It is safe to say that Arizona State wants to forget about the 2015 football season. High expectations that went nowhere left many alumni, fans, coaches, and probably even players wondering what the heck happened.
Simply put, the Sun Devils underperformed on all levels. Between the coaches and players, there is plenty of blame to go around for last season, but have the Sun Devils learned anything from the 2015 season that they can apply to the 2016 season? The proof will be in pudding for Head Coach Todd Graham who can’t afford another season like this past one.
However, let’s not dwell on the past. Time to focus on the future for Arizona State.
With the Sun Devils being in arguably one of the toughest divisions in all of college football it’s going to be another challenging year for them to gain any traction in terms of a winning season. With the schedule they have there are some high points where they can get some wins and other areas where it’s going to be difficult to come out on top. Let’s start with the areas that could be positives for Arizona State.
The Sun Devils have three out of their first four games at Sun Devil Stadium. They begin with Northern Arizona, Texas Tech, and California at home. In between the Texas Tech and California games, there is an away game against the University of Texas at San Antonio that the Devils should be able to win. Obviously the best case scenario is coming out of this stretch 4-0, but as the Devils have proven before, that is not going to be the case for them. If they come out of this opening four-game stretch 2-2, I would almost considerate that mark a gift.
The part of the schedule that gets difficult for the Sun Devils is just about the rest of the season. After the California game, they take on in order, at USC, UCLA, at Colorado, Washington State, at Oregon, bye week, Utah, at Washington and at Arizona. With the talent that they are losing, I am hard pressed to find many wins in there. Four of those teams have returning quarterbacks while Arizona State does not and having that experience under center is so crucial to a winning season in college football.
If you haven’t paid attention to what has gone on with Arizona State’s coaching changes you should have been. It’s been a crazy offseason for the coaches of Sun Devil Nation. First of all, Mike Norvell, the offensive coordinator left to become the head coach at Memphis. Norvell took Chris Ball to be his defensive coordinator and took Chip Long to be his offensive coordinator. Once those dominoes fell for the Sun Devils, Graham had to act quick on their replacements.
Coach Graham hired Southern Mississippi Offensive Coordinator Chip Lindsey as his new offensive coordinator. Coach Graham did say that the common terminology between what ASU has run and what Coach Lindsey will run is similar and that was a big determining factor in making the Lindsey hire. Josh Martin moved from running backs coach to tight ends coach as well.
Another couple moves that may turn out to be the best hires for them are Joe Seumalo and Jay Norvell. Seumalo comes to ASU from UNLV, but is best known for his time at Oregon State as their defensive line coach. Seumalo had one of the most dominant units at Oregon State for a number of years. Jay Norvell on the other hand, comes to ASU from the Texas Longhorns. Norvell will be the Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach and will bring his immense experience to that part of the offense. Will these changes help or hinder the Sun Devils? We shall see as the team progresses through spring and summer practices.
As far as player personnel changes go, the Devils will be losing some good talent. They will have to replace some of the offensive line, Mike Bercovici at quarterback, and DJ Foster who played running back and receiver. The loss of Foster will be felt in a huge way because you could put DJ Foster in different places on the field and it would alter what the defense was doing. Who will fill that role now? That’s a good question going into spring practice and one that the coaching staff would like to figure out quickly.
The Pac-12 Conference is a tough conference to have success in and there has to be continuity and stability in your program. I’m not sure that is the case at Arizona State. The 2016 season is going to be a season of transition for them. From the new coaches and schemes to the new players on the offensive side of the ball it could be a long year for the Sun Devil faithful. Coach Graham can’t have another year like 2015 or the fans will turn on him. The seat is warm for Todd Graham and it won’t take much for that seat to be at a broil. This could end up being the most important coaching job he does in 2016. Forks Up!