ASU linebackers coach Antonio Pierce shouts during the first half of the Pac-12 college football game against Stanford at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe on October 18, 2018.

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Arizona State DC Antonio Pierce is latest to leave during probe

Arizona State defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce no longer is employed at the Pac-12 school, the university told media outlets on Wednesday.

Pierce, who reportedly resigned his post, is the fifth assistant coach to depart Herm Edwards’ staff while the NCAA investigates the program’s recruiting practices.

Previously leaving were offensive coordinator Zak Hill, tight ends coach Adam Breneman, secondary coach Chris Hawkins and wide receivers assistant Prentice Gill. Hill and Breneman resigned while Hawkins and Gill were fired.

The five were among six coaches mentioned in NCAA allegations. They are alleged to have engaged in widespread recruiting violations, including traveling outside the state of Arizona for recruiting purposes during a period in which it was not allowed.

According to reports, NCAA documents show that Edwards also participated in unsanctioned meetings. He is now the lone coach of the six who remains employed at Arizona State.

Pierce, 43, initially was hired as linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator after Edwards was hired as coach in December of 2017. Pierce was co-defensive coordinator in 2020 and ran the defense this past season.

Pierce, a linebacker, played nine NFL seasons with Washington (2001-04) and the New York Giants (2005-2009). He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2006.

Gill has appealed his firing, which could lead to a wrongful termination claim, according to 247sports.com.

Pierce’s resignation also came on National Signing Day, with Arizona State forecast to have the worst class of the 12-member Pac-12.

–Field Level Media

Arizona State University head football coach Herm Edwards speaks with newly hired offensive coordinator Zak Hill during practice at the Verde Dickey Dome on campus in Tempe, Tuesday, December 17, 2019.

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Reports: Arizona State OC Zak Hill resigns amid NCAA investigation

Offensive coordinator Zak Hill resigned from his post at Arizona State over his role in alleged, widespread recruiting violations in the football program, multiple reports said Friday.

Hill was the fourth assistant coach to depart Herm Edwards’ staff while the NCAA investigates the program. Wide receivers coach Prentice Gill and secondary coach Chris Hawkins were fired last week, and tight ends coach Adam Breneman also resigned, per reports.

The main allegations the NCAA is looking into are that Arizona State hosted high school recruits during a dead period brought about by COVID-19, and that coaches visited prospects and their families during the same dead period.

According to 247 Sports, Gill has appealed his firing and could bring about a wrongful termination claim.

Hill, 42, was the Sun Devils’ offensive coordinator for two seasons after four years on Boise State’s staff in a similar role.

Earlier this week, former NFL coach Brian Billick, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, joined Edwards’ staff at Arizona State as an offensive analyst and special adviser.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils running back Rachaad White (3) dives for a touchdown over USC Trojans safety Xavion Alford (29) in the second half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

ASU meets Washington, continues its run of going against interim coaches

For the third straight game, Arizona State will face an interim coach when the Sun Devils travel to Washington for a Pacific-12 Conference matchup Saturday.

UW coach Jimmy Lake was suspended for a week by athletic director Jen Cohen for a sideline altercation with one of his players in a 26-16 home loss to No. 4 Oregon last Saturday. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory will act as head coach for the Huskies (4-5, 3-3).

The Sun Devils (6-3, 4-2) previously went up against Washington State’s Jake Dickert and USC’s Donte Williams.

“The coaches basically decide what kind of plan you want to present to the players, but you still have the same players,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said about facing an interim coach.

“I think whoever sits in that coach’s seat, you gotta realize the players don’t change, and you have to put them in the best position to be successful. The system’s in; you’re not going to change the system in a week. It’s all about the players.”

The Huskies also will have an interim offensive coordinator after John Donovan was fired Sunday after UW had just 166 yards against the Ducks. Wide receivers coach Junior Adams will call the plays.

“We’ve had a lot of adversity this year. We’ve had some tough times, but our team has fought the entire time,” Gregory said. “We’ve been close. We’ve just got to get over the hurdle.”

Lake’s altercation came as he tried to diffuse a sideline scrum between walk-on linebacker Ruperake Fuavai and an Oregon player. Lake appeared to make contact with Fuavai’s facemask with the coach’s play card and then shoved the redshirt freshman in the back.

