Arizona State Sun Devil special teams ‘night-and-day better’ under new coordinator

Apr 7, 2015, 11:23 PM | Updated: 11:23 pm

TEMPE, Ariz. — Going back to college never appealed to new Arizona State special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. Why would it, considering all he had accomplished in the NFL?

“I had a great run in Green Bay,” he said. “I was there nine years; got a Super Bowl, three NFC Championships, playoffs seven times, coached three Pro Bowls. Pretty good deal.”

That deal, however, went sour three months ago when a handful of special teams errors cost the Packers a spot in Super Bowl XLIX.

Twelve days later, Slocum found himself out of a job, fired after almost a decade of coaching special teams, including the last six as coordinator.

“I was disappointed I didn’t get a chance to get a second Super Bowl ring because we had a very good team,” he said, referring to the NFC title game overtime loss to Seattle. “The nature of this game, it’s a performance-based game and man, we didn’t quite get it done.”

But as is often the case when one door closes, another opens. One did at ASU — Slocum was hired March 2.

“I’m excited to be here,” he said.

Slocum hadn’t been a regular on a college campus since 2005 when he was the assistant head coach and linebacker coach at Ole Miss. But it was in college where Slocum first cut his teeth as a coach, getting his career started as a volunteer assistant at Texas A&M, under his father, R.C. Slocum.

As he built his own coaching résumé, Slocum made stops at Pittsburgh and USC, following each job with another stint with the Aggies, all along making special teams his primary focus.

It’s why joining the Sun Devils makes so much sense.

This spring head coach Todd Graham has once again put the emphasis on improving their special teams play, an area that has been lacking each of the past two seasons.

“It’s no different than any other perspective when you’re looking at the team,” Slocum said. “We’re going to take the best 11 players and play that down. If we do that and play well, we’ll help this team succeed.”

Though he’s not ready to make any definitive decisions on playing time, Slocum has been pleased by what he’s seen to this point.

“We’re going to keep this thing wide open until we go all the way through this and get into training camp,” he said. “But right now it’s about competing and getting better.

“No. 1, I see a bunch of athletes. I see a hunger, a desire to be good,” he said. “We’re going to train hard and trust our training and play well.”

Again, it’s early, but Graham said he’s seen a noticeable difference, calling their special teams fundamental techniques “night and day better” from last season.

“We’ve got somebody championing that,” he said, talking about Slocum. “You can see the buy-in from our players in the meetings. We have met twice as much on special teams. We’ve devoted twice as much time to it and we’re just so much better fundamentally.

“I wish I had hired him three years ago.”

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