After posting his second consecutive losing season at Arizona State, head coach Todd Graham performed a self-assessment of how he's handled his program and where it stands heading into 2017.
In Graham's self-assessment, the Sun Devils' sixth-year head coach made a significant determination, electing to surrender control of his defense to a new assistant to allow him to focus on other aspects of the ASU program.
After hiring 39-year coaching veteran Phil Bennett to lead the Sun Devils' defensive unit, Graham also made other, lower-profile additions to his coaching staff to help him restructure the program and help facilitate a rebuilding process.
On March 8, Graham hired former ASU quarterback Danny White and former Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen as non-coaching consultants brought in to provide new perspectives on the Sun Devils' program and day-to-day operations.
"Mainly they're a consultant to me," Graham said. "It's just sometimes, you're working and it's having a different perspective. So every single day, they're giving me input. It's not really to watch over anybody else, it's just to say hey, here's a couple of guys that have a lot of years, and a lot of diverse years in the game of football."
White starred at ASU from 1971-1973 and led the program to three consecutive Fiesta Bowls as the team's quarterback, compiling a record of 32-4 over three seasons as the Sun Devils' starter. After helping lead the Dallas Cowboys to three consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances during his NFL career, White became the head coach of the Arizona Rattlers in the Arena Football League and guided the team to a pair of Arena Bowl titles.
"Obviously Danny was a great quarterback and then coached Arena ball afterwards and has a great deal of experience so really just contributing from that standpoint," Graham said. "They have definitive roles and it's really just being a consultant to me and really just kind of sometimes just to have someone to sit back and say, you might want to look at this, this is something that over here I think we might need to have attention to."
Christensen has enjoyed a lengthy coaching career at the college level, spending 19 seasons as an assistant on Gary Pinkel's staffs at Toledo and then at Missouri before becoming the head coach of the Wyoming Cowboys in 2009. Prior to his arrival in Laramie, Christensen was the Tigers' offensive coordinator and helped the program reach back-to-back Big 12 Championship games.
After a five-year stint at Wyoming, Christensen coached the offensive line at Texas A&M in 2015 and now finds himself at ASU assisting Graham with the day-to-day intricacies of overseeing a program.
"Dave has been great, he's obviously been a head football coach and has been offensive coordinator and a line coach and has been very successful in the Power Five conferences so he's been a great addition," Graham said.
After Wednesday's practice, Graham said the additions of White and Christensen are already paying off, as both consultants have offered their advice and expertise to Graham on a daily basis.
"There's already been just little things that Danny has said like, 'Hey on this deal here, you just might want to look at this," Graham said. "It had something to do with our quarterback where he was holding the ball, something that simple. Both those guys have a wealth of experience in different ways."
Graham said the motivation to bring in a pair of outside consultants to offer fresh perspectives was made in an effort to improve himself as a coach and to improve ASU's program as a whole. With White and Christensen on staff, Graham believes ASU will be in a better position to take a step forward and return to the winning ways the Sun Devils enjoyed earlier in their head coach's tenure.
"It's just something that as we assess, as I've gone back and tried to assess and gone man, this didn't go the way we wanted it to go," Graham said. "And this is something I feel like from a self-awareness standpoint that I need to get better at this. I just want to win, whatever it takes to win. So part of our assessment was, we thought it would be good to have."
News and notes
- Sophomore quarterback Bryce Perkins, sophomore offensive lineman Cade Cote, junior cornerback Kareem Orr, senior safety Marcus Ball and junior safety Das Tautalatasi wore green non-contact jerseys at ASU's practice Wednesday.
- Redshirt freshman cornerback Chase Lucas, junior tight end Jay Jay Wilson and senior wide receiver Cameron Smith were non-participants in Wednesday's practice.
- Senior Christian Hill worked with ASU's defensive line for the first four practices of the spring, but flipped to the offensive side of the ball and practiced with the tight ends on Wednesday.
- Sophomore offensive lineman Zach Robertson worked with the second-team offensive line for the first time this spring and played right tackle.