“They’re college kids, and they hear all the outside noise, and they know that this is a challenging time for us,” Gregory said. “But they also are competitors, and they want to go out and practice and win. So all that being said, I’m not sure if it matters if I’m the interim guy or whoever it is — these guys are going to compete and play hard.”

The Sun Devils snapped a two-game losing streak with a 31-16 victory against visiting USC last Saturday as Rachaad White rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.

ASU continued to struggle through the air, however, as Jayden Daniels was 11-of-20 passing for 145 yards with two interceptions.

Asked about the benefit of a strong passing game, Edwards said, “It’s easier to fly to California than it is to drive. The plane is easier.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) throws a pass against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State pours it on in fourth quarter to beat USC

Rachaad White rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns, and Arizona State snapped its two-game losing skid with a 31-16 defeat of USC on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.

White’s career-best night for both yards and touchdowns ignited Arizona State. He scored from 47 yards out in the second quarter, giving the Sun Devils a lead they never relinquished.

The advantage shrank to one point in the late third quarter after USC placekicker Parker Lewis made field goals 52 and 45 yards, but White slammed the door with touchdowns of 50 and seven yards in the fourth quarter.

The Sun Devils (6-3, 4-2 Pac-12 Conference) relied primarily on the ground game with quarterback Jayden Daniels finishing 11-of-20 passing with two interceptions. Daniels finished with just 145 yards through the air, but supplemented the rushing attack with 50 yards on five carries.

Arizona State also got 28 yards rushing and a touchdown on just three carries from running back DeaMonte Trayanum.

The 282 rushing yards USC surrendered marked the Trojans’ highest yield since giving up 322 to Oregon State on Sept. 25.

USC (4-5, 3-4) pulled ahead in the second quarter when Tuli Tuipulotu followed a 38-yard Lewis field goal by forcing a Trayanum fumble. On the ensuing drive, quarterback Jaxson Dart rushed to the end zone from nine yards out.

It was USC’s only touchdown of the night on the Trojans’ only trip into the red zone.

Kyle Soelle and Deandre Pierce intercepted Kedon Slovis and Dart. Slovis and Dart split snaps for a second straight week, and finished a combined 24-of-45 for 220 yards.

Tahj Washington led the Trojans with nine catches for 78 yards, but the absence of standout wide receiver Drake London — who fractured his ankle last week — limited the Trojans passing attack.

USC did not fare much better on the ground, gaining 92 yards on 27 carries. Keaontay Ingram led the Trojans with 54 yards on 14 carries.

With the win, Arizona State remains in contention for the Pac-12 South title. USC must finish 2-1 to avoid its second sub-.500 regular season in the last four campaigns.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Washington State Cougars running back Max Borghi (21) runs with the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State upsets turnover-prone Arizona State

Washington State scored 24 points off five Arizona State turnovers and Calvin Jackson Jr. finished with 139 yards on eight receptions in the Cougars’ 34-21 win Saturday against Arizona State at Tempe, Ariz.

The Cougars (5-4, 4-2 Pac-12) were 16-point underdogs entering the game.

Arizona State (5-3, 3-2) lost its first game at home this season after starting 4-0. The five turnovers were the most for the Sun Devils since 2010.

Washington State’s Jayden de Laura completed 17 of 27 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

The Cougars surpassed 100 yards rushing against Arizona State for the first time since 2005, reaching 166 behind 68 yards on 16 carries by Deon McIntosh and 67 yards on 12 rushes by Max Borghi.

Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels threw two interceptions for the first time in his three-year career. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 228 yards with a touchdown.

Washington State took advantage of Arizona State’s turnover issues in the first half to take a 28-7 lead at halftime.

Two fumbles and an interception led to three touchdowns for the Cougars.

Six plays after Justus Rogers recovered a fumble at the Arizona State 20, Washington State scored on a 1-yard run by de Laura to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead with 9:44 left in the first quarter.

Arizona State drove to the Washington State 30-yard line, but an interception thrown by Daniels was turned into another touchdown possession for the Cougars.

Washington State started at its 13, and six plays later, de Laura connected with Travell Harris on a 28-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 left in the first quarter to give the Cougars a 14-0 lead.

De Laura led a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive in Washington State’s next possession that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by McIntosh with 5:09 left in the first half.

An Arizona State fumble again resulted in a score when de Laura completed a 45-yard pass to Jackson with 1:50 left in the half.

