Pennel suspended; kicking to be evaluated

TEMPE, Ariz. —
Arizona State junior defensive tackle Mike Pennel has been suspended indefinitely for a failure to meet team standards, coach Todd Graham said Tuesday.

Pennel, who was also suspended for ASU’s second game of the season against Illinois, did not play in the Sun Devils’ win against California on Saturday and was not at practice Tuesday.

“He’s not meeting our standards, that’s it,” Graham said. “I’m not lowering our standards, period. It’s something we’re never excited about, stuff like that, but at the end of the day we’re going to do things one way, and that’s the right way.”

No details were provided about Pennel’s shortcomings, but Pennel posted a series of remarks on his Twitter account after ASU’s win Saturday referencing his absence from the game.

Pennel transferred to ASU this year from Scottsdale Community College as a highly touted junior college recruit. He initially had issues adjusting to the Division I level, and freshman Jaxon Hood won the starting nose tackle job. Pennel could be seen regularly engaged in long talks with co-defensive coordinator Paul Randolph after practices.

Graham suspended Pennel for the Illinois game but was pleased with how he responded in the team’s next game, against Missouri.
“I was very proud of Mike coming back off of a game that he was suspended and not just how he played but the attitude from which he practiced and the attitude he competed in,” Graham said the Monday after the game. “I sure hope we are getting a buy-in there because he can be a special player for us.”


Graham said Tuesday he is evaluating options at place-kicker following a game in which sophomore Alex Garoutte missed two field goals and had another blocked against Cal.

“We can’t miss three field goals inside of 40 yards,” Graham said. “That’s something we can’t do. We’ve got to get better, and they know that.”

Garoutte made 15 of 22 field-goals last season but was most remembered for three misses in a one-point loss at UCLA. He is 6 for 10 this year after holding off competition from walk-ons Jon Mora and Dillon Jackson in training camp. Mora has attempted one field goal: A 40-yard miss against Utah.

Graham attributed some of the kicking issues to having a new snapper and holder. He also praised Garoutte’s kickoff performance and reiterated belief in him while not committing to him going forward.

“Ninety percent of it is mental, because the guy can kick the ball,” Graham said. “I do have a lot of confidence in Alex. He’s got a lot of talent, he’s a really solid player and I think he’ll bounce back well.”


This is ASU’s bye week, but it won’t be much of a break. After the usual off day Monday, the Sun Devils practice every day but Friday in preparation for a game at Colorado next Thursday.

Graham said practices the next couple days will primarily focus on fundamentals, though a little Colorado game-planning will be introduced. This week also gives ASU coaches more time than usual to recruit.

Graham said all his coaches were out recruiting Monday, and a few were gone during Tuesday’s practice. Co-defensive coordinator Paul Randolph left practice early Tuesday to catch a flight, and Graham plans to do the same after Wednesday’s practice. The whole staff will be out recruiting again Thursday and Friday.

“We’ll use all of our opportunities, but we’re using a bunch of them this week,” Graham said. “The way our schedule is, this is it. We don’t have any other off time.”

Graham said the Sun Devil’s 4-1 start and the excitement surrounding the new staff’s overhaul should be a boon to recruiting efforts.

“It’s huge,” Graham said. “Not just wins and losses, but how the program is being run, the perception of how our guys are coming across when they’re playing on TV — the class, the character, the toughness that they play with. It’s easy to go out and sell that to young people.”

ASU’s next home game against Oregon, a nationally televised Thursday night game and the annual “Blackout” game, could have a significant impact on this year’s recruiting class.