UCLA Football Preview: Herm Edwards Has Been a Good Fit for ASU
Edwards has done well enough in Tempe to earn a contract extension through 2024.
The Arizona State Sun Devils have not played a game since they lost to Southern Cal on November 7th. Since then, they had games against UC Berkeley, Colorado, and Utah all get cancelled. Of course, the fact that the Sun Devils game against the Golden Bears was cancelled paved the way for UCLA to play UC Berkeley in Week 2.
It looked like ASU was finally going to get to play last weekend when their game against the Utes was moved to Sunday, but the Sun Devils still were short on players and the game was cancelled last Tuesday.
So, while another week has passed and it looks like they will be able to host the Bruins on Saturday night, December 5 at 7:30 pm PT on Fox Sports 1, don’t be surprised if this week’s game gets cancelled to. If that happens, hopefully, the Bruins will be able to pick up another opponent, either from the conference like they did in Week 2 when they played UC Berkeley or from outside the conference like Colorado did last week.
In the meantime, let’s assume it’s going to happen and begin our previews of this week’s game with a look at the ASU coaching staff and special teams.
ASU Coaching Staff
The Sun Devils are in the third year of Herm Edwards’ tenure. In Edwards’ first two seasons, ASU finished 7-6 and 8-5, respectively. While many laughed when the Sun Devils hired Edwards in 2017, it turns out that Edwards and the Sun Devils are the ones who are laughing now. Edwards’ hiring was assessed at the time against UCLA’s hiring of Chip Kelly and the prevailing wisdom was that Kelly was the home run hire while Edwards was going to be a disaster like he was with the Jets and the Chiefs. But, in two seasons, Edwards has won 15 games with the Sun Devils while Kelly is still looking for his tenth win with the Bruins.
This year, ASU has a new offensive coordinator. After last season, Edwards decided to replace Rob Likens. In his place, he brought in Zak Hill from Boise State. Hill has climbed the coaching ranks quickly. He spent seven seasons at Eastern Washington where the Eagles made the FCS Playoffs five times in seven seasons including the 2010 FCS National Championship. In 2016, Hill was hired to be the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Hawai’i, but his tenure only lasted 48 days. He left the Warriors just days before National Signing Day to become the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Boise State. Hill’s offense led the Broncos to a 12-1 season last year despite being one of four programs in the country which started a true freshman at quarterback last season. So, it really isn’t a surprise to see Hill making the jump to a Power 5 school like ASU.
The Sun Devils also have new guys in charge defensively. Danny Gonzales, who was ASU’s defensive coordinator last season, left last December to become the new head coach at New Mexico. To replace him, Edwards promoted linebackers coach Antonio Pierce and defensive analyst Marvin Lewis to be co-defensive coordinators. While Pierce is in his first season in this role, Lewis brings over 25 years of NFL coaching experience with him.
Let’s look at the Sun Devil Special Teams.
ASU Special Teams
Cristian Zendejas is now in his second season as the Sun Devils’ placekicker. Zendejas is the son of former NFL kicker Luis Zendejas, who played for the Vikings, Cowboys and Eagles. Last season, he made 23 of 27 field goal attempts, good for 85.17%. He made 29 of 30 PAT attempts. On kickoffs last season, Zendejas only averaged 37.7 yards per kickoff.
So, it’s no surprise to see that the Sun Devils brought in grad transfer Logan Tyler to handle kickoffs. In six kickoffs against Southern Cal, Tyler averaged 63.8 yards per kickoff and had one touchback.
Punting duties will be handled by redshirt junior Michael Turk. Last year, Turk had seven touchbacks and 22 fair catches in 67 punts. So, 43.3% of his punts were not returned. Expect to see a lot of fair catches from UCLA this weekend.
Redshirt senior defensive back Jack Jones is the Sun Devils’ punt returner. Jones returned five punts last season and his longest return was just seven yards. He averaged just 4.2 yards per return last season. So, he doesn’t appear to be all that dangerous of a return man.
The Sun Devils’ kickoff returner is a name which should be familiar to Bruin fans. Rachaad White had originally committed to UCLA, but he ended up decommitting and eventually landed at Arizona State with the Sun Devils. He’s listed at the top of the depth chart as ASU’s first-string kickoff return guy, but he hasn’t actually returned a kickoff yet because the Sun Devils didn’t have one to be returned against Southern Cal.
That wraps up our look at the ASU coaching staff and special teams.