it used to be the JCs (junior colleges). Now you have the JCs, you have transfers, you have the portal.

"But I think if you're looking at certain positions, and for us it was the offensive line, we need some veteran guys to play because we feel like we have a pretty good team coming back. So there's certain positions you dabble there. I still think you build your foundation of your team with high-school players. But we're in the mode of losing so many guys because of COVID last year; we lost 20 players. Nine of them should have been in the Combine, Tyler (Johnson) was the only guy who didn't go. So you lose that amount of players and you sit there and go, 'Wait a minute now, how are we going to fill this?' 

"So we knew that going into last year's season; we said we're going to deal in free agency because it's available to us and we're fortunate enough to get some pretty good players. (It's been) fun to watch."

Perhaps conveniently left out is the fact that  Arizona State's recruiting trail has cooled down to epic proportions recently, especially after the NCAA investigation launched last June and three of ASU's top prospects in the 2022 class took advantage of other options. 

The Sun Devils are last in 247's Pac-12 recruiting rankings, boasting only one four-star recruit and a total of nine high-school prospects. 

Arizona State's top high-school recruit in quarterback Jayden Daniels is now out of the picture after suddenly transferring to LSU despite telling the world he would remain at ASU only months before. 

To bolster the quarterback room, the Sun Devils brought in Alabama's Paul Tyson in what would ultimately be a move that would propel ASU's starting quarterback competition with fellow passer Trenton Bourguet. 

Edwards was able to stay within the Pac-12 conference when pointing to successful teams that used transfer quarterbacks.

"I'll tell you this, two really good teams in our conference, Utah and Oregon, had portal quarterbacks. So it's not like it hasn't been done. When you're the coach, you got to be way ahead of this (players entering the transfer portal)," Edwards said. 

"You got to see this coming. I didn't sit here lost and not seeing it coming. I knew it was coming. I knew free agency was coming. How do you deal with it? And so, we were prepared to deal with it. We brought in some pretty good players in my opinion."

In theory, Arizona State is an ideal place for high-school recruits. The climate is warm compared to harsh weather around the country, and the facilities are considered to be top tier. The Sun Devils play in a Power-5 conference, and surely the Adidas partnership doesn't hurt the program's reputation. 

A question was proposed to Edwards as to how ASU doesn't win at a high level with the aforementioned factors. He answered, "You have to recruit. You got so many schools now that want all of these players, and you got to nationally recruit. You have to try to do that, and we have tried to do that. I do think this: As I said it before, the portal hurts high-school football players. It does. Coaches might not want to say that but it's the truth, it does. But it also helps you in a program to go get a veteran guy that maybe is not getting the opportunity somewhere else.

"This (the transfer portal) is a little bit of a mess, and I think it will find its way. I'm not even going to talk about the other part (NIL). I won't even touch that one. Then you have even more problems. You know what I'm talking about. You have to (embrace it). You can get it fixed. You can fix it. If you need a veteran guy, there's a guy out there. And these guys are smart. They look at schools and go, 'Oh, they might need this guy.' And sometimes they call you. It's just a lot, it's interesting to say the least. It's very interesting."

Interesting is one way to describe Edwards' gamble on the transfer portal for his team's success moving forward. The best teams in the country have managed to find the sweet spot between the transfer portal and high-school recruiting, a balancing beam where Arizona State hasn't fared well in recent years. 

Edwards sounds confident in his group of newly acquired veterans, however. Results on the field will ultimately dictate whether Arizona State's fan base sees them through the same rose-colored lenses. 

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