Rice: Edwards and Hurley have ASU Football & Basketball on Verge of Greatness

The Sun Devil coaches are developing players and recruiting at an elite level

Posted on November 2, 2020

Wills Rice
  By Wills Rice of Dash Sports TV for SportsPac12

The Arizona State Sun Devils have been a middle-tier program in both basketball and football for the better part of their history. 


Sure, seasons with star players, such as James Harden, Jake Plummer, and Pat Tillman, have led to stints of 2-3 years of success.

But they have been few and far between.

However, with those star players, ASU showed it had the ability to compete with some of the nation’s best, whether in an NCAA tournament run, or a Rose Bowl victory. 

The perennial problem for the Sun Devils has been building consistently elite recruiting classes with more than one or two stars, accumulating enough of Top 25-caliber talent to hang with top-tier Power 5 schools.

With the arrival of Bobby Hurley and Herm Edwards, it may be time to declare that Arizona State football and basketball are no longer on the rise, but have begun to arrive.

Kent Horner/Getty Images via latimes.com

The place where Herm Edwards deserves the most credit in comparison with previous years is in rebounding from the potentially devastating star players such as N’Keal Harry, Brandon Aiyuk and Eno Benjamin.

Not only has ASU not fallen into rebuild mode over the past two years, but in the minds of some close to the program, this Sun Devil team could be better than those of the past several seasons.

Edwards has created a much needed “Cali Devils” pipeline, which has produced an increase in top recruits from California, including premiere players in Merlin Robertson and Jayden Daniels, the highest ranked quarter recruit in ASU history.

And while recruit rankings and profiles can be deceptive, the high schools ASU has been recruiting from have increased in notoriety. Long Beach Poly, in particular, has been a great pipeline for the Sun Devils because of Antonio Pierce.


Antonio Pierce coached at Long Beach Poly before coming to ASU, and has made a difference since stepping foot on campus.  Keon and Kejuan Markham, brother recruits, followed Pierce to Tempe and were the first to open the pipeline.

Top teams such as Clemson can replace a Deshaun Watson at quarterback by a Trevor Lawrence without missing a beat.  The Sun Devils aren’t Clemson by any means, but striving toward that type of depth and consistency are the keys to becoming an elite program.

And this could be the deepest Sun Devil team in recent memory.

Ted S. Warren/AP via arizonasports.com

Sun Devil Basketball is a preseason favorite to win the Pac-12, and stop me if you have heard this before, but the 2020-21 squad is probably the deepest and most talented ASU team in some time.

Bobby Hurley came to Tempe after a stint as the head coach at Buffalo, where his recruits delivered the most successful seasons in school history. Hurley’s third recruiting class at ASU compares favorably to his last class at Buffalo. 

Ironically, Buffalo beat the Devils in the 2018 play-in, and went on to upset a Deandre Ayton-led Arizona team in the first round. 

This year’s recruiting class features two 5-stars, including Duke and NBA star Marvin Bagley’s brother, a Top 15 recruit, the highest-rated at ASU since James Harden.

The common theme with both Edwards and Hurley is their ability to draw higher profile players, enabling their teams to compete with—or become—the best in the Conference. 

What’s needed is enough depth and consistency around the star players to sustain the program once they leave for the First Round of the NFL or NBA drafts, keeping the respective programs from falling into to yet another 6-6 football season, or an NIT basketball berth.

With Hurley and Edwards on campus, ASU Athletics are no longer simply on the rise; they’re ready to make some serious noise.

You can watch Rice’s Devil Dash Sports Talk Show on Dash Sports TV, and read his other sports stories and columns at Cronkite Sports.

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