Not everyone agrees with the media poll that has Arizona State football pegged to finish third in the Pac-12 South this season. Five of the voters predicted a first-place finish.
Most likely, those are the voters who buy into the vision that the Sun Devils will be much improved on offense this season. Head coach Herm Edwards has pointed to that as a priority going into the 2021 season that begins with a Sept. 2 home game against Southern Utah.
Edwards feels if his team can average 40 points this season it can win a lot of games. Last season, which was shortened to just four games due to COVID cancellations, the Sun Devils averaged 40.1 per game, finishing with a 2-2 record.
But the 70-7 blowout of University of Arizona skewed that statistic. If that game is removed from the calculations, the Devils averaged just 30 points a game.
To get to that 40-point level, Edwards has to squeeze more yardage out of his passing game. While the run produced 264 yards a game, tops in the conference, the air attack contributed just 194 yards a game — a disappointing 11th place among the Pac-12 teams.
But last season there were a number of factors contributing to the problem. For one, there was no chance to get in an offensive rhythm. ASU played one game before constant COVID disruptions put the team on the sidelines four weeks before getting to play again.
That didn’t give much time for the new ASU offensive coordinator, Zak Hill, to develop an offensive system and build a rapport with his sophomore quarterback, Jayden Daniels. Hill came from Boise State, where he spent four seasons as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and built an offense in 2019 that averaged 441 yards and 36.8 points per game — 14th in the country in that points category.
Daniels is a junior now, with another year of working with Hill’s new offensive system and coming off an impressive season, although very short-lived. During the four-game 2020 season, Daniels was second in the conference in pass efficiency and 14th in the nation in yards per completion. The 2021 campaign should be a break-out season that will raise his draft stock — along with his team’s conference rankings.
However, the running game will likely fuel Hill’s offense this season. It’s a three-headed monster led by Rachaad White, who led the nation last season by averaging 10 yards per carry. The redshirt senior (above photo) was named earlier this year as the No. 1 big-play threat nationally by Bleacher Report.
Add to that the other two backs who will be leading the ground attack, redshirt freshmen DeaMontre Trayanum and Daniyel Ngata. Trayanum was the highest-graded running back in the Pac-12 last season and Ngata presents a pass-catching threat out of the backfield; he put up 1,237 receiving yards in high school.
And let’s not forget about D.J. Taylor. The redshirt freshman finished last season ranked No. 3 nationally in average yards on kickoff returns.
The Sun Devils have the weapons to be able to reach that 40-point game target next season.
We’ll just have to wait and see if the new OC can get the most out of the talent he’s inherited.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)