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SP Sports Weekly: Many ASU football players are returning home to play USC

Sun Devils from Southern California express excitement over the upcoming game in their home state

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Illustration published on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.


State Press sports editors Alex Coil and Koki Riley chat with reporter Alex Weiner about his recent story on ASU football players from Southern California as the upcoming USC game approaches. 


ALEX COIL:

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to SP Sports Weekly, your weekly Roundup of State Press Sports content alongside Koki Riley. I am Alex Coil and one of the sports editors at the state press. On this episode, we welcome back Alex Weiner to talk about his article on the ASU football, California players out of this week's ASU-USC matchup, to start the Pac-12 season. 

KOKI RILEY: 

Thank you so much for joining us today, Alex.

ALEX WEINER: 

Thanks for having me. 

KOKI RILEY: 

So, I guess just to start things off, what about the story intrigued you?

ALEX WEINER: 

The fact that there are more kids on ASU roster from So-Cal than there are from the entire state of Arizona. So after kind of looking at that and seeing a couple of guys saying certain distinctive things about their experiences going back to USC,  I thought it'd be kind of a cool thing to sort of look at it, sort of how are some of the more prominent Sun Devils sort of looking into how the game against USC is going to go for them like personally, I know Jermayne Lole was very unpressed. He was like, it's just another football game. But some of them had a lot of like, pretty cool stories about why this game is meaningful to them. 

ALEX COIL:

Another aspect, and you actually pretty much opened up with this was how at first there were no fans at all in any of the Pac-12 games and the Pac-12 makes a family exception to it. But California is not letting any, not even family or friends into that. So what did these players, they're coming home, they're going to play a game in Southern California, but none of their friends or family are going to be able to be in the stands. What do they feel about that? 

ALEX WEINER: 

Yeah, Jayden Daniels called it a bummer. But ultimately, I think their excitement to play in this game, especially against USC, a team that like most people have as the favorites to win the Pac-12 South. I think that kind of excitement outweighs like disappointment that their friends and family aren't going to be able to show up to those games.  But, a lot of them obviously would think it would be nice if their friends and their folks could go watch them play in such a big game, but I think ultimately the fact that USC is going to be on the other side is going to probably give them enough juice. 

KOKI RILEY: 

I know you just touched on Lole a little earlier, but based on your reporting, what are ASU So-Cal players saying about getting the opportunity to come back home for this week's game?  I know you just talked about how their friends and family are not going to be able to attend the game, but what were some of their reactions, and especially from a guy like Jayden Daniels, about like just playing at home in general?

ALEX WEINER: 

Yeah. I mean, for Daniels, this is a pretty big game because he didn't get to face off against USC last year, he was out with a leg injury. So that was our only game we got to see Joey Yellen take the field. With Jayden, he said that, one quote that kind of spoke to me was him and his dad kind of talked back and forth, like, one day he’s going to play at the Colosseum and stuff like that. He talked about going to those games throughout high school. He went to several USC football games. He grew up not too far away.  So, he's pretty excited to play, although he kind of wishes his dad would be there.  

Geordan Porter is a fun one because both of his parents are Trojans and his dad is a pretty well-renowned sprinter there.  Rolf well, he did hurdles. And so that one, so he said that in his family, that's a pretty big one.  I liked what Darien Butler had to say though. That one was cool to me because he ultimately was like, okay, well, look, I was a three-star recruit and USC, the school that is the closest Pac-12 school to me didn't even give me an offer. So, he goes to ASU, works his way up as a starter, as a captain now. And so, he says all these games against the Trojans are sort of like, look what you didn't even bother to like give a chance to. I thought that one was cool. But nobody seemed more excited than Aashari Crosswell coming into that and in that Zoom call. He was off the walls about going to play USC. 

ALEX COIL:  

Now, another aspect of this, is last year ASU went 0–2 against the Southern California teams and lost in the Rose Bowl to UCLA. How much do you think this team, especially the young So-Cal guys are going to have that chip on their shoulder? We lost in L.A. last year, we went 0–2 against the L.A. schools last year, to come away and get a win in their home state and then their home area. 

