The Todd Graham era unofficially begins year three as the Arizona State Sun Devils convene Tuesday morning at the Kajikawa Football Practice Fields to begin spring practice.
Year one saw Graham’s Devils go 8-5 with a 5-4 record in the Pac-12. They followed that up by winning the Pac-12 South Championship with an 8-1 conference record and overall mark of 10-4.
The 2013 season didn’t end the way they would have liked, however. Arizona State was pounded by Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game and beaten soundly by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.
One thing was clear from Graham’s press conference the afternoon before spring practice was set to begin: he has identified the Sun Devils’ weaknesses and will use the spring as a starting point to correcting them.
#1 Special Teams
“Special teams is gonna be a big focus for us,” Graham said. “That’s something we’re going to work really hard on this spring. Developing depth, I think, is one of things we evaluated that’s been a challenge for us. That’s got to be at the top of the list.”
Some special teams stats from last year:
• ASU allowed the second-highest punt return average in the Pac-12 (10.05 yards per return).
• ASU didn’t have a punt return or kickoff return touchdown in 2013.
#2 Run Defense
“If you really evaluate and look at the running game last year, the direct runs weren’t where we got hurt,” the head coach said. “We got hurt to the perimeter, angle flow runs to the boundary. We’re looking at how we deploy our defense a little bit differently to put bigger guys at the end position into the boundary where the devil usually is as well as having a bigger boundary safety to be able to support.”
Run Defense stats:
• ASU allowed opponents to gain 3.88 yards per carry, which was fifth-best in the Pac-12.
• ASU allowed 22 runs over 20 yards — which was the fourth-most in Pac-12.
These were two of ASU’s biggest issues last year that have been identified the by head coach.
Step one in being able to fix a problem is recognizing there is one.
Now the Sun Devils have 15 practices to start working out the kinks.