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Countdown to Kickoff: A glimpse at ASU's third 2022 opponent, Eastern Michigan

Anthony Totri Avatar
May 19, 2022

Arizona State football fans have to wait 105 more days for the Sun Devils’ season opener, and they’re 121 days away from seeing their beloved Sun Devils take on Eastern Michigan. We’re offering a sneak peek.

In a matchup that’s sure to heavily favor the Sun Devils, there will be plenty of skill-gap talk. ASU is set to feature redshirt junior and Florida transfer quarterback Emory Jones, while the Eagles are still figuring out their quarterback situation. 

Eastern Michigan lost starting quarterback Ben Bryant to the transfer market. As it stands here in May, senior and Troy transfer quarterback Taylor Powell is set to get the nod. Powell started five games at Troy and threw for 1,251 yards along with seven passing touchdowns. 

Powell suffered a knee injury in 2021 against South Carolina, which ultimately derailed his season and time at Troy. He’ll be hungry to get his career back on track with the Eagles. 

Luckily for Powell when he faces the Sun Devils, he’ll be up against one of the more questionable secondaries in the Pac-12. It’s been a topic of conversation since former ASU defensive backs Chase Lucas and Jack Jones made the jump to the NFL. 

Who’s going to fill the void in the ASU secondary? It’s really anybody’s guess. Redshirt junior defensive back Keon Markham and senior defensive back Kejuan Markam are due for some serious reps. 

The same could be said for redshirt junior defensive back Jordan Clark. Clark has yet to really come into his own and evolve into a cornerstone player for the Sun Devil defense. 

Aside from containing Powell, the Sun Devil secondary is tasked with closing down the perimeter of the Eagles’ offense. 

Eastern Michigan’s wide receiver corps runs deep with the likes of junior Tanner Knue, senior Hasaan Beydoun and senior Dylan Drummond. Knue figures to be the lead guy. He racked up 413 receiving yards and four touchdown receptions on 27 catches a year ago. 

Despite positional depth on the side of the Eagles, ASU should feast in the trenches. It’ll be a game of cat and mouse for the Sun Devil defensive line. However, fans shouldn’t expect it to be a traditional game of cat and mouse, rather expect it to look similar to feeding time at your local zoo, when the big cats are simply waiting for their prey to enter the enclosure. 

The Sun Devils’ best position group on either side of the ball is the defensive line. Even with the loss of several guys, including redshirt senior Jermayne Lole, this group is going to be dominant. 

Arizona State football fans should be most excited to get a glimpse of graduate student and Miami transfer Nesta Jade Silvera. The 300-pounder has played in big games before, and he should have a field day with smaller, less experienced offensive linemen. 

Miami defensive lineman Nesta Jade Silvera reacts after sacking Virginia Tech quarterback Connor Blumrick during the second half of a game at Hard Rock Stadium last season. (USA TODAY Sports)

While the Sun Devil defense should be in control for the majority of the Sept. 17 contest, the ASU offense should be interesting to watch. 

Aside from NAU, this will be Jones and company’s lightest test of the year. Eastern Michigan team went 7-6 in 2021, with its only real opponent coming in the form of ranked Wisconsin. 

The Badgers throttled the Eagles 34-7.  

The expectations should be relatively similar for ASU. The only real difference makers on the Eastern Michigan defense are senior Boston College transfer linebacker ​​Joe Sparacio and senior linebacker Luke Cameron. 

If ASU is able to take care of those two guys, then it should be a monstrous day for redshirt sophomore running back Daniyel Ngata and graduate student Wyoming transfer running back Xazavian Valladay. The two-headed monster should give nearly every opponent fits in 2022. Their combination of size, speed and athleticism should theoretically allow ASU’s first-year offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas to draw up some interesting plays. 

While the ground game should thrive with Ngata and Valladay, Jones is capable of being a rushing threat as well. When he’s not doing that, he should be able to pick apart a weak and unproven Eastern Michigan secondary.

Jones will have offensive weapons on the perimeter in the form of redshirt sophomore wide receiver Elijhah Badger and graduate student Vanderbilt transfer Camron Johnson. Fans should never chalk up games as wins before the season even kicks off, but aside from the season opener, this Eastern Michigan contest is as close as it comes to a sure thing for Arizona State.

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