ASU football addresses special team woes with hiring of Shawn Slocum
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State coach Todd Graham has addressed the improving of his team's special teams unit by shaking up the coaching staff.
Shawn Slocum was hired as associate head coach, special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach, while senior associate head coach and defensive end specialist Paul Randolph has been re-assigned, the team announced Monday.
Randolph will take on the title of "associate athletics director of championship life" and work under the direction of Jean Boyd, ASU athletics director for student-athlete development.
Slocum, 50, comes with college experience from stints at USC, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh and multiple stops at Texas A&M, where his father, R.C. Slocum, is the school's all-time winningest coach.
Since 2006, Slocum has been with the NFL's Green Bay Packers. He had served as their special teams coordinator from 2009 through the end of the 2014 season.
"Shawn has 25 years of coaching experience to his credit, with almost all of that coming at the elite college level," Graham said in a statement. "Shawn comes from a football family and he has coached and recruited at the highest competitive level. Shawn's addition will further complement the fine staff that we already have in place."
Slocum was fired by the Packers after an NFL-worst special teams unit saw those issues pop up in an NFC Championship game loss to the Seattle Seahawks in January.
In a meeting with beat writers in February, Graham hinted at the possibility of an addition to the coaching staff, specifically regarding the special teams unit. His top priority this offseason focused on special team improvements, and he said at the time he was considering all his options.
"Glaringly, I've evaluated over the last three years, we've been one of the top three teams (in the Pac-12)," Graham said. "We've been one of the top offenses in the South. We've been one of the most unique and productive defenses in the South. We've been, out of the 12 schools, I would rank us eighth in special teams. We have got to get that better. That is my number one objective."
The hiring of Slocum makes it clear how the Sun Devils will move forward.
"I am looking forward to working with Coach Graham," Slocum said in a statement. "I have followed his teams and success for a long period of time. I'm very impressed with the success of the Sun Devil football program. I am looking forward to bringing my family to Tempe and the ASU community and to competing for national championships at ASU."
Graham expects his offense and defense to continue clicking with very little turnover from a year ago, but he expects special teams to play catch-up.
The expectation of running backs Kalen Ballage and De'Chavon 'Gump' Hayes handling the return duties clears up some questions. The return of kicker Zane Gonzalez, who has hit better than 80 percent of his field goals in two seasons, brings more stability to the unit.
Finding consistency in the coverage and punting aspects will be the biggest challenges for Slocum.
The Sun Devils will also adjust to a knew coaching staff structure. The addition of Slocum takes pressure off Graham -- not to mention defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, and assistant coach and recruiting coordintor Chip Long, who had special teams duties listed under their job descriptions a year ago.
Meanwhile, Randolph moves from the football staff to a role under the athletic department's administrative staff. Randolph served on Graham's staff at Rice, Tulsa and Pittsburgh before following him to ASU.
"Paul Randolph has been with me for my entire head coaching career and has helped our teams post five 10-win seasons in the past nine years," Graham said in a statement. "We couldn't have accomplished a record like that without people like Paul on the staff. Paul is perhaps the finest person I know and he stands for all of the principles that we teach to our players. Those qualities will serve him well as he pursues a career in college administration."