Insider Profile: Todd Graham

An Arizona State coaching search process filled by surprises, culminated with a hire that was truly unexpected. Pitt's head coach, Todd Graham has been hired by the Sun Devils as their next head coach after just one year at the helm with the Panthers. To gain insight on ASU's new skipper Devils Digest invited's Tony Greco to provide an inside look on Graham.

DevilsDigest: The Graham hire caught everyone here in Tempe by surprise. What has been the reaction in Pittsburgh?

Tony Greco: "He has been here for only one year, so it is surprising because I don't think he was looking around. But he was citing LSU and Oklahoma State as his dream job destinations. Maybe he stays there (at ASU) and then goes to the next step up.

"I thought it was going to be three years until he would leave and the school would have to top what they are paying him now at Pitt. I'm a Sun Devil fan that grew up in Tempe, so I'm happy with this hire. I think talent wise he's in a better situation there at Arizona State than he was when he first got to Pitt."

DD: It may be hard to form a comprehensive opinion on a head coach after just one year, but what kind of an impression has he made in his lone season as the Panthers' head coach?

TG: "He has made some strides. They took a step back with their record, they were 7-5 last year (6-6 in 2011) but they are ending up pretty much in the same bowl as they did a year ago. The players did have a tough time adjusting to his system. He has 19 players committed to fit his system and I can't imagine all of them staying committed with him leaving and possibly playing at Pitt under a different system. I would imagine that some of those players will go with him."

DD: Which assistants do you expect Graham to bring with him?

TG: "He will bring Keith Patterson, the defensive coordinator (and Linebackers Coach), Paul Randolph, (Defensive Line Coach), Mike Norvell, as the offensive coordinator, Spencer Leftwich the offensive line coach. Todd Dodge the Quarterbacks Coach, not so sure about. As you know, three of their assistants left for University of Arizona so that's interesting.

"None of them have West Coast ties, but Norvell goes out a lot to California recruiting junior college players. Dodge was the coach that recruited Michael Eubank who ended up at Arizona State."

DD: When Graham was hired a year ago what were the reasons that Pitt elected him and what was the reaction at the time of the hire?

TG: "The problem with Pitt, and being an Arizona State fan I understand this, is that they think that they should be 11-1, 12-0 every year. They had that era with Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino and the fan base expects that every year, like it was in the 80's. It seems that every coach that has been here since then, after three or four years they're gone. Dave Wannstedt (who Graham replaced) has the most success here since Jackie Sherrill. He led Pitt to a 10-win season two years ago and was forced out last year.

"Pitt thinks that they should win the Big East every year and yes they have the facilities for it. But 7-5, 8-5 isn't good enough for this fan base. So the pressure mounts on the head coach. I did feel the fans were easier on Graham this year, maybe because they knew they were getting Chad Voytik the quarterback of the future and they were getting a pretty good recruiting class coming in."

DD: Graham is a defensive-minded coach. How would you describe his defensive scheme?

TG: "He has always been around a 3-3-5 scheme and they were making that transition at Pitt. Patterson is a great defensive coordinator and if you look at Pitt's numbers they have improved from week to week. He ran with a different starting lineup almost every week. They recruit a lot of Hybrids, like safeties who play linebackers and there are some players on this team who have played both positions. So it was still a transition here but I think in two years you would see the 3-3-5."

DD: How would you describe Pitt's system on offense?

TG: "Mike Norvell is a 30-year old offensive coordinator who does a great job. They do run a no-huddle spread which is why they recruited Michael Eubank. They were transitioning from a pro-style offense and it was process. Norvell wanted plays run every 15 seconds and Pitt didn't quite have the personnel and I honestly think he's in better condition at Arizona State with the personnel there."

DD: How would you evaluate the recruiting performance that Graham and his assistants have done at Pitt?

TG: "His strength is that he has never been afraid to go toe-to-toe with the bigger programs. It did surprise me that they went after Eubank last year. I thought there was no way he would decommit from ASU and he was close to doing it. The recruiting of Eubank obviously showed that they are willing to travel anywhere to recruit. He really likes to recruit the rural areas of Louisiana, as well as Dallas and Oklahoma. He did make a point to recruit well in his back yard. He got (five-star) Russell Shell to commit and he was a local player. We'll see if that changes now. He was on Rich Rodriguez's staff and it will be fun to see both of them go at it in recruiting."

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