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Sun Devils hire Baylor’s Bennett as defensive coordinator

Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett talks on his headset during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

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The Arizona State Sun Devils have hired former Baylor University Bears defensive coordinator Phil Bennett to the same role with ASU.

The news was first reported by and has since been confirmed by the school.

The Sun Devils are looking to improve upon a defense that ranked next-to-last in the country by allowing 520.5 yards per game. The defensive implosion culminated in a season-ending 56-35 loss to the rival University of Arizona Wildcats, in which the Wildcats rushed for 511 yards at 10.6 yards per carry.

While Bennett’s defense at Baylor was middle of the pack last season, allowing 430.8 yards and 29 points per game, it was significantly better than an ASU defense that gave up 39.8 points per game.

“Phil Bennett is a 39-year coaching veteran who brings a wealth of defensive knowledge to our staff,” ASU coach Todd Graham said in a press release. “He’s been a defensive coordinator at eight schools, including Baylor, Pittsburgh, Kansas State, TCU, Texas A&M, LSU, Purdue and Iowa State.  He was the head coach at SMU for six seasons, so he knows first-hand what it takes to run a program.

“With that amount of experience in conferences such as the SEC, the Big 12, the Big Ten and the Big East he has had to game plan to defend every offense imaginable.  He has been associated with successful defenses everywhere he’s been.  We are very fortunate to have him bring his level of experience to the Sun Devil program.”

The 61-year-old indeed has a lengthy resume as a college coach, which is a big reason for why Graham wanted to bring him on board.

“I’ve known Todd Graham for a long time and I love his passion for the game of football,” Bennett said in a press release. “It’s like any situation in that I think I can help get ASU back to championship football. I’ve watched them play and I know ASU is not far away. The program has great support from its administration and fan base. I’m very excited to begin this part of my life.”

Baylor’s defenses have ranked 83rd, 59th, 41st, 28th, 123rd and 116th in yards per game allowed after Bennett took over in 2011.

ASU’s current defensive coordinator, Keith Patterson, will remain with the program as linebackers coach.

In other Sun Devil news, it has been reported that running back Kalen Ballage has decided to return to school for his senior season after exploring the possibility of entering the NFL Draft.

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