2021 Football Outlook: Sun Devil Marco Salas Previews His Team
2021 Football Season Outlook
By Marco Salas
The 2020 football season for the Arizona State Sun Devils was one that will always be remembered. From battling COVID protocols and daily testing to the season hiatus, the 2020 season will be one that will go down as one of the craziest seasons in recent memory. In Coach Herm Edwards' third season, the Sun Devils finished 2-2, with wins against their in-state rivals--the University of Arizona-- and Oregon State. With high expectations to compete for a Pac-12 title and book a trip to the Rose Bowl, the Sun Devils look forward to the 2021 season.
The offense will look to build upon a successful year under second year offensive coordinator Zak Hill. In four games under Hill, ASU averaged 40.3 points per game with 450 yards of total offense. The offense was on full display in the 70-7 win over Arizona, the most points scored in Territorial Cup history and second most in program history. With ten starters back on offense, expect big things in Year Two of the Zak Hill offense.
Coming into the season, the Sun Devils had a hole at running back due to the departure 7th round pick Eno Benjamin (Cardinals), but that hole was filled with a dual attack led by incomers Chip Trayanum and Rachaad White. The two backs put up over 700 yards and nine touchdowns. With high expectations for next season, Trayanum looks forward to living up to those expectations. "We want to be better than last year. We set high goals for ourselves and compete with each other every day. After posting, it's a good thing to help us get better," said Trayanum, who, along with White, makes up a loaded running back room consisting of former four-star prospect Daniel Ngata and overnight sensation Jackson He, the first Chinese born player in the FBS. The running game was anchored by an offensive line that drastically improved from the season prior. Anchoring that offensive line was sophomore guard Dohnovan West, who was recognized as one of the top guards in the Pac-12.
While the running game was a big factor, the passing game looks to develop with Jayden Daniels entering Year Three in the program. With former WR Brandon Aiyuk drafted in the first round by the 49ers in this past year and WR Frank Darby departing for this year's draft, the WR room looks to step up in a big way. Junior WR Ricky Pearsall and RS freshman Andre Johnson look to lead a room full of game-changers. With ten returners on offense, expect big things for Hill's passing attack.
While the offense adjusted to a new coordinator, the defense looked to adjust as well under co-defensive coordinators Marvin Lewis and Antonio Pierce. It didn't take long as the defense forced 13 turnovers and nine sacks this season. Under new defensive line coach, Robert Rodriguez, the defensive line exploded with ten sacks. Leading the way was RS junior DE Tyler Johnson with five sacks. Johnson was one of many Sun Devils who earned a spot on the conference's all Pac-12 team. The defense will return all 11 starters after Seniors Evan Fields, Jack Jones and Chase Lucas announced they would come back after the NCAA granted an extra year to all fall athletes.
ASU had ten Sun Devils make the all-conference team. Sophomore offensive lineman Dohnovan West and RS junior punter Michael Turk were listed as first team all-conference, with Turk earning his second-consecutive nod. On the second team all-conference list were Arizona natives DB Chase Lucas and DE Johnson while true freshman D.J. Taylor earned a second team nod for his performance on special teams as a return specialist. Five other Sun Devils earned honorable mention nods for their season performance; junior DE Jermayne Lole, RS junior LB Kyle Soelle, senior DB Evan Fields, senior OL Kellen Diesch and RB White all earned honorable mention nods.
After securing the Pac-12's fourth best class in 2020, many of those freshmen saw the field early, continuing the trend since Edwards' first season. Over ten freshmen from the 2020 class saw action, including second team all-Pac-12 return specialist Taylor and honorable mention all- Pac-12 RB Chip Trayanum. Included in this class were four of the top wide receiver's, Johnny Wilson, L.V. Bunkley-Shelton, Elijah Badger, and Chad Johnson Jr., who look to develop and contribute next season. The Sun Devils were able to continue the Cali Devil pipeline as they signed 11 of the top 100 players in California.
Next season, the Sun Devils are primed to step into the lights and compete for the Pac-12 title. With big matchups at home versus Arizona, Colorado, UNLV and USC, ASU will be ready to compete. After outscoring their opponents 116-40 and forcing nine turnovers in its last two games, ASU is hoping to build off those results and show they can compete for the Pac-12 title. Rs junior DE Michael Matus is ready to see the team live up to those expectations. "Last season towards the end we really showed what kind of team we were. I expect us to come out hot and heavy and pick up where we left off."