With Arizona State nearing the end of spring practice, first-year Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards made some comments that raised a few eyebrows on Tuesday.
Edwards told reporters that, in a team meeting, he informed his players that some might be cut from the team after the spring game next weekend. And that includes players on scholarship.
“There was a message sent, and the message was very clear, that we’re in the process of evaluating the players. Between now and next week you’re going to find out the situation here whether you’re going to continue to be a part of it or not. I told them that when I first took the job and that’s the way to be honest with them. It’s always evaluation. It’s always participation,” Edwards said.
“I told some guys if you continue to stay hurt, continue to stay in the training room, you have no tape. I can’t grade you if you’re not on tape. I can’t grade you in the training room. And all of a sudden some guys got well. It’s amazing. I think college football is one of those unique sports with the fact that you give out 85 scholarships and sometimes I think these players think, ‘well it’s 85 scholarships. I’m good.’ No you’re not good. You’ve earned a scholarship because of your ability to be a student-athlete.
“You got to make sure you can handle the student part, and then be an athlete. It’s a combination of both. When you don’t meet that standard, there’s consequences. Consequences are sometimes tough, but I think it’s a learning process for a lot of these young guys. And if I don’t, obviously, apply those consequences then I’m not doing my job.”
— azcentral (@azcentral) April 4, 2018
Edwards was clear, however, that he wouldn’t be taking scholarships away.
“They’re not going to lose their scholarships. We’re not taking scholarships. Their scholarships are good. They might not participate as an athlete, they just might become students,” Edwards said.
The idea behind the cuts is to increase the level of competition on the practice field, which, in theory, should increase the team’s level of play once the games roll round. And in the short term, Edwards said the cuts would not hurt the team because only 45 players ordinarily see the field on gameday anyway.
“How many guys actually play in the game? Do 85 guys play? If you do the math, 45 players generally play in a football game. That’s the ones and the twos and some special teams guys. That’s the truth. I’m not making it up,” Edwards said. “With that being said, you’re accountable to compete every day. You don’t lose your scholarship, you lose the ability to play. That’s how it works. It’s always worked that way in football.”
Arizona State’s hire of Edwards left plenty of observers scratching their heads. Before this job, he hadn’t coached since his time with the Kansas City Chiefs ended in 2008. With the hire, athletic director Ray Anderson laid out a model for the program that would have Edwards as a “CEO” and “central leader” of ASU football, “similar to an NFL approach using a general manager structure.”
Edwards’ comments Tuesday certainly seem to follow that line of thinking, but it’s not something that is foreign to college football. Coaches usually just don’t blurt it out like that in a news conference setting.
College football coaches are constantly shaping and reshaping their rosters, and that sometimes involves tough conversations where players are nudged out the door — often based on performance. It happens with new coaches especially as they evaluate what was left behind by their predecessor.
What Edwards is doing — in this instance, at least — is no different.
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