ASU football makes final preparations for 2021 campaign

Jayden Daniels and the Sun Devils will look to challenge for the Pac-12 title


Jackson Dungan

Arizona State football opens its season on Sept. 2 against Southern Utah.

As the Arizona State Sun Devils football team prepares to kick off the 2021 season, they will have to juggle on-field optimism with illegal recruiting allegations and an NCAA investigation.

The Sun Devils will rely on key returning players to help keep the momentum going in a positive direction. Head coach Herm Edwards’ team enters the season as the No. 25-ranked team in the country after finishing the COVID-shortened 2020 season with a 2-2 record.

However, the Sun Devils are also currently under an NCAA investigation for allegedly holding illegal recruiting visits throughout the pandemic. 

Despite this dark cloud hovering around the program, Edwards remains optimistic about the upcoming season. 

“We’ve been focused on the job at hand,” Edwards told the media earlier this week. “You’re talking about so many guys who elected to come back and play says a lot about how they feel about this team.

“This team has great focus, and we have a lot of leadership.”

Despite losing numerous players to this year’s NFL Draft, ASU will welcome back a handful of important players to this year’s squad, including quarterback Jayden Daniels and linebacker Merlin Robertson. 

Robertson will continue to anchor a Sun Devil defense that looked good in the spring. During ASU’s last full season in 2019, he finished the year with 74 tackles, two sacks, and three forced fumbles. 

Now a fourth-year senior, Robertson enters this season on the 2022 Butkus Award watchlist, given to the  nation’s top linebacker. 

In his last full season as the starting QB, Daniels threw 17 touchdowns against two interceptions, leading the Sun Devils to an 8-5 record as a true freshman.

Edwards raved recently about his now-junior quarterback’s progress.

Over the last five practices, you can see it’s clicking for Jayden, he’s doing the right things and leading,” Edwards said. “He’s getting way more comfortable; the offense as a whole is more comfortable.

“We’ve got some serious speed on this team, and it’s fun to watch.”

Daniels is projected to be an early- to mid-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but first, he will lead the Sun Devils out for their season opener in Tempe against Southern Utah. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 2.