With the year 2017 fully underway, it means that it is that much closer to another season of ASU football.
After a disappointing 2016 campaign, the sun devils will be looking to regain the glory they had back in head coach Todd Graham’s first three seasons. With nothing but heightened expectations, it is going to be an uphill battle for the program.
Everything starts and ends with the defense. If the defense has improved from what it has been the past two seasons, then ASU may have the start of something special. If the defense is more of the same, then it not only could be the end of the season, but potentially the end of the Todd Graham era at ASU.
Article continues below ...
With the addition of Phil Bennett as defensive coordinator, people are expecting there to be changes. While there will be changes simply because it will be a whole new defensive scheme, nothing will truly change unless Graham allows Bennett to have full control of the defense. While Graham did allow former defensive coordinator Keith Patterson to call the plays in 2016, he continued to have a hands-on approach in practice, something he is notorious for.
If Bennett is given full control of the defense, something that frankly is very unlikely to happen, then there is a good chance that there will be a better product on the field. Bennett brings with him tons of experience, and he knows how to turn programs with ailing defenses into defenses that can, at the very least, hold offenses to less than 40 points a game. With ASU’s ability on offense, they would have been in a bowl game had their defense been able to stop the opposing team’s offense more than once or twice a game.
On the offensive side of the ball, ASU is in a good place. They have a very deep quarterback core, which provided Graham with the ability to have an ongoing quarterback competition. While some may see this as a bad thing, it is for the best. Having a starting quarterback that knows he needs to go out and perform every week leads to a starting quarterback who will always play as hard as he can because he knows his job is on the line.
The offense will be bringing back the same backfield from last season, plus adding some nice talent through recruiting. The only question mark is who is going to step-up behind N’Keal Harry as reliable targets for the starting quarterback.
Possibly the biggest question for the team is the special teams unit. After losing both Zane Gonzalez and Matt Haack, will the special teams be as good? A realistic person would say no, but the special teams has been very good the past few seasons and there is no telling how soon the next Zane Gonzalez arrives at ASU.
Overall, a few changes could lead to a lot of success for ASU. Changes on defense will pay the biggest dividend, but the special teams unit could be looking at the biggest change. 2017 will either be remembered as the season where ASU reclaimed their former glory, or the season where the Todd Graham era ended. Only time will tell.