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Sun Devils LBs coach Keith Patterson says he has no hurt feelings

Photo: TheSunDevils.com

TEMPE, Ariz. — Keith Patterson insists his pride is just fine. There were no hurt feelings when Todd Graham hired longtime confidant Phil Bennett as defensive coordinator in January, thereby demoting Patterson to linebackers coach.

“I haven’t thought twice about it,” Patterson said last week. “I didn’t get into coaching for titles. I got into coaching to make a difference in the lives of people.”

Arizona State’s defense needed a shake-up after two straight seasons of poor performances. The Sun Devils ranked No. 112 (2015) and No. 127 (2016) in total defense the last two years, finishing No. 127 and No. 128 in passing yards allowed.

When vice president for university athletics Ray Anderson told Arizona Sports in November that Graham would return as coach this season, he also entrusted Graham to make necessary changes.

“I think Todd will continue to evaluate his program and make the appropriate adjustments — very frankly particularly on the defensive side,” Anderson said. “It’s no secret to anybody.”

Graham believes Bennett’s wealth of experience can add a missing ingredient, but with the change in coordinators, some analysts have wondered if Patterson was a scapegoat for a defense still largely run by Graham. Patterson said he hasn’t thought about it.

“No, not at all,” he said. “It’s a results oriented business and it is what it is. My role hasn’t changed. I’m still doing what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here, and Phil and I go way back so there’s a comfort there and a basic understanding.”

Like Graham, Patterson has a long history with Bennett.

“When you take a guy like Phil, with how long he’s been doing this, there’s not much he hasn’t seen so we’re drawing on his experience and wealth of knowledge,” Patterson said. “It’s making everyone better and I think we’ve held our players accountable for their own performance.”

Coming off 5-7 (2016) and 6-7 (2015) seasons, this could be a critical year for the future of Graham and his staff. Patterson believes the Devils’ defense is ready to turn the corner.

“You just get a gut feeling sometimes that you know how prepared your kids are,” he said after the Devils completed spring ball. “We are excited. There is a synergy in this group that I feel strongly about. We’ve just got to go out on the field and get it done.”

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