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Arizona State Football: Sun Devils' 2022 Spring Preview

Herm Edwards, Arizona State Sun Devils Football

Herm Edwards and the Sun Devils will start putting the pieces in place after an offseason of departures and coaching changes

It's been a tumultuous offseason at Arizona State, well before spring practices ever started.

The Sun Devils finished a respectable 8-5 in 2021. But after heading into the season with lofty ambitions that included the program's first Pac-12 Championship Game appearance since 2013 and first outright conference title since 1996, an overall record no better than Herm Edwards' second season at the helm in 2019 was underwhelming.

What's more, Arizona State finished 3-4 after its hot start and went winless against teams that reached bowl games after beating UCLA on Oct. 2.

The disappointing conclusion spiraled into a disastrous few weeks in the winter, with a bevy of coaching changes and the sudden transfer of quarterback Jayden Daniels.

Edwards embarks on Year 5 with an overhauled staff and pressure to deliver results amid scandal and underachievement.

5 Storylines to Watch During Arizona State's Spring Practice

1. Restructured offense 

Offensive coordinator Zak Hill was among the exodus of coaches, tendering his resignation in late January. Longtime NFL coach Brian Billick steps in under the title Offensive Analyst and Advisor to the Head Coach.

No matter the name, Billick's arrival means another change at a position on the coaching staff that's been something of a revolving door in Tempe. And the new analyst will be working with a multitude of new starters, including at quarterback.

2. An unexpected QB change

After three seasons as the starter, and some not unsubstantial NFL draft buzz heading into 2021, Jayden Daniels announced his decision to return to college football in December — then his transfer in February.

Daniels regressed statistically in 2021 but still compiled more than 6,000 passing yards and almost 1,300 rushing yards in his three seasons with the Sun Devils. Trenton Bourguet was the backup last season but played sparingly. Edwards also has added Alabama transfer Paul Tyson to the roster, and he's expected to take part in spring practice. Tyson was a 4-star recruit in the 2019 class and appeared in 12 games last season as Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young's backup. He saw minimal action, completing 10 of 16 passes for 150 yards.

Related: Early 2022 Pac-12 QB Preview and Rankings

3. Running back reshuffling 

Arizona State's rushing attack was among the most potentially explosive in the Pac-12 the last few seasons with the combination of Daniels at quarterback and the thunder-and-lightning tandem of Chip Trayanum and Rachaad White at running back.

With White headed to the NFL and Trayanum now at Ohio State (and switching to linebacker), Daniyel Ngata is the most experienced returner but may not necessarily be the primary back. Look for Wyoming transfer Xazavian Valladay to fill that role.

Valladay is a big, powerful back who has twice eclipsed 1,000 yards.

4. Defensive changes

Another significant coaching change, Antonio Pierce exited in early February before landing with the Las Vegas Raiders. Pierce spent just one season as the sole defensive coordinator, sharing responsibilities with longtime NFL coach Marvin Lewis in 2020.

Lewis is still on staff in an advisory role, but Donnie Henderson is taking over the coordinator duties. Henderson's approach to strategy will be fascinating, given that in his long career, his only tenures as coordinator were one season for the Detroit Lions and one in the defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF).

5. The pressure of scandal 

The investigation into NCAA recruiting violations during the pandemic prompted the turnover on Edwards' coaching staff, but Arizona State president Michael Crow gave his support for the head coach.

No matter if Edwards was party to the violations or not, the specter of the scandal looms over the program for the immediate future. Winning can take care of a lot of angst, and the Sun Devils failing to contend for a conference title last year compounds the pressure Edwards faces in 2022.

Podcast: CFB Playoff Expansion on Hold (for now), Arizona State's Bad Offseason Continues and Games to Get Excited About for Week 1

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @KyleKensing.