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Graham still adjusting to new coaching staff, addresses line issues

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
LISTEN: Todd Graham, head coach ASU football

The writing is on the wall and it’s clear that Arizona State football is not clicking on the same page.

The Sun Devils’ season has not started the way many had hoped after a sluggish win over New Mexico State and a loss to a non-Power Five school in San Diego State.

A contribution to the slow start could be the lack of familiarity for Sun Devils coach Todd Graham and not having everyone on the same page.

“That’s been the biggest challenge I’ll be real honest with you,” Graham told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Friday. “When I came here I ran two-thirds of the team. I coached the special teams and ran the defense. Coach (Mike) Norvell never worked for anybody but me so we were pretty much on the same page.”

Norvell left ASU at the end of the 2015 season and although the team had a sub-par year going 6-7, the Sun Devil’s record with Norvell on staff was 34-19. The team is 6-8 since his departure.

Graham has dealt with a lot of turnover on his coaching staff and started the season again with a new offensive and defensive coordinator.

Phil Bennett came aboard from Baylor to take over the defense and Billy Napier arrived from Alabama assuming the offensive coordinator role.

“These guys are very knowledgeable and come from championship programs,” Graham said. “The key to win and to be successful at Arizona State is specific to Arizona State because of the personnel. That’s the good thing I really believe that we have the personnel. We just got to get what we’re executing and that’s getting everybody on the same page and we are working hard to do that.”

The Sun Devils’ below average play starts with the line on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

The players up front have not been able to slow down the run, allowing 5.9 yards a rush attempt to opposing teams leaving the defense ranked 119th in the nation. Granted the team did give up a 95-yard run to Rashaad Penny against San Diego State on Sept. 9. Negate that run and the defense gives up 4.7 yards, ranking 104th in the country.

The offensive line has not done much better. ASU averages 1.7 yards on the ground per carry, ranking 127th in the nation. In last week’s loss to SDSU, the running game only mustered 44 yards.

“That’s the biggest thing offensively is eliminating the negatives and being able to establish a run game,” Graham said. “Those are things we’re focusing the most on.”

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