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Arizona State Football: 2022 Sun Devils Season Preview and Prediction

Merlin Robertson, Arizona State Sun Devils Football

Merlin Robertson and the Sun Devils are ranked No. 80 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season

Arizona State's gradual three-year ascent under Herm Edwards hit sudden turbulence last summer when the start of an NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting improprieties jostled the program throughout an underwhelming 8–5 season.

In the months that followed, defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce, offensive coordinator Zak Hill and tight ends coach Adam Breneman resigned, while wide receivers coach Prentice Gill and secondary coach Chris Hawkins were fired. Then, a stunning 17 players entered the transfer portal, including several of the team's best players. The Sun Devils have a very different-looking team and a half-rebuilt staff that is tasked with replacing most of its best players, including at quarterback following Jayden Daniels's transfer to LSU. To cope, ASU added more Division I transfers than ever, with newcomers expected to start at several positions.

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Arizona State's Offense for 2022

After two seasons in the same role at UNLV, Glenn Thomas has taken over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The Sun Devils will continue to deploy a multiple offense, but one that has a bit more of a pro-style feel with an increased amount of huddling and drop-back play-action passing. Thomas will have to find a replacement for Daniels, who left following a disappointing season. A potential answer came in early May with a commitment from Florida transfer Emory Jones. In 13 games with the Gators last year, Jones accounted for over 3,000 total yards, and his mobility is an asset for a rebuilding offensive line.

Making matters worse, ASU has to replace its two leading running backs (including star Rachaad White), its top tight end and three starting offensive linemen.

Several important newcomers have transferred in: running back Xazavian Valladay from Wyoming, where he was the most productive rusher in the Mountain West over the previous three seasons; wide receiver Cam Johnson from Vanderbilt; tight end Messiah Swinson from Missouri; and offensive linemen Des Holmes (Penn State), Chris Martinez (San Diego State), Emmit Bohle (Division II Northern State), and Joey Ramos (Iowa State).

While they should be good at running back between Valladay and Daniyel Ngata, and tight end between Swinson and Jalin Conyers, offensive line is a question after Ben Scott shifted from right tackle to center to replace all-league pick Dohnovan West. In addition, Bohle is battling youngster Isaia Glass at left tackle following the departure of all-league selection Kellen Diesch.

Wide receiver is an even bigger concern, with no spring newcomers at a position of need. Ricky Pearsall entered the transfer portal after spring ball despite leading the team in every major receiving category last season. Elijhah Badger is capable of offering significantly more production than last season, and he may need to.

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Previewing Arizona State's Defense for 2022

Donnie Henderson has been promoted from interim secondary coach to coordinator to replace Pierce, who is now coaching linebackers with the Las Vegas Raiders. Henderson has nearly four decades of coaching under his belt, including as secondary coach for ASU's 1996 Rose Bowl team.

The front seven is an obvious team strength, led by sixth-year senior linebackers Kyle Soelle and Merlin Robertson, although Freshman All-American Eric Gentry left the team following spring ball as a high-profile transfer to USC.

Defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez has done an excellent job with his group, though his top 3-technique tackle, star Jermayne Lole, entered the transfer portal. Nose tackle Nesta Jade Silvera, a Miami (Fla.) transfer, will help offset the loss of starter DJ Davidson, while BJ Green, who led the team in sacks last season, will be elevated into a more prominent role at the 3-technique position.

At end, sixth-year senior Travez Moore started at the outset of last season over the now-departed Tyler Johnson — ASU's lone first-team All-Pac-12 pick — before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in September. But Moore may have a tough time earning a starting job after Michael Matus and Anthonie Cooper played extremely well last season and young backups Joe Moore and Gharin Stansbury showed great promise.

Replacing four starters in the secondary is ASU's biggest defensive liability. Safety appears stronger than cornerback after Hawaii transfer Khoury Bethley and Samford transfer Chris Edmonds were effective in spring ball, and Kejuan Markham was solid last season following an injury to starter Evan Fields.

With Chase Lucas and Jack Jones no longer in Tempe, Timarcus Davis and other returners must improve at cornerback, where former Colorado corner Tarik Luckett was added from the junior college ranks.

Related: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2022

Previewing Arizona State's Specialists for 2022

Punter Eddie Czaplicki was excellent as a freshman and has increased his hang time and field-flipping reliability. DJ Taylor will try to make amends for a disappointing season as a returner after breaking out in 2020. Placekicking could be a concern with up to three players expected to compete for the job.

Final Analysis

The Sun Devils will struggle to match their eight-win total from 2021. With so much to replace, they also have a tougher schedule that includes a game at Oklahoma State and a brutal opening to the Pac-12 slate — the Sun Devils host Utah before traveling to USC. Just as important are the distractions brought on by the NCAA investigation, which could contribute to a coaching change by year's end.

National Ranking: 80

Podcast: Complete Pac-12 Preview + Predictions for 2022