Aguano tasked with taking Arizona State in a new direction

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TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State ended the Herm Edwards experiment a day after an ugly home loss.

The Sun Devils are hoping the change will help them straighten out a season that still has nine games left.

At the helm of this transition will be interim coach Shaun Aguano, ASU’s former running backs coach who has deep ties to football in the Grand Canyon State.

“This opportunity, on the grand scale of things, is a dream for me and all I can ask is for the opportunity,” Aguano said Monday. “What can I do with this opportunity the next nine games is to try to put a product on the field that Sun Devil nation is proud of and I’m going to do my best.”

Arizona State took a chance with hiring Edwards in 2017, handing the reins to a former NFL coach who spent the previous nine years in a TV studio and had not coached in college for 33 years.

Edwards dodged a firing last season despite some shaky losses and a looming NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations. When it became apparent Edwards was not going to turn the program around quickly enough, athletic director Ray Anderson fired him Sunday, less than 24 hours after a disheartening 30-21 home loss to Eastern Michigan.

Anderson expressed optimism the season could be saved, even with a gauntlet of No. 13 Utah, No. 7 Southern California and No. 18 Washington next on the schedule.

Aguano will man the rudder through what could be difficult waters.

Born and raised in Kapaa, Hawaii, Aguano was one of the most decorated high school coaches in Arizona history, leading Chandler High to four state 6A titles. Aguano joined Edwards’ staff in 2019, helping turn the Sun Devils into one of the nation’s top rushing teams.

Now he gets to run a program he’s watched or been a part of for more than two decades.

“I’ll give my heart and soul to this program,” Aguano said, choking back tears. “I don’t take this lightly. I’ve been here 20-something years and know what this means. I know this landscape. My kids are Arizona kids. This means a lot to me, means a lot to my family.”

Agauno’s task will be to right a team that’s had trouble getting out of its own way.

Arizona State was one of the nation’s most penalized teams last season and has been plagued by inopportune miscues this year. The Sun Devils opened the season with an easy win over FCS opponent Northern Arizona, but faded late in a loss to No. 9 Oklahoma State.

Arizona State fell flat against Eastern Michigan on Saturday night, giving up 458 total yards while being penalized nine times for 84 yards to become the first Pac-12 school to lose to a Mid-American Conference school.

“To me, it’s attention to detail,” Aguano said. “I had a meeting with the coaches and we are not going to let anything slip by. If it’s done wrong in practice, we’re going to make sure it’s done right, set that foundation for these kids. It’s not going to be a miracle, but it’s going to be changed.”

The next nine games will serve as an audition for Aguano, whom Anderson said will be considered for the full-time job.

Anderson made a calculated gamble when he hired Edwards, hoping the loquacious coach would be the right person to helm the program’s NFL-like model.

Arizona State’s next coach Will Likely be someone better equipped to navigate a wild new era of college athletics, from NIL to the rapidly expanding transfer portal and conference realignment.

“We will be looking to have a fit with someone who is going to probably be a little more in-tuned with the evolving change and landscape in college athletics,” Anderson said. “It’s changing rapidly, and you got to have someone who is willing to take all that additional change on because it’s going to continue to change.”

Arizona State has already gone through one big change. Aguano is looking to make the most of it.

Arizona State fires Herm Edwards following loss to MAC school

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson made a calculated gamble in hiring a football coach five years ago, one that earned the school a national mocking.

He hoped Herm Edwards, despite no head college coaching experience and nine years in a television studio, would give the program the jolt it needed, usher it into a new era through an NFL-like leadership model.

Edwards managed to quiet many of the critics with some early wins on the field and recruiting trail.

When ugly losses piled up and an NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations lingered, Anderson decided to make a change.

Arizona State and Edwards mutually agreed to part ways a day after the Sun Devils lost 30-21 to Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference as heavy home favorites.

“I don’t regret at all because I believed it was the right thing to do then,” Anderson said. “But I also believe that when you come to a point where you realize that you’re not always right, and perhaps it’s not working at the level you want and you don’t have the patience to wait because the world is changing really fast out there, then you make changes. That’s what we’ve done.”

