Todd Graham: We were stubborn, and you're looking at the stubborn guy

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday July 19, 2016

Todd Graham says Arizona State’s defense did a poor job making adjustments last year, and he pointed the finger at himself, as the play-caller.

The Sun Devils allowed 33.5 points per game, No. 99 nationally, as well as 40 plays of at least 30 yards, No. 117 nationally. There were several injuries among starters, but Graham put the blame on himself. Graham's defenses are among the most blitz-heavy in the country, but he says they should have adapted to issues and allowed more underneath plays.

“We just gave up the big play,” Graham said on SiriusXM College Sports Nation. “You can’t say we had injuries. That’s part of it. We didn’t adapt. You’ve got to change some things. When you lose three of your starters early in the season, if you don’t have guys equal behind them, you’ve got to do some three-under, three-deep. You’ve got to give up some underneath stuff.

We hadn’t done that, and we were a little stubborn in that regard, and the stubborn guy is the guy you’re looking at. We’ve learned from those things. Guys want to play in our system. If you’re a defensive lineman, you’re going to get a sack or two. If you’re a linebacker, you’re going to get a TFL or two. Our guys have bought into it. It’s fun. They love it and understand it."

A year ago, the Sun Devils were picked second in the Pac-12 South, and Graham said it was his best team, but they fell to 6-7. This year, ASU was picked fifth.

But Graham’s team was 0-3 in one-possession games and in position to win more. This year, they have to get back to finishing.

We lost five games we were winning with four minutes left in the game, lost two on the last play of the game,” he said. “That’s Pac-12 football. You’ve got to win those games. We’d been accustomed to winning those games. We were the hunted, and we didn’t do a good job — I know I didn’t do a good job of adapting. That’s something we’ve worked hard to correct.”

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