The Herm Edwards Experiment Is Thriving

So far, Edwards seems to have a good grip on the whole college thing. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Herm Edwards strolled into Saturday night’s post game press conference like he was walking into his favorite local restaurant – all smiles and nods of acknowledgment. He fist-bumped a few players at the podium before casually leaning against the wall, waiting for his turn under the media microscope.

He didn’t takeover the press conference, fielding questions for his players, as some head coaches are known to do. He didn’t try to control their narrative. He merely watched and listened, looking very much like that night’s big win over Michigan State chased away any lingering doubt surrounding his surprising hire.

Not quite the cat that ate the canary, but Herm Edwards stood in that presser like he knew something that we didn’t – that things have changed for the better at Arizona State.

The Sun Devils are 2-0, boasting 927 yards of offense, 65 points, eight touchdowns, and 11 sacks with only two turnovers.

Edwards plays the crazy uncle part well because he knows exactly what he’s doing – winning football games by gaining the trust of his players through living his truth.

“When you speak to the players, winning always justifies what you do,” explained Edwards after Saturday night’s big win. “When you practice a little bit different than everybody and you do other things, people question that. And sometimes players question it. But when you win, they continue to buy in. I think by now, I’ve been here since December; I think these players trust me. I have their best interest in mind. It’s always about them, it will always be about them.”

And Edwards is nothing if not unconventional, at least by college football standards – he talks about storming the quarterback’s castle, he talks about winning games with a final score of 9-3 and he preaches about living by fate, not sight. But clearly the players are buying what Edwards is selling.

ASU’s 49-7 win over UTSA to start the season was standard, but the upset of a ranked Big Ten team made people pause and take notice. It also showcased a new, more determined ASU football team.

“When things didn’t go well, we didn’t panic we just kept fighting, just kept playing football,” Edwards said of his steadfast squad.

He talks about stamina, he highlights resolve. He even tells us how he refuses to let the players practice in the “bubble” much to the assumed chagrin of the school, because that’s not where games are played.

“We’re not going in the bubble – we practice outside because we play outside,” Edwards exclaimed.

Sorry, football practice field bubble.

He speaks emphatically, but also like he is letting you in on a secret. And even though he doesn’t answer your question per say, you are still left chuckling or nodding your head, content to just be in on the joke.

At the end of the day, I believe it is Edwards’ comfortability around the game itself that sets him apart as a coach, despite being away from football for a decade and removed from the college level for nearly 30 years. And his comfortability is what led ASU to victory over Michigan State.

“This was an old-time pro-football game,” said Edwards. “This wasn’t a college game. In college games, you get up in the 40’s and 50’s. This was a rock-em’, sock-em’ game. It was comfortable for me – I’m used to being in games like this.”

With offensive weapons like senior quarterback Manny Wilkins, who has thrown 617 yards and five touchdowns so far this year and junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who has 229 yards off of 12 catches and three touchdowns in two games, the Sun Devils are definitely a force coming down the field. But it’s the defensive effort that will get them to the place Edwards wants them to be, with the help of defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales, of course.

“27 players played defense last week, probably 25 played this week,” recounted Edwards. “A lot of young guys, freshman, first-year guys, new guys on the defense. We are not where we are going to be yet and Danny will tell you that. But we are starting to develop a temperament, which is good.”

The quote goes on to talk about how points are always a critical part of football games and how if the other team can’t score, they can’t win – boiler plate press conference speak. But the message is clear – this year’s ASU guys can get it.

So yes, Herm Edwards is a little bit crazy – crazy like a fox.

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