Edwards managed to hold onto his job after an up-and-down 2021, but another shaky loss led to his firing three games into his fifth season. Arizona State is still awaiting word on possible NCAA sanctions for allegedly hosting recruits on campus during an NCAA-mandated COVID-19 dead period in 2020.

Edwards went 46-26 at Arizona State, including 1-2 this season and 17-14 in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils never won more than eight games in a season under Edwards and fell short of Anderson’s goal of playing in major bowl games.

Running backs coach Shaun Aguano will serve as interim coach.

The Sun Devils begin Pac-12 play next with three ranked teams: No. 13 Utah at home Saturday, followed by No. 7 Southern California and No. 18 Washington.

“Our future begins now and our responsibility is to try to infuse new energy, new urgency into the program,” Anderson said.

Edwards, a former NFL head coach, was considered an unconventional hire when he was tapped by University President Michael Crow and Anderson to lead the middling program. A former NFL agent, Anderson represented Edwards during his playing days with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Edwards spent the nine previous years as an NFL TV analyst and had not been a college coach since serving as San Jose State’s defensive backs coach from 1987-89.

The loquacious coach changed the narrative his first few seasons in Tempe, proving to be an adept recruiter while leading the Sun Devils to two straight bowl appearances.

The goodwill didn’t last.

Arizona State was hit hard by COVID-19 during the delayed 2020 season, finishing 2-2. The Sun Devils opened the 2021 season 5-1 before suffering consecutive ugly losses, giving up 56 straight points to Utah and Washington State.

Edwards was thought to be on the hot seat at the end of the season, but Anderson said he would remain as coach following a lopsided win over rival Arizona.

Arizona State had an exodus of players and coaches during the offseason, losing five assistant coaches, 11 players drafted or signed by NFL teams and numerous key players to the transfer portal.

Edwards rebuilt the Sun Devils mainly through the transfer portal, adding 43 new players to the roster.

The Sun Devils opened the season with an expectedly-easy win over FCS opponent Northern Arizona and played OK at No. 8 Oklahoma State before fading late in 34-17 loss.

Arizona State hoped it righted itself against Eastern Michigan, only to fall flat against a 20 1/2-point underdog at home. The Sun Devils could not stop the Eagles defensively, were plagued by key penalties and became the first Pac-12 school to lose to a MAC school.

“We had a lot of faith and confidence that with the right coaching staff and with some of the folks that we were anticipating bringing in, we would have an opportunity to really bounce back,” Anderson said. “We were looking to do that with the leadership we had and thought we had an opportunity to do that – and it did not materialize.”

Former Arizona State QB Jayden Daniels transfers to LSU

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Former Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels is transferring to LSU, where he will enter a wide-open competition to be the starter in coach Brian Kelly‘s first season with the Tigers.

“Jayden is an outstanding player who will make our quarterback room even stronger,” Kelly said Sunday in a statement. “He’s a playmaker with a strong arm and the ability to make plays with his feet. We are excited to welcome Jayden to our program as we continue to build a roster of student-athletes who will compete for championships on the field and work just as hard in the classroom to earn their degree.”

Daniels entered the transfer portal last month, not long after Arizona State fired its offensive coordinator in the midst of an NCAA investigation.

He has been Arizona State’s starter the last three seasons, throwing for 6,025 yards, 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 29 games.

The junior has two years of eligible remaining after the NCAA granted an extra year to all athletes who competed during the pandemic-altered 2020 season.

At LSU, he’ll be the most experienced quarterback on the roster when it comes to playing time. Senior Myles Brennan, who entered the transfer portal briefly in December after Kelly was hired, has been limited by injuries the past two seasons.

LSU also has redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier and five-star freshman Walker Howard at quarterback.

Arizona State acknowledged in September it was working with the NCAA on an inquiry into potential recruiting violations.

Coach Herm Edwards has turned over most of his staff since then, including the departures offensive coordinator Zak Hill and defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce.

The Sun Devils are coming off an 8-5 season in which they finished second in the Pac-12 South at 6-3.