Todd Graham: 'We sat down in a hotel in Dallas and were on the same page'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Sunday March 19, 2017

Since winning the Pac-12 North in 2013, Arizona State’s conference record has declined in four straight years. In hiring two new coordinators this offseaon, Todd Graham says the Sun Devils drifted off-course.

ASU went 5-7 last year, and Graham brought in Billy Napier to run the offense and Phil Bennett to run the defense. In Napier, Graham immediately saw a coach that can fix the running game that was No. 119 in yards per carry last year (3.3). Part of that includes more of the quarterback under center.

“That’s something we’ve always tried to do about 15 percent of,” Graham said. “One, we’re a run play-action pass team. You can’t tell me it’s not better from under center. You can’t tell me a play-action shot is not better from under center. You can’t tell me you can’t get a quick pass out under center than in the Gun.

When I sat down and interviewed Billy in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas, we were just on the same page on those things. His background, it’s something he wants to do as well. The one thing I see if we were a team that run play-action pass, utilized our tight ends in those matchups and adapted to our personnel. That’s what he’s doing. To be a physical team that can run the ball, you have to do that. Along with your RPOs, play-action, all those things we drifted from and we need to be able to do. If you look at when we had success, those are things we were able to do.”

Napier spent the last four years coaching receivers at Alabama and has previously been the offensive coordinator at Clemson.

On defense, Graham hired Phil Bennett, who spent the past six years leading Baylor’s defense. Graham is usually heavily involved in the defensive play-calling, but says the defense has done a poor job of adjustments. ASU was No. 123 in scoring D last year (39.8 ppg). That’s where Bennett comes in.

“They’re going to be a disciplined bunch that is highly competitive. He’s brought Desert Dogs in his mentality, I like that,” Graham said. “I have all the confidence in the world in watching what he does. It’s not about scheme. Right now, you adapt and you watch. In our first three years, I think I did a good job of that. That’s what we have to do, adapt what we’re doing to our guys. The good thing is we have a foundation. We’re strong up front.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to