The Sun Devils cut the lead to 28-7 on a 12-yard pass from Daniels to LV Bunkley-Shelton with 23 seconds left, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive that took less than 2 minutes.

Washington State’s lead became 31-7 on a Dean Janikowksi 40-yard field goal with 14:54 left in the game after Daniels’ second interception.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Provo, Utah, USA; Brigham Young Cougars mascot Cosmo body surfs as fans stormed the field after their win over the Utah Utes at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 BYU targets another Pac-12 foe in No. 19 Arizona State

No. 19 Arizona State is preparing to play its first road game with fans in the stadium since 2019 when the Sun Devils travel to Provo, Utah, to face No. 23 BYU on Saturday.

COVID-19 protocol kept fans out of the stadium for the Sun Devils’ 2020 season that included four games against Pac-12 opponents.

Arizona State coach Herm Edwards knows of the challenge ahead facing the Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium in a higher altitude than Tempe, Ariz.

The Sun Devils (2-0) have routed Southern Utah and UNLV at home in their first two games, outscoring those teams by a combined 78-24.

“They’ve got a great fan base, and it’s going to be loud,” Edwards said of the BYU game. “You couldn’t go into a better venue when you think about college football. They have a great venue and they do a great job supporting their team.

“This is kind of what you want to experience as a football team. Kind of figure out what you are.”

What the Sun Devils have shown offensively to this point is a potent running game with versatile quarterback Jayden Daniels leading the team in rushing (165 yards on 19 carries) and passing (30 completions in 41 attempts for 307 yards with two touchdowns and an interception).

Arizona State is coming off rushing for 290 yards in the 37-10 win over UNLV with Daniels gaining 125 yards on 13 carries, Rachaad White amassing 90 yards on 22 rushes and two touchdowns, and Daniyel Ngata gaining 64 yards on six rushes with a score.

BYU (2-0) will look to win its first three games against Pac-12 opponents. The Independent power has already defeated Arizona 24-16 in Las Vegas and rival Utah 26-17 in Provo.

The Cougars are also trying to start consecutive seasons 3-0 for the first time since the 1951 and 1952 seasons.

BYU coach Kilani Sitake, 40-26 in his sixth season at his alma mater, said he believes the matchup with the Sun Devils will be the “most difficult” to this point in the season.

“They have tons of athletes and size and playmaking ability in a lot of different places,” Sitake said. “Jayden Daniels is a really, really good player. He has a lot of poise. He just seems like a veteran right now, and he is surrounded by a physical, athletic offensive line, good tight ends that can block and catch, and a number of skill players at running back and receiver that have tons of athleticism and speed.”

Edwards is equally impressed with BYU quarterback Jaren Hall, who he describes as a “wow guy.”

Hall has completed 36 of 58 pass attempts for 347 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He is a dual threat similar to Daniels, rushing for 128 yards on 13 carries.

His favorite target, Neil Pau’u, has 11 receptions for 145 yards with three touchdowns.

Tyler Allgeier is BYU’s featured back with 196 yards on 44 carries with a touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Jul 27, 2021; Hollywood, CA, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Chase Lucas speaks with the media during the Pac-12 football Media Day at the W Hollywood. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

No. 25 Arizona State sets sights on ailing Southern Utah

Arizona State is 17-13 in three seasons under coach Herm Edwards, but the No. 25 Sun Devils are a trendy pick to make noise in the Pac-12 this season.

Arizona State gets started on that quest when it entertains FCS program Southern Utah (0-1) on Thursday night at Tempe, Ariz.

The Sun Devils went 2-2 in the abbreviated 2020 schedule, so the forecasts may be prompted by the return of 19 starters. Seven of those returnees (three on offense, four on defense) are 2020 seniors who remained in school due to the NCAA granting players an extra season of eligibility due to the COVID-19 interruptions.

One of those returners is cornerback Chase Lucas, who has six career interceptions. He feels Arizona State can play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1996 season when quarterback Jake Plummer guided the Sun Devils to Pasadena.

“I’m not looking at nothing else but the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl,” Lucas told the Arizona Republic. “But we have to take it week by week, day by day. That’s where our focus is.”

Arizona State features a talented quarterback in Jayden Daniels, who was intercepted once in 84 attempts last season. He passed for 701 yards and five touchdowns.

