Can Sun Devil Football Escape Mediocrity?
It’s only May, but it’s never to early to talk about college football. In the Valley of the Sun, the Arizona State Sun Devils are mired in what most would call mediocrity. With the last few seasons hovering around .500 mark, fans are more than a little anxious about the 2017 season and what it will bring in terms of wins.
Without a doubt head coach Todd Graham is on the hot seat with his job. With the Sun Devils having an 11-14 record the last two seasons, the Arizona State fan base is ready for something more.
Coach Graham is ready for some better results as well.
What has happened? Is it missing on recruiting? Injuries?
Let’s say yes to the last two questions.
Coach Graham came to Arizona State and gave the program a much needed shot in the arm. After the Dennis Erickson era here in the desert, most Sun Devil fans would have taken anybody with a hint of discipline. Graham came with a strict adherence to rules he has had for years. Players were being held responsible about going to class, study hall times, conducting themselves with class in public, and striving to become a “Scholar Baller”.
It was in stark contrast to what Dennis Erickson had in terms of discipline. Which was nothing.
The fans got excited when Graham started instituting his discipline regiment on the program, he reached out to the boosters, he signed autographs for fans, and he brought some pride back to the Sun Devil program.
However, the fans, boosters, administration, and even Coach Graham want more.
First of all, the recruiting has been fairly average. The Sun Devils do not get many five star type of guys. That’s just fact. The program does land the three and four star type of talent. In the recent past though, these type of players have not produced the way the coaches would want. To a certain extent the coaches have missed on the talent they have brought into Tempe.
To be fair, recruiting is a crap shoot. It really is. The player can have all sorts of hype, stars, and highlight reels next to his name in high school, but if the player can not adjust to the speed of college football or is in the wrong kind of system, it will be a failure for them.
Another aspect as to why this Sun Devil program is in a state of mediocrity is the turnover in coaches. With at least eight or nine new coaches at Arizona State in the past two seasons it is hard to build any continuity within the program. Manny Wilkins, last seasons starting quarterback, is on his third offensive coordinator since coming to the program. That’s tough on any player, but especially a quarterback.
All coaches bring a different way of looking at things on a field, different schemes, and certainly different personalities. For players it is a constant adjustment. The players have to learn new signals, offensive or defensive language, and show the new coaches why they should be on field when the season starts. It is a difficult thing to overcome for players.
The new coaches have to quickly learn how their new players fit their particular scheme on the field. The coaches have to learn the personalities of each of the new players. Some of you may disagree with that statement, but in this day and age, it’s true. To get the most out of your players, you need to know what works and what doesn’t work for each player.
Injuries have really hampered this program. Last season alone, the Sun Devils had about 38 players miss time on the field due to injuries. That is something that is impossible to plan for as a coach. To be successful with that kind of attack on your roster is asking a bit much in my opinion. It certainly puts a strain on your depth as a team. Some players get moved to positions that are not natural for them and that can hurt the team. It ends up being a “patchwork” offense or defense and that has failure written all over it.
Just ask the Sun Devils about patchwork quarterback play.
The Sun Devils were down to their fourth-string quarterback last season and it showed. If you don’t have a quality quarterback under center for your team, you will lose more than you win. Plain and simple.
In the end, the Arizona State football program has been mediocre. Coach Graham has missed on player talent, had a huge turnover in his football staff, and suffered through an unfortunate amount of player injuries. With all that being said, Todd Graham has to find a way to get to at least eight wins this season or his tenure with the Sun Devils will be coming to an end.
Photo: Courtesy of Michael J Wilson