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UCLA Football Preview: Will Herm Edwards Get the Last Laugh?

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ASU was laughed at across college football for hiring Herm Edwards, but Edwards has ASU trending in the right direction.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12 Conference welcomed a large group of new coaches for the 2018 season. Those coaches included Chip Kelly at UCLA, Mario Cristobal at Oregon, Jonathan Smith at Oregon State, Kevin Sumlin at Arizona, and Herm Edwards at Arizona State. Out of the aforementioned coaches, no coaching hire was more scrutinized, and dare I say, scoffed at more than the Arizona State Sun Devils bringing in Herm Edwards.

Arizona State Coaching Staff

Herm Edwards leads the ASU staff, and until this year, he had been out of coaching since 2008. Edwards had been away from the collegiate scene since 1987-1989 when he was a defensive assistant at San Jose State. So how did Edwards end up as ASU’s coach this year? Life is often about who you know and the relationships you have built through the years. Herm Edwards had a very strong relationship with ASU’s athletic director, Ray Anderson.

Herm Edwards and Ray Anderson had a relationship from the 1990s when Ray Anderson, a former sports agent, represented Herm Edwards while he was a head coach. So needless to say, many people had thoughts about the ASU hire, but college football insider Mark May pretty much summed ASU’s thinking in going with Herm:

Either go with somebody that is really good or the best that you could get. If you can’t get the best then you go with what your gut says and go with somebody you could trust. He (Anderson) knew Herm for a long time and he represented Herm as an agent when he was an agent. He knows him and he trusts him. Maybe he’s going off a trust factor.

So far, Herm has accounted for himself quite well as he has led the Sun Devils to a 5-4 record overall and a 3-3 record in Pac-12 play. With the beat down that ASU put on Utah on Saturday, ASU now owns the tiebreaker with the Utes and are in great position to qualify for the Pac-12 Championship Game by winning their three remaining contests against UCLA, Oregon and Arizona. This is all coming from the team that the Pac-12 Media Poll had finishing last.

On the offensive side of the ball, offensive coordinator Rob Likens is a holdover coach that Herm Edwards retained from Todd Graham’s staff. For Graham, Likens was the receiver coach, but Edwards promoted Likens to offensive coordinator. Likens had previous experience and coordinator duties at Southeast Missouri, Central Connecticut State, UC Berkeley and Kansas.

Likens has made no secret about what he feels ASU needs to do to be successful and that is run the football. ASU is currently third in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game, as they are averaging 185.4 yards per game and a whopping 5.0 yards per carry average.

On the defensive side of the ball, ASU is led by first year defensive coordinator, Danny Gonzales. Before coming to the Sun Devils, Gonzales’ last seven seasons of coaching came at San Diego State. Last year at SDSU was his first year as defensive coordinator as his previous six years were spent as the safeties coach at SDSU.

Gonzales implemented a change in ASU’s defensive scheme this year, changing from their previous defensive scheme where they used four down linemen, to know where they run a 3-3-5 scheme that allows them to often bring up the linebacker to assist with the run or drop the linebacker into pass coverage.

Special Teams

Arizona State Sun Devils have a really good kicker in sophomore Brandon Ruiz. Ruiz has been named to the 2018 Lou Groza Award watch list and it was Ruiz booting a last second field goal against Michigan State earlier this year that propelled the Sun Devils to one of their biggest wins of the year. Ruiz was good in that game for kicks of 24, 28, and 49 yards out. So, Ruiz is definitely a weapon for the Sun Devils. I wanted to share this pretty unbelievable video below that shows Ruiz has a little strength in his leg.


ASU’s N’Keal Harry is a threat in the punt return game and has helped propel ASU to third in the Pac-12 in return average, where they are averaging 11.3 yards per return. I would be remiss if I did not share a return against that other team in LA in which Harry helped ASU cement their victory over Southern California.

Outlook

I want to go on record as being one that actually thought that ASU’s hiring of Herm Edwards was a good idea. Herm was a very successful player in the NFL, not the best coach in the NFL, but a very visible and high quality analyst with ESPN.

Nobody has a bad thing to say about Herm Edwards. His rah-rah attitude, NFL experience, and his TV visibility provide him with many of the tools that I think translate into being able to walk in the house of a recruit and sell them on the ASU program and, more importantly, have them buy it.

His success this year is only going to help him as he build this program. UCLA has often gone into Arizona to get recruits and only time will tell if Edwards truly has what it takes to win the recruiting battle against other Pac-12 schools, and make ASU a perennial Pac-12 power.


Go Bruins!