Arizona State made quite the interesting coaching hire for the football program when the school brought Herm Edwards back into coaching after nearly a decade out of the coaching game and sitting in a TV studio. The offseason hire raised plenty of eyebrows but ASU was committed to running its football program more like an NFL franchise. Given some recent comments by Edwards, it seems he is taking that mission to the next step with roster cuts.
Edwards informed Arizona State football players that he may be getting close to making cuts from the team and players on scholarship would not be exempt from those potential roster decisions should the need arise. That’s right. We now have a college football coach putting pressure on his college players by suggesting the team will cut players from the team toward the end of spring practices in Tempe.
While there have been plenty of reasons to be concerned about the future of Arizona State football with the hiring of Edwards, one strength Edwards brought to the program was his ability to motivate. Edwards is one heck of a motivational speaker. The concern with that is just how long those motivational tactics will be effective. This could be the first real litmus test for Edwards’ motivational schemes with Arizona State.
“There was a message sent, and the message was very clear that we’re in the process of evaluating players between now and next week,” Edwards said according to AZ Central. “You’re going to find whether you continue to be part of it or not. I told them that when I first took the job.”
OK, that’s all fine and dandy. Every coach looks to find ways to keep their players motivated and back on the field to work toward building a stronger team. Edwards is stepping in and setting a new tone for the program. But it is what Edwards said next that could raise a caution flag for Arizona State in light of recent trends in the game regarding player health and safety.
“I told some guys who continue to stay in the training room, you’ve got no tape. I can’t grade you if you’re not on tape. All of a sudden, guys got well. It’s amazing.”
Amazing or alarming?
Did Edwards just put pressure on his players to rush themselves back on the practice field just so they can have some tape of them for the coaching staff? Maybe there is nothing to this sequence of events, but we have traveled down this path before and it doesn’t always end well.
This opens the door for some Arizona State player to one day come back and accuse Edwards and the ASU staff of rushing him back before he was truly ready. You know that will be one of the first accusations to be flung after a player is actually cut from the team, right? It’s going to happen, and Edwards will come under fire for it. To his credit, Edwards truly believes in the strategy and believes it will do more good for the Sun Devils than harm.
“Sometimes these players think with 85 scholarships, I’m good. You’re not good. You’ve earned a scholarship because of your ability to be a student-athlete. It’s a combination of both,” Edwards said. “When you don’t meet that standard, there’s consequences. Consequences are sometimes tough. If I don’t apply those consequences, then I’m not doing my job as head coach.”
It should be noted the indications are Edwards would not yank a scholarship from a player. Instead, any cut player would remain on scholarship but would lose their spot in the football program. With a limit of 85 scholarships for college football, cutting players could lead to a few more issues for Arizona State unless those cut players move on to another school to continue playing football. Even then, the player is put at a disadvantage if cut in the spring as roster spots become harder and harder to come by leading up to the start of the new football season.
Inspiring competition within a program is one thing, but Edwards is putting player safety at risk by pressuring players who may be in need of more recovery time to rush back for spring practices.
i will buy lifetime ASU season tickets if he cuts down to 53 for the season opener https://t.co/TyeZKjZw6j
— Jon Wilner (@wilnerhotline) April 4, 2018
Edwards was brought into the Arizona State program to do a few things. The first was to keep the coaching staff largely stabilized following the dismissal of Todd Graham. That already blew up in Arizona State’s face with offensive coordinator Billy Napier leaving to take on a head coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett retiring for “personal reasons.” The other key selling point for the hiring of Edwards was to run the program more like an NFL franchise.
We’ll wait to see how this impacts Arizona State in the long run, but the critics who jumped on the hiring in the first place are quickly accumulating supporting arguments for their initial pessimism on the hire.