Arizona State running back Rachaad White will not play in the Las Vegas Bowl, having chosen not to prepare for the NFL draft. Cornerbacks Chase Lucas and Jack Jones too.
Defensive end Tyler Johnson, however, thwarted the trend of his teammates and NFL prospects at other schools who opted out of the season-ending game.
So when the Sun Devils (8-4, 6-3 in Pac-12) take the field on December 30 at Allegiant Stadium in the Las Vegas Bowl against the Big 10 Wisconsin rep (8-4, 6-3 in Big 10), Johnson will be good to go.
“Take the opportunity and take advantage of what I have left. I see no reason not to play,” Johnson said after practice earlier this week. “Plus, I think one of those deals can still help me in the process after I leave here. I also want to continue playing with the guys I’ve been playing with all season.”
The contest will be the last in a Sun Devil uniform for the 6-foot-4, 280-pounder who signed with ASU out of Highland High School in 2017.
He has excelled the past two years after leaving the linebacker position. And unlike at the start of his career, Johnson didn’t have to endure the nagging injuries that even forced him to retire, although he ultimately decided to return a few months later.
This season, the local has had 33 tackles, four sacks, three defenses and two fumble recoveries. He was Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week on Oct. 11 for his performance in ASU’s 28-10 win over Stanford.
He was the only Sun Devil named to the Pac-12 first team selected by coaches at the end of the season. While he may not have achieved some of the individual goals he set for himself, he says he made the effort to be sufficiently satisfied with the outcome.
“I can always look back on the season and say that I did my best and had a good group of guys on the defensive end who always held me accountable,” he helped. “We did stuff together. We fought throughout the games whether we were downstairs or upstairs. After the season where I was thinking, I didn’t reach my personal goals but I’m still down. ‘okay with how it ended. “
Robert Rodriguez became the sixth defensive line coach in as many years when he stepped in two years ago and started working with Johnson, the team’s most effective rusher.
Rodriguez is renowned for his technique and Johnson says he worked hard to perfect his footwork and hand placement, among other things.
Johnson made a lot of big plays during his tenure in ASU, one of those coming in the Territorial Cup win over Arizona when he picked up a fumble from the Wildcats 1, the Sun Devils capitalizing for a touchdown two games later.
Sometimes players resist change, especially when they have already succeeded. Rodriguez worked on this with his player, who saw the rewards of what can happen when you give in to the process.
“I tell the joke to our players all the time – I say guys, ‘Tyler is one of those guys that he wakes up in the morning, he opens the covers and there’s a soccer ball in there. Football finds it and it’s like nothing I’ve never seen before, ”Rodriguez said. “So sometimes it’s hard when I ask him to do the hard things that I ask him to do, to say ‘Yeah’. Fully commit. Tyler comes to understand that slowly but surely. It happens for a lot of people. Some people never do it because they are so stuck in their ways and it is not malicious, it was not a bad thing, but he consciously tried to work on himself, to work about his state of mind, working on those aspects. It’s like fighting nature. He really fights his natural way of thinking and doing things, so you reconnect him.
Head coach Herm Edwards has had players withdrawn from bowl games in the past, including wide receivers N’Keal Harry and Brandon Aiyuk, both of whom have become first-round picks. Running back Eno Benjamin, now with the Arizona Cardinals, also opted out of his junior year.
Edwards understands the decision that each player must make.
“I think that’s part of it now, and you see a lot of these guys choosing not to play boules. When I first got here we talked about it, some of the guys who decided not to, so you want them to play, but a lot of these guys got ready for the draft, and I do. understand, “he said.” It’s a business decision you have to make, and that’s fine. “
The Sun Devils have been a bit shorthanded on the defensive line all season with losses to three-technique tackle Jermayne Lole and the Travez Moore end with Lole down before the start of the season.
The coach is therefore happy to have Johnson in the fold for one last game.
“I think that says how much he enjoys being a Sun Devil,” Rodriguez said. It was an emotional game for him, Arizona, (senior defensive line) Shannon Forman the same, (junior defensive line) Corey Stephens, DJ Davidson – all, and he has love for this place and for the people, “All Sun Devil fans. It’s genuine. And that’s what it shows. It also shows that he loves us and that he loves his teammates and all that.”
Butler, Davidson accept invitations
Linebacker Darien Butler and nose tackle DJ Davidson have accepted invitations to the East-West Shrine game on February 3 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Butler had not publicly stated whether or not he would return next season, but his appearance in that game would indicate he is considering making the NFL Draft. Butler, the team’s second-best tackle, trained with the team for the bowl game.
Cornerback Chase Lucas, who retired from the boules game, earlier accepted an invitation to the same boules game.
Right-back Henry Hattis returned to training for the first time in nearly a month. He missed the last three games of the regular season and hadn’t made the first two bowl workouts, but is trying to get back in shape.
Center Dohnovan West is out after undergoing hand surgery, so the offensive line of the first two practices included rookie Ben Scott in center, second Jarrett Bell at right guard and second Spencer Lovell at right tackle in addition normal starters left guard LaDarius Henderson and left tackle Kellen Diesch.