By Christopher Wuensch
CAREER COACHING RECORD: 57-34 Rice, Tulsa, Pittsburgh
8-5 with Arizona State
YEAR AT ARIZONA STATE: 2nd
Todd Graham’s vision for Arizona State is starkly different than many of his fellow peers in the Pac-12. In Tempe, under the second-year Sun Devil coach, the name of the game is defense.
Graham’s Sun Devils boasted a staunch defense in 2012, finishing 27th in the nation and runner-up to Stanford in the Pac-12 in overall defense. Quarterbacks in the pass-happy conference found it difficult to throw on a defense that was ranked third nationally against aerial attacks. The year before Graham, the Sun Devils finished 108th in pass defense.
The results was ASU’s (8-5, 5-4 Pac-12) first winning season since 2007 and a resounding 62-28 win over Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The Sun Devils closed the season with three-straight wins for the first time since legendary coach Frank Kush manned the sidelines in Tempe.
Graham returns the core of his offense in junior quarterback Taylor Kelly and leading running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. The coach added several wide receivers in his 2013 recruit class, but the focus remains on defense. Of the 27 players who inked scholarships on signing day, 16 of them play defense.
It might be considered a long shot, but any rare slips by Southern California or UCLA and the Sun Devils could snare the Pac-12 South title — and, who knows, perhaps the program’s first Rose Bowl appearance since 1997.
FOURTH DOWN: Arizona State, looking for consistency from the head coach position hired Todd Graham as its third coach since 2001. Graham has to be considered a flight risk, however, especially after eschewing Pittsburgh for Arizona State in a text message to his former players.