There are four new coaches in the Pac-12 this season, and each one has his own set of challenges to deal with.
Former UCLA head coach and current NCAA Football analyst Rick Neuheisel told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf ASU’s Todd Graham has the toughest task ahead of him.
“The number one challenge and the number one goal is to establish your culture,” Neuheisel said of what every first-year coach must do. “And by that I mean what you think is important, what you’re going to hang your hat on as the things, the cornerstones of this program.”
Replacing Dennis Erickson, who was known for running a fairly loose program that lacked discipline, could be dicey for a guy like Graham, who has arrived preaching discipline.
“His personality, the way he runs the program, I think, is in vast departure from what Dennis Erickson did as he recruited and built his program,” Neuheisel said. “And because it’s going to be more laden with discipline, because maybe there’s going to be more rules, those kids are going to have to decide that this important and something they want to be a part of.
“Now, it’s much easier to do that if you’re winning.”
Most figure the Sun Devils will knock off Week 1 opponent Northern Arizona University, but it’s the non-conference games that follow where the former coach feels ASU could run into some trouble.
“If there’s a chink in the armor, how those kids will hang in there,” he questioned. “And that’s where leadership is going to be really important.”
Neuheisel singled out senior linebacker Brandon Magee as someone who will be an important locker room presence, someone who could help a young and inexperienced team navigate a tough schedule.