ALEX WEINER: 

Yeah, I haven't really heard any of them mentioned the UCLA aspect of that, but I know Aashari Crosswell said, look, we beat them my freshman year and then they came and beat us my sophomore year. So now he says, the continuation would be now, ASU has to go beat the Trojans in a Coliseum.  I haven't really heard much about like having a chip on their shoulder. Like they got us last year, we have to get them back.  More so that okay, we are players in the Pac-12 South and it's a short season, every game means a lot. And USC is kind of the top dog for most people on the outside looking in.  So, I think these players are on social media, they see all these predictions and all the projected standings and all that and they see that USC is pretty consensus the top team in the Pac-12 South entering the season. So, I think that more so than anything is sort of the driving factor of their motivation for this because the chance to knock off USC early on. It would be a pretty big statement win as well as like for the actual standings. That would be huge for their prospects of winning the Pac-12 South. 

KOKI RILEY: 

You've mentioned that ASU has more players from Southern California and the state of California than from Arizona.  Why is that the case? Why has ASU been so keen on getting players from that state? 

ALEX WEINER: 

I think it started with Antonio Pierce getting a guy who has a lot of connections in Southern California, coaching at Long Beach Poly. I mean, there's several Sun Devils on the roster from Long Beach Poly that came over with Antonio Pierce. Aashari Crosswell is there for that.  Kobe Williams was another one from last year. Jermayne Lole is a Cal Poly kid. The Marcom brothers are Cal Poly kids- not Cal Poly, sorry, Long Beach Poly kids. So, I think it's who they have sort of doing the recruiting is a big factor. And I think that Southern California wasn't really a huge draw with the Todd Graham regime. They were more kind of geared towards Texas.  now with under Herm Edwards, they've been really focused on California and that's worked out pretty well because they've been getting a lot of pretty good pillars from there.

ALEX COIL: 

Now, I want to jump back to how big this game is and kind of preview it on Saturday. This game, if you look at different schedules in the Pac-12 South, is probably, like week one, kicking off Big Noon Saturday. It's definitely the best Pac-12 game that is on the schedule for this week and maybe even the entire season in terms of the implications there. How big is it? Whether it's Pac-12 championship implications, whether it's the conference looking at its own college football playoff interests, what is the outcome of this game, how much does that matter to the grand scheme of things?

ALEX WEINER:

I think it matters a lot because I think sort of one of the opportunities the Pac-12 has, and just try to kind of getting a team that has the resume to slip into that college football playoff talk is if USC just kicks butt all year long and they start off with a really impactful win against the young talented Sun Devils team and then they sort of run their table. If they win the Pac-12 Championship, then who knows maybe they could present USC as a team that could initially be in that spot. Of course, ASU, a lot of their guys are saying they want to win a championship this year, by that, I mean, Pac-12 Championship. So, who knows, maybe a good start for them, if they show off early on, they play Cal, it's a winnable game for them. They can get some momentum going and then we know they could potentially be a contender for the Pac-12 South too. I think it's pretty close.  USC probably is the most sort of well-known talent.  in the Pac-12 South. So now this is a major game for ASU. I mean, this is, I don't want to say it makes or breaks the season because I don't know if that's entirely true, but it really does affect it. Well, it's a seven-game season and you only have six games to put yourself in a position in the standings to get to the Pac-12 championship game. So, this is their biggest game of the season really, and it's from week one, which is intriguing.  We'll see what the level of football is like in a week with such a bizarre offseason.  We'll see what version of these two teams sort of come out, but this might help ASU. Ultimately, if both teams are sort of feeling themselves out, USC is a little bit more known talent at home, maybe it kind of evens the playing field a little bit.

KOKI RILEY: 

With that said, what does ASU need to do to start the season 1–0? 

