ASU football is in a critical transition period

The hiring of Herm Edwards ushers in a new era of ASU football

The Herm Edwards era is officially underway, but there is still a lot of work left to be done to get ASU back on the winning track. 

A seven-win season led to Todd Graham's firing, and a loss to North Carolina State University in the Sun Bowl last month didn't help matters, leaving Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson unsatisfied.

Former NFL player, coach and ESPN personality Edwards will fill the vacant head coach position.

Edwards is certainly a big-name hire, bringing with him Pac-12 and west coast experience from his playing days at University of California, Berkeley and San Diego State in the mid-1970s, as well as his NFL background as a player from 1977 to 1986 and a coach from 1987 to 2008. He was also an analyst on ESPN from 2009 to 2017.

While Edwards certainly looks like a great replacement on paper, the question as to whether he’ll be able to sustain long-term success past 2018 is, and will remain, worth discussing until the Sun Devils take the field.  

“With a situation like ASU’s, a more judicious search should’ve been in order,” Brad Denny, a SB Nation staff writer covering ASU football, said. “I thought an up-and-comer might’ve been a better option. The more I dug in, (Edwards) wasn’t perhaps the most viable candidate. It’s just kind of the manner of the search and hire I have an issue with (than the hire itself).” 

Nevertheless, Edwards is the guy, and he needs to take advantage of this offseason to build and strengthen relationships with players and personnel throughout ASU's program.

Star running back Kalen Ballage is headed to the NFL, but quarterback Manny Wilkins and receiver N’Keal Harry are two top players who will be returning for the 2018 campaign and can help ease the transition between head coaches and coaching staffs. 

With the large coaching turnover, it can be beneficial to retain veteran playmakers who have had success with different coaches to help adjust to new personnel.

“The most important thing for him is to sell himself to those senior leaders who carry the voice and clout in the locker room,” Denny said. “A lot of them really liked what Todd Graham brought and sold them on ASU and Tempe. Now that guy’s gone. (Edwards has) to win over that locker room.”

Edwards and his staff need to do as much as they can on the recruiting front this offseason as well.

Schools will be chomping at the bit to recruit four- and five-star players for next year’s class during high school practices this spring. This makes it critical for Edwards and his staff to get acquainted with elite players early in the process.

“They’ve got a lot of room to make up (this year),” Denny said. “They need that infusion of talent. It won’t be those four- and five-star recruits Anderson wanted, though. Being able to salvage something with the remainder of the recruiting class (is important).”

Edwards is also set to take on a much different role than Graham had when he was head coach.

He will assume the role of CEO of football operations, according to Anderson, essentially having a hand in every part of ASU football, similar to how an NFL coach would run a NFL team.

“It’ll be interesting to see how Edwards handles that sort of CEO role,” Denny said. “The success will be in large part due to the staff he puts around him. Graham was fiery and had a huge hand on defense. Edwards has a defensive background, so it’ll be interesting to see his role on game day.”

Despite Edwards’s experience, it’s difficult to imagine him completely turning the program around in his first year and leading the Sun Devils to a Pac-12 championship or even a nine- or 10-win season, especially with schools like USC, Oregon, Stanford and Washington bringing back a lot of their own talented players.

“I’m confident this team can get to a mid-tier bowl in 2018,” Denny said. “What (ASU’s) been trying hasn’t worked. As of right now, I’m not optimistic after this year.”

Anderson set high expectations for his football team, and it’ll be interesting to see how the team performs under Edwards’s reign. 

If he plays his cards right and forms solid relationships with his players and fellow coaches, ASU should regain relevance in the Pac-12 and show fans and critics why Anderson made the right move firing Graham.  

Reach the columnist at or follow @PSlobodzianASU on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

Editors note: A previous version of this photo caption stated the photo was taken on Monday, Dec. 4, 2018. The photo was taken on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.

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