Many football coaches are creatures of habit.
Having that habit or routine upset less than two weeks before the start of a season can wreak havoc on a team.
That’s what Arizona State head coach Todd Graham went through prior to the beginning of the 2015 campaign — his fourth on the Sun Devil sideline.
His running back coach, and son, Bo Graham, resigned his position leading up to the opener against Texas A&M. The offense struggled to find its rhythm in a 38-17 loss to the Aggies.
The coach’s absence also spurred early-season change. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell abandoned his normal in-game position on the sideline and coached from the press box for the first time as ASU scratched out a 35-21 win over Cal Poly last Saturday in Tempe.
The head coach doesn’t feel like there was much of a choice to make the switch, considering the circumstances.
“I think it’s something we have to do at this point,” Graham told Doug and Wolf Thursday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Losing Bo was a big blow to us because he and Mike have called the plays together for three years. He was Mike’s ‘eyes in the sky’ and they’ve been around each other since 2007, basically telling him what the defenses are doing and what the coverage is and all of that kind of stuff.
“We felt in Week 1, that was a little disruptive, because at times you can be blind trying to call plays on the field.”
ASU’s offense was better in Week 2, accumulating 531 yards. But there is still concern, considering the opponent was an FCS foe who had never played a Pac-12 team.
Graham sees merit in the switch. He can relate, dating back to his days as an assistant coach.
“When I was a defensive coordinator, I didn’t want to be on the field. If I had a mature bunch down there — unless I had a really young defense and needed to be down there, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s a lot easier to call plays and a lot more efficient to be able to sit in a sound-proof box and just watch, and see what’s happening to you and call plays,” Graham said. “That’s what we’re going to continue to do. I thought it was good last week.
“Obviously, I don’t like change and that’s something that’s been disruptive as well. So we’re trying to get back to being efficient in calling plays and making adjustments.”
As far as Bo Graham’s departure, there are different stories floating around. Todd Graham’s explanation is that his son was afforded a great job opportunity outside of football. Others have reported that Bo resigned after a relationship with a former ASU student athlete was discovered.
Regardless of the impetus for the change, the elder Graham says the timing of the move was both unfortunate and necessary.
“It wasn’t able to be helped,” Graham said. “He had an opportunity that came up late and it was one of those things that was a personal decision for him. For me, personally, it was very difficult and for our team, very difficult timing. But it wasn’t something that we could help.”
Norvell will once again be in the press box calling offensive plays for Arizona State Friday night when they host the New Mexico Lobos in their final non-conference game of the year.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the game can be heard on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM, with pregame coverage starting at 5:00.
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- Sun Devil Source Report Podcast: Pressure on Graham vs. Texas Tech