Without mincing words, it's been a trying offseason for Arizona State. The exodus of coaches that preceded the start of spring practices generated talk about Herm Edwards' future with the program.
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The Sun Devils must also undergo a wholesale change to the backfield with the transfers of quarterback Jayden Daniels and running back Chip Trayanum, while Rachaad White is headed to the NFL.
Amid the turnover, however, Arizona State has reason to look forward to the coming campaign. Strong recruiting in the last few years has the Sun Devils rife with potential difference-makers, and hitting the reset button after a disappointing 2021 may not be the worst thing to happen for this program.
1. X-factor at running back
While the losses at running back with White and Trayanum gone are substantial, Arizona State hit it big in the transfer portal with the addition of Xazavian Valladay. At Wyoming, Valladay averaged better than five yards per carry each season and twice exceeded 1,000 yards. Valladay should immediately be among the best ball carriers in the Pac-12.
He won't have to man the position exclusively, with Daniyel Ngata back after showing some promise as a fourth option in the run game last season.
2. Experienced defense
The defense will have a new coordinator with Antonio Pierce out and Donnie Henderson in, but the Sun Devils have plenty of familiar faces returning on that side of the ball. The linebacker unit features Merlin Robertson and Kyle Soelle, two of the conference's most seasoned players at the position, while Eric Gentry is coming off a Freshman All-American campaign.
Jermayne Lole announced his decision to return back in December, giving the Sun Devils a proven leader on the interior of the offensive line. Michael Matus made 5.5 tackles for loss a season ago and Travez Moore made 2.5 in just three games.
3. Potential from the portal
In addition to new running back Valladay, Arizona State welcomes potential difference-makers via transfer in several key spots. Nesta Jade Silvera arrives from Miami where in 2020 he earned All-ACC honorable mention recognition, and Khoury Bethley — a first-team All-Mountain West safety last season — comes from Hawai'i where he played under former Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham.
The offensive line adds considerable size and experience via the portal with Des Holmes in from Penn State, Chris Martinez out of San Diego State, and intriguing Div. II import Emmit Bohle.
The quarterback question may also be solved via a transfer with Paul Tyson competing for the job. Tyson, a highly coveted high school recruit, spent last season in the same Alabama quarterback room as Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.
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— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @KyleKensing.