ALEX WEINER: 

Well, it's interesting because there are new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and I think I'll start with the defense because USC’s offense is looking pretty good. I mean, the receiver and the receiving talent that's returning this year with Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns. Those are two could be number one targets on a lot of teams and then Kedon Slovis really impressed last year as a freshman, I think a lot of people were expecting, weren't really expecting him to sort of just become the starter right away and that's what he ultimately did after a couple of injuries.

So, I'm interested to see sort of how the Marvin Lewis, Antonio Pierce scheme matches up with that. ASU uses, they use a lot of defensive backs in their schemes last year under Danny Gonzalez. They had the Tillman position along with their two cornerbacks, two safeties and then sometimes they'll have a nickel in there, and they took away that Tillman spot, but it sounds like they're going to use the nickel and a lot more packages. So, I don't know. I think that if they can stop or at least manage USC’s offense, and if USC is sort of finding a way to get into their rhythm early on, then I would say that's probably the biggest matchup there. How Jane Daniels does in the Zack Hill offense is another thing, and if that's Zach Hill offense, it's just too much to handle for a USC team that hasn't seen that before, that could be another way that ASU sort of can topple the Trojans. 

ALEX COIL: 

Yeah, I want to kind of dive into that Zak Hill offense and actually flip the sides for both teams. USC’s defense is a brand new scheme under Todd Orlando, and ASU’s offensive brand new scheme under Zak Hill. How do you see those two jiving together? And because honestly, as we've seen in some press conferences, ASU offensive staff is looking at Texas’s defense and USC is defense is looking at Boise state's offerings from a year ago. How are those going to work out? 

ALEX WEINER: 

I think the best and the most clear answer is like, who knows? We'll see. This is the first time both of those teams are implementing those schemes and it's against perhaps their biggest competitors in the South. We'll see it, it sounds like from what Zak Hill has been saying in recent practices, that his offense is getting it and if they can find their rhythm and sort of throw off USC in that sense, they do a lot of shifting through a lot of audibles, they could be a pretty complex offense, as defense has been finding out throughout this training camp session. 

So yeah, it's kind of really putting it to the test, throwing it in the fire. For as far as preparing by looking at like, USC looking at Boise state.  I think that's probably pretty smart, but Boise state didn't have a guy like Jayden Daniels, who's just that dynamic, both in the run game and has been growing as a passer ever since his first start. ASU just has sort of a seemingly unlimited supply of receivers. Like not a ton of like big-name guys that people know about are returning. Frank Darby would be the only one of those, but LV Bunkley-Shelton and Johnny Wilson are freshmen with high expectations. They have a few sophomores like Andre Johnson, Rickie Pearsall, with higher expectations too. So, ASU has a lot to throw at them, that's for sure.

KOKI RILEY: 

So, Alex, finally, before we let you go, what's your pick? Who's winning Saturday's a big game?

ALEX WEINER: 

I haven't really even thought about a pick yet. I've been sort of doing all that, like the research, trying to get everything down first and then sort of like taking a step back and being like, hmm, who's my pick.  I think that USC’s offense is really good and they're going up against the defense that's learning about itself as it goes. So, I think that this could be a really close game.

I would probably give the edge to USC at home. But I do think that ASU covers the spread. And I do think that they'll make USC sweat because I think the spread is 10.5 which was higher than I thought it would be, especially for the first game of the season against a team that people expect to be pretty decent in ASU. So, I think ASU covers it. I'd expect, if I had to give not an exact score, but sort of a margin, I obviously probably USC can win by under a touchdown, maybe like a six-point game, something like that. 

KOKI RILEY: 

With that said, Alex, thank you so much for joining us on the show for this week to talk about your piece.

ALEX WEINER: 

Yeah. Thanks for having me. It's been fun. 

ALEX COIL:

Thank you all for listening to SP Sports Weekly. For more State Press content, visit statepress.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at, @statepress and @statepresssport. See you all next week for the next episode of SP Sports Weekly.


Reach the reporters at ancoil@asu.edu and kbriley@asu.edu and follow @anc2018 and @KokiRiley on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


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