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5 big takeaways from ASU football training camp

ASU football has kicked off its third week of preseason training camp. Here are five takeaways from practice with the Sun Devils so far.
Credit: AP
Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards in the second half during an NCAA college football game against Colorado, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. Colorado defeated Arizona State 34-31. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — ASU football has kicked off its third week of preseason training camp. Here are five takeaways from practice with the Sun Devils so far.

1. The Sun Devils are learning to adjust and adapt.

Since late July, Arizona State has placed three assistant coaches on paid administrative leave as the NCAA continues its investigation into recruiting violations. Heavy rain forced head coach Herm Edwards to cancel plans to return to Camp Tontozona for a weekend retreat with the team. 

Two-time All-Pac-12 punter Michael Turk announced his transfer from ASU to Oklahoma. All-Pac-12 defensive lineman Jermayne Lole will miss significant time this year, if not his entire senior season, as he recovers from surgery on a triceps injury. Needless to say, the Sun Devils have been met with challenges they've had to overcome and adjust to in their first three weeks of fall practices alone.

"This team is built to do that. They've done a good job of following my lead," head coach Herm Edwards said. "They get it. They know who I am as a person and they know whatever comes our way we'll adjust and we'll adapt and we'll be just fine. We'll be good."

"It's tough times especially losing those two coaches (Prentice Gill and Chris Hawkins). That hurt a lot of people especially the big position groups too. It even hurt me," junior quarterback Jayden Daniels said following Monday's practice. "I told Chase (Lucas) and Jack (Jones) I understand this hurts, losing a coach, but I got y'all and we got each other."

2. Herm Edwards remains confident in his coaching staff.

Even though Edwards is currently without three of his original position coaches, the interim assistant coaches he's tapped to fill those roles are people he trusts to set his players up for success. 

Juston Wood, Donnie Henderson and Trey Anderson have all been promoted while graduate assistant Bobby Wade takes on more responsibility in working with the wide receivers. They're all guys who have been in the room with these players in previous seasons.

"I think all these players understand that when change takes place, there's going to be a coach and you're gotta adapt to that and obviously our players have done that and I think the guys that have stepped in have done a really nice job," Edwards said following Monday's practice. 

"They're knowledgeable coaches with a lot of experience. Two or three of them have a lot of experience, actually, coaching and all that stuff. And one of them has at the highest level you can coach at. I mean, the man coached for me (in the NFL), was my defensive coordinator. He's a good football coach, I know that. Period. End of story. There's not a debate about that. I just think that players realize that this building is about knowledge and there's a lot of knowledge and a lot of information you can receive in this building."

3. The offense has turned the corner.

After a shaky start to fall camp, Edwards says quarterback Jayden Daniels and company have made great strides over the last five or six practices. Quarterback Trenton Bourguet has been identified as the backup to Daniels who remains focused on not only making big-time throws as the starter, but also developing as a leader in this locker room.

"The offense collectively had a meeting. Rachaad (White) said something, Jayden said something and it's good they spoke up. It's kinda looking like the offense we anticipated it to be," Edwards said. "I wouldn't say we're where we need to be, we're getting closer," Daniels said of his team's preparedness ahead of the season opener.

"I know we're making big strides and I think we just have to work on the little things, the communication, and just being able to operate the offense clearly."

"(Trenton Bourget) came in as a walk-on, was a little bit limited athletically, he's developed with his time here, his arm strength's gotten better and what shows up for him is just the consistency," offensive coordinator Zak Hill said of redshirt sophomore quarterback Trenton Bourget.

"The day-to-day consistency of knowing what to do. You can trust him and he sees the field really well. He doesn't panic under pressure and he's getting the ball to the guys. He can distribute really well. Different skillset than Jayden but within this offense he functions well."

4. This team is confident in its backfield and secondary.

These are the two-position groups that have looked promising for ASU since day 1 of fall camp. The Sun Devils' running back room has immense talent with the tandem of Rachaad White and DeAmonte "Chip" Trayanum already being touted as the best backfield in the Pac-12.

Redshirt freshman Daniyel Ngata is receiving a lot of attention through the first three weeks of camp and the Folsom, California, product will be a player poised for a breakout season. The defensive backs are led by graduate seniors Chase Lucas and Jack Jones who bring invaluable knowledge and experience when it comes to Pac-12 play.

"(Chase) has probably played more games than anybody on the team. I should say, more snaps than anybody on the team that's been here. That gives you credibility and players know when he speaks, you better listen to this guy," Edwards said of Lucas.

"Like lightning and thunder, them two," captain and senior linebacker Darien Butler said of running backs White and Trayanum. "I just feel like, man, we're going against the best backs in our conference every day. They're pushing to get better every day and they're pushing us to get better every day."

5. Consistency will be key for receiving core's success.

There are a lot of questions surrounding this group of wide receivers heading into the season. Since 2019, ASU has consistently developed players at this position who have gone on to become NFL Draft picks with Frank Darby being a sixth-round selection by the Atlanta Falcons in 2021, N'Keal Harry going to the New England Patriots 32nd overall in 2020, and Brandon Aiyuk being chosen 25th overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2019. 

A standout player has yet to emerge at this position throughout the first three weeks of fall camp but junior wide out Ricky Pearsall is certainly the go-to target for Daniels. The Corona del Sol High School product has been working closely with Daniels since the spring to build chemistry and trust.

"Our other coaches are all looking at us and trying to figure out who the leader is but I believe I'm going to be one of the leaders this year and be more vocal," Pearsall said following Tuesday's practice. "I believe we're a totally different passing team and a just keep on developing that relationship with Jayden. Because obviously we got young guys and people that haven't been with Jayden for many years to develop that connection and with Frank (Darby) leaving, obviously, that new receiver needs to step up."

"I think that whole group, in general, there's some good talent in there and the consistency, in a few guys, has been there," Hill said of the receivers. "We're looking to see what guys are really gonna stand out and what guys are gonna be consistent day in and day out whether that's injuries or whether that's other things."

The Sun Devils host Southern Utah in their season opener on Thursday, September 2.

Follow the conversation with Lina Washington on Twitter: @LWashingtonTV. If you have a sports story idea, e-mail Lina at LWashington@12News.com.

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