After a 7-6 season in head coach Herm Edwards first season, ASU football will look to a core group of returning players and a strong recruiting class to provide optimism heading forward.
If there is one phrase that could be used, to sum up, the 2018 Arizona State Sun Devils football season it would simply be “what if?”
What if the two-point conversion against Oregon would have been called in favor of ASU putting them in the Pac-12 championship?
What if the Sun Devils turn those five losses by one score or less into victories?
These questions may be fun to ask in theory, but the reality is these what-ifs didn’t happen and won’t change. As much as Edwards and his team may have wanted things to swing in their favor, sometimes they just simply did not.
The Sun Devils ended the season with a record of 7-6 with a 5-4 record in Pac-12 play, ironically the exact same season record that got previous head coach Todd Graham fired.
While the record of one game above .500 may not necessarily be the mark that athletic director Ray Anderson promised when introducing coach Edwards, there are many signs that point ASU moving towards that mark.
One of the biggest signs of an improvement towards being a constant top team in the nation has been the impressive inaugural recruiting class that Edwards and recruiting coordinator Antonio Pierce has put forth.
During the week leading up to the Las Vegas Bowl, the Sun Devils received their 21st commitment and arguably their top recruit in form of four-star quarterback Jayden Daniels.
Daniels was a highly sought-after recruit receiving offers from the majority of the top programs in the nation including Alabama. The No. 2 ranked dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports will join a quarterback battle that will feature fellow four-star recruit Joey Yellen and current freshman and former four-star recruit Ryan Kelley.
While recruits can offer a glimpse into your future, the next reason to be optimistic moving forward has already proven himself by etching his name in the Sun Devil record books.
Eno Benjamin set the single-season rushing record in Arizona State history finishing the season with 1,642 yards on the ground. The record stood for 46 years as it was set by Woodie Green who rushed for 1,565 yards in 1972.
The sophomore has already shown he has the potential to be one of if not the all-time best running back at ASU. With a likely freshman or sophomore taking over under-center next season with the loss of N’Keal Harry, expect Benjamin to be the anchor to a revamped Sun Devil offense.
While the offense is seeming to be in good hands under both their four-star quarterback recruits and Benjamin, the young defense of Arizona State is only going to get better.
The ASU defense saw over half of the defense at times being occupied by freshman including Pac-12 freshman defensive player of the year Merlin Robertson. This defense saw growing pains at times but was ultimately successful under first-year defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales.
While we take a look back and imagine all the “what ifs” that could have gone into the season, Edwards and his staff will continue to focus on the now and the future.
The Sun Devils have the recruiting class, ranked at No. 5 in the Pac-12 and No. 32 according to 247Sports, and key returning players in both Benjamin and Robertson. Now it’s time for ASU to put it together and reach the expectations of Anderson.