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How Sun Devils Offense Could Operate Differently in 2022

Herm Edwards dived into both of his new coordinators as spring ball got underway at ASU.

The Sun Devils approach the 2022 season with question marks surrounding their offensive attack. 

First and foremost, who will play quarterback? Jayden Daniels is now out of the picture, and the Sun Devils will have to decide between Trenton Bourguet and Paul Tyson to see who will take starting snaps next season. 

Running back Rachaad White, who accounted for 1,462 scrimmage yards and 16 total touchdowns last year prior to declaring for the upcoming draft, will be difficult to replace. So will the three starters from 2021 on the offensive line, although Arizona State feels confident in the talent assembled in the trenches. 

As for the receiving corps, no new talent via recruiting or the transfer portal will be provided next season. Combine that with three receivers on the depth chart transferring out of ASU, and pressure for Arizona State's receivers to take the next step is crystal clear. 

The aforementioned factors don't even mention the loss of offensive coordinator Zak Hill, who stepped down earlier in the offseason due to his involvement in the ongoing NCAA investigation. 

When asked to evaluate Arizona State's offense, head coach Herm Edwards called it a work in progress. 

"I think the game that I reflect on is the UCLA game," he said. "Where we had some explosive passes in the passing game. We ran the ball well, hit some big plays, and then we kind of sputtered in and out of the season. I think a lot of that has to do with our running game. We have to be more consistent there to get more guys in the box so you're able to hit the big explosion plays. I think a lot of times we were behind the chains, we were playing behind.

"What we're trying to do, we have some young receivers that we think have potential, they haven't been on the big stage a lot. Ricky (Pearsall) is probably the guy that's been on the stage the most. The tight ends, we've got a good group of tight ends I think. Probably the best group we've had. (Curtis) Hodges had a great year for us last year, no doubt, but I think we've got some young guys that have come in that will help us there. 

"The running back situation is interesting. There's some talent there. You lose Rachaad White, and as you know he was a big part of our offense. He helped us a lot in the run game (and) pass game. It's the first day of practice, we'll kind of see where it goes. It's fun to watch the guys compete, I do know that."  

It's no secret Arizona State was heavily penalized on offense last season, often times erasing substantial progress that would later come back to haunt them down the stretch of the season. 

Moving forward into 2022, Edwards says most of those penalties are fixable, and new additions to the offensive staff in offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas and offensive analyst Brian Billick have already made their input. 

"I go back to the non-competitive fouls, those are the ones you can correct. Whether it's movement, whether it's noise, whether it's too many shifts in formations, I don't know. Talking with Brian (Billick) and Glenn (Thomas) about that, how do we fix this?" said Edwards. 

"That (pre-snap penalties) is fixable. That's not like we committed a foul, it's a foul but non-competitive foul, the ball didn't move. So that's just more focus and concentration. We gotta fix that and we talked about that a lot over the offseason and we really told the players this is the direction we have got to go, and they know."

The decision to bring on Billick was considered a smart move across the board, as his expertise and experience in the game could surely give the Sun Devils a different perspective on the offensive side of the ball. 

Edwards said, "We met for numerous days together and I think he's in the mindset that I think we both share in the fact that we want to do certain things in an offense. Not saying the offense was bad last year, because it wasn't. We sputtered at times. But I think we want to get back to some basic football and I think it starts with our run game."

Edwards mentioned he wouldn't reveal a whole lot for his opponents to get an early jump on scouting ASU for next year, yet it sure sounds like the Sun Devils want to rid themselves of the extra flair and exotic concepts previously run in the offense. 

The reigns of the offense now belong to Thomas, who formerly ran the offense at UNLV for two seasons before making a lateral move to Arizona State. 

Edwards says not much has changed except some of the verbiage used. 

"Some of the verbiage might have changed a little bit. I think that helps you some because players feel like, 'Oh I have to learn a little something different,' " he said.

"But a lot of it is the same to be quite honest. Plays are plays, there's no new plays in football. There's really not. We all run the same plays, how do you go out and do it? I think you'll see when you watch the practices, we got in the huddle! That's kind of fun. Instead of looking at all the Daffy Duck and Mickey Mouse and all those people holding up the signs, there's so many signs in football now, you get entertained by the signs.

"We got in the huddle where the quarterback actually had to call the play. It's interesting. That's kind of fun just to watch, but we can get out of the huddle too. But just little things like that (will be changing). Probably more play-action, under center maybe a little bit more, that's part of it and I think that helps you. It's interesting to see how that evolves." 

For those unaware, teams would often hold up signs depicting what each position group is supposed to do using keywords identified by pictures, rather than huddling and calling plays. 

football sidelines

Arizona State has primarily moved the ball with the running backs in previous years. With White out of the mix, the Sun Devils have a handful of candidates to try and replace his production including Daniyel Ngata, transfer Xazavian Valladay and incoming four-star recruit Tevin White. 

"Rachaad was out there today. I asked him if he wanted to come back, he said no," said Edwards with a grin. 

"It will be interesting, there's some talented players back there. It's going to be fun to watch, (it is a) very competitive group. Coach (Shaun) Aguano does a nice job with those running backs." 

With only one day of spring practice under his belt, Edwards wouldn't reveal how drastically the offense would look heading into next season. We'll get a better glimpse of that in the upcoming spring game in April, though ASU will prefer to keep things vanilla prior to the start of the season. 

Less is more sounds like the Sun Devils mantra heading into the new season as Arizona State looks to cut down on the extra flair and get back to the basics on offense.