Rachaad White could be a breakout performer after averaging 10 yards per carry last season. He had a team-leading 420 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and caught eight passes for a team-best 151 yards and one score.

Edwards has compared White to Pro Football Hall of Famer Marcus Allen, the 1981 Heisman Trophy winner at Southern California.

“Rachaad has a lot of Marcus’ mannerisms,” Edwards recently told Arizona reporters. “His height, his length, how he runs … there’s a lot of little mannerisms there that I watch, and I go, ‘Man, that’s just like (Marcus).’”

One possible distraction is the NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations by the program. Three assistant coaches — Chris Hawkins (defensive backs), Prentice Gill (receivers) and Adam Breneman (tight ends) — have been placed on administrative leave.

Arizona State figures to have an easy time in the contest against Southern Utah, which has lost 11 straight games against FBS programs since beating South Alabama in 2013. The latest was Saturday’s 45-14 loss at San Jose State.

The Thunderbirds have dropped five games against Pac-12 foes during the stretch, losing by an average of 34.4 points.

Having minimal time to prepare is another hurdle for Southern Utah.

“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Thunderbirds coach Demario Warren said after the loss to San Jose State. “Arizona State doesn’t care what we just went through. They’re going to be a top-25 team, so we’ll see what happens. We’ve got to get right back to work and get a game plan in and try to get ready for another game on Thursday.”

Quarterback Justin Miller completed 15 of 29 passes for 117 yards against the Spartans. He also caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from receiver Judd Crockett on a trick play.

Defensively, cornerback Kobe Singleton recorded his first career interception when he cut in front of a receiver to pick off Nick Starkel’s pass and return it 18 yards for a score. However, the Thunderbirds were outgained 543-250.

Southern Utah didn’t play in the fall of 2020 as the Big Sky moved its season to spring. The Thunderbirds went 1-5.

–Field Level Media

Nov 7, 2020;  Los Angeles CA, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards walks off the field after the game against the Southern California Trojans  at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Arizona State 28-27.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Evidence backs up allegations of recruiting violations at Arizona State

Evidence that could prove the Arizona State football program committed multiple recruiting violations includes a track record of plane tickets purchased for players’ travel to the Phoenix area, Yahoo Sports reported Thursday.

The report detailed the contents of a dossier of documents that an informant sent to officials at both the university and NCAA on May 31. One document lists numerous allegations of recruiting violations, along with the names of 10 Sun Devils staff members to investigate and 13 prospects who were on campus during the NCAA’s mandated COVID-19 dead period between last spring and June 1, 2021.

Head coach Herm Edwards is among those alleged to have broken the rules, and is purportedly shown in a photograph showing a recruit around the weight room in February, though the identities of the individuals in the photo couldn’t be verified immediately.

Yahoo Sports said “multiple former staff members” have agreed to cooperate with the NCAA in its investigation into the Sun Devils.

The dossier includes screen shots of emails allegedly sent by Regina Jackson, the mother of quarterback Jayden Daniels, to assistant coaches that detail the airline itineraries for three recruits from Florida and their chaperones for a trip to Arizona State. The airfare totaled more than $1,100, and the documentation shows that Jackson paid for the trips on her credit card, per Yahoo Sports.

Daniels is not accused of any wrongdoing.

His mother, in conversations with Yahoo Sports, denied paying for the recruits’ travel. She said she received a notice in March that her Google email account had been “compromised” and she canceled her credit card after learning flights had been charged to it.

“It’s unfortunate,” Jackson said. “My credit card company notified me of the charges and they sent me a new card. They charged everything back because they realized it wasn’t me.”

She added she does no recruiting on behalf of the university.

Other allegations in the dossier include a meeting in a “private office” between Edwards and two assistant coaches. That player signed with Arizona State.

Also highlighted in the Yahoo Sports report is the existence of a group text chat between almost a dozen staff members who “communicated regularly on group text about the allegedly illicit activities in the program,” adding “it was used as a real-time exclamation of the disbelief of what was happening in the program” and what they were able to do.

Arizona State finished 2-2 in the 2020 season amid cancellations due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Sun Devils program and virus issues with some of their Pac-12 opponents.

The school hired Edwards before the 2018 season, and the former NFL head coach has a 17-13 record with the Sun Devils.

–Field Level Media