Editor’s note: Eighth in a series of articles examining each of the Pac-12 football teams heading into the 2022 season.

For a while, there has been something of a dark cloud hovering over the Arizona State football program. 

There was the NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations by coach Herm Edwards — and many are surprised that Edwards is returning for a fifth season at the helm. 

ASU president Michael Crow explained in February why Edwards is still the coach. 

Storylines and subplots heading into 2022 Pac-12 football season

“In all of these things where you have people who decide not to play by the rules, those people are gone,” Crow said. “Now we are looking at what went wrong and why that happened and so forth, so we are still in the thick of that. Coach Edwards has done an outstanding job of upgrading our overall program. We’ve got this collision of people that decided to not play by the rules relative to recruiting and so we’ll be looking at how we can make improvements and so forth and so on, but coach Edwards is responsible for all of the actions of his people but these are not things that he asked them to do.

“These are not things that he was a part of so we’re looking at everything possible. He’s brought a lot of talent and a lot of energy and a lot of creativity and now we’re dealing with people that couldn’t play by the rules and now they are gone.”

Over the past year, Edwards has seen five assistant coaches leave, including both coordinators. 

Former running back Rachaad White told a radio station that the NCAA investigation created a big distraction last season. 

“We tried to do our best to block it out,” he said. “At the end of the day, (it was) just tough because distraction is what … kills things kinda, what messes up things. I feel like that was one of the biggest things that I felt like messed up our last season, is kind of being distracted by it and not being able to zone it out.”

Pac-12 previews: After losing several close games last year, can Cal Golden Bears get bowl-eligible this year?
Pac-12 previews: What does first-year coach Dan Lanning bring to the Oregon Ducks?
Pac-12 previews: Oregon State finally had a winning season in 2021, so what’s next for the Beavers?
Pac-12 previews: Stanford coach David Shaw wants Tanner McKee to ‘jump on to the national stage’
Pac-12 previews: Washington hoping for a turnaround under new coach Kalen DeBoer
Pac-12 previews: There’s optimism at Washington State with Jake Dickert at the helm
Pac-12 previews: Can Arizona take a big jump forward in 2022?

Meanwhile, the Sun Devils have lost 14 players, including quarterback Jayden Daniels, who bolted for LSU; top receivers LV Bunkley-Shelton and Ricky Pearsall; linebacker Eric Gentry and defensive lineman Jermayne Lole. 

ASU added a bunch of new players from the transfer portal, including Alabama quarterback Paul Tyson, Florida quarterback Emery Jones, Vanderbilt wide receiver Cam Johnson and Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay, who rushed for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns last season. 

The Sun Devils also have a new offensive coordinator in Glenn Thomas. 

On defense, ASU had the Pac-12’s second-best defense a year ago in terms of yards allowed and points allowed but only four starters return. 

Edwards has compiled a 25-18 record in four seasons, including an 8-5 record a year ago. 

The Sun Devils haven’t won the Pac-12 South since 2013 and they haven’t made a Rose Bowl appearance since 1996. 

2021 record: 8-5 (6-3 Pac-12).

Utah ties

WR Bryan Thompson (Utah transfer)

2022 schedule

Sept. 1 Northern Arizona

Sept. 10 @ Oklahoma State

Sept. 17 Eastern Michigan

Sept. 24 Utah

Oct. 1 @ USC

Oct. 8 Washington

Oct. 22 @ Stanford

Oct. 29 @ Colorado

Nov. 5 UCLA

Nov. 12 @ Washington State

Nov. 19 Oregon State

Nov. 25 @ Arizona

Next up: Colorado

Alabama quarterback Paul Tyson warms up before game against Southern Mississippi, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Tyson is one of two SEC quarterbacks to transfer to ASU via the portal. | Vasha Hunt, Associated Press