Let’s face it: this isn’t the offseason the Arizona Sun Devils envisioned.
It wasn’t the season ASU had wanted either, ending its 2021 season with a loss at the Las Vegas Bowl after one of the most talented, veteran-led teams to come through Tempe in recent memory.
Insult added to the hurt when five coaches, including coordinators on both sides of the ball, left the program over their ties to the NCAA’s investigation into alleged Arizona recruiting violations. State.
Most recent resignation
Arizona State defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce was the latest coach to leave ASU, officially stepping down from his position on Feb. 2. Pierce was considered the leader of the recruiting violations in question.
Hill also resigned with links to the investigation
Offensive coordinator Zak Hill was one of three coaches who parted ways with Arizona State on Jan. 28. Hill was not initially suspected of involvement in ASU’s current mess, but the NCAA reportedly finds his involvement greater each day they dig. Deeper.
Three other assistants left
Tight ends coach Adam Breneman, wide receivers coach Prentice Gill and defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins all left the program the same day as Hill. Gill and Hawkins were terminated for cause in “what ASU deemed violations of their employment agreements”, while Breneman resigned. All three have been furloughed ahead of the 2021 season.
Just like that, five coaches were out of the Sun Devils program. That does not include assistant football equipment operations coordinator Eric Bowman, who was fired in December for allegedly accepting money in exchange for free clothing for rookies.
Pierce soon took a job coaching linebackers for the Las Vegas Raiders, while the future of the remaining coaches is still up for grabs, despite Gill filing a wrongful termination lawsuit.
There were rumors that Hill would travel to Auburn to take up his position as offensive coordinator prior to his departure, although sources familiar with the matter told All Sun Devils that Auburn’s compliance office ultimately turned Hill down in because of his connection to the investigation despite head coach Bryan Harsin. “really wanting” Hill.
Some would argue that those shoes left by the former coaching staff to fill weren’t exactly that big, especially considering the success on the court at Arizona State with those coaches at the helm.
Others would argue that big changes in the coaching staff do indeed have an impact, at least in the recruiting world. A rookie told All Sun Devils that the absence of the post coach who recruited them had a direct impact on his choice not to attend Arizona State.
With one of their worst recruiting classes in history and a rotating coaching staff, Arizona State’s outlook for 2022 isn’t considered promising.
However, head coach Herm Edwards and the rest of the Sun Devils football hierarchy are aiming to reload rather than rebuild their staff.
Change is never easy, especially at the college level when young adults cling to coaches like Pierce, Hill and others.
Still, there’s hope for further change on the Arizona State coaching staff, with Edwards doubling down on his “professional model” approach to building a program by bringing in coaches with coaching experience. the NFL.
This isn’t defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson’s first rodeo with the Sun Devils, as he previously served as an assistant for ASU from 1992-1997. Henderson has over 30 years of coaching experience, residing in the NFL from 1999 to 2010.
Henderson’s most notable role was coaching defensive backs for the Baltimore Ravens from 2000 to 2003, a coach that many consider to be one of the best defenses in league history.
Defensive backs coach Aaron Fletcher was hired Jan. 13 on a side transfer from Missouri.
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Last season, Missouri’s pass defense ranked 29th nationally, allowing just 206.8 passing yards per game. Prior to that, Fletcher helped Tulsa to three bowl games between 2015 and 2020.
The Golden Hurricane’s passing defense has ranked in the AAC’s top five for the past three seasons, including a conference-leading and eighth-best national mark of 174.6 yards per game in 2018.
On the offensive side of the ball, offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas brings a strong history of successfully assisting in quarterback development.
In the three seasons Thomas coached quarterback Matt Ryan in Atlanta, the former first-round pick passed for more than 4,500 yards and 26 touchdowns each season, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2013 and 2015.
In 2012, Ryan set the franchise single-season record in passing yards (4,719), touchdown passes (32) and completion percentage (68.6).
Thomas is widely credited with helping Ryan take the leap to the next stage of development, and many hope he can do the same with Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels.
Also not to be overlooked is the introduction of former Super Bowl head coach Brian Billick, who is expected to serve as an offensive analyst for the Sun Devils next season.
ASU opted to promote internally for the remaining roles because Edwards and the rest of the Arizona State callers believed the right guys for the assistant roles were already with the program.
“I am thrilled to announce the elevation of graduate assistant Bobby Wade to wide receivers coach and interim assistant coach (tight ends) Justin Wood to tight ends coach,” said Edwards in a statement.
“These two young men are up-and-coming in the coaching profession and both have bright futures. Both are young, energetic and have a passion that is a perfect fit for our staff. I look forward to seeing them flourish. in our program.
Spring ball is right around the corner for Arizona State, as it will be the first time ASU has seen its new coaching staff in action.
Dark clouds still reside over the state of Arizona thanks to the ongoing investigation, which still has no expected completion timeline or expectation of what ASU should expect in terms of punishment.
However, Edwards appears confident in the coaching staff he has built up thanks to his more than 75 years of coaching experience at the senior level.
Especially in a season where top rookies won’t fill the Sun Devils’ depth chart, maximizing talent will be key to pushing Arizona State to the places they want to be within the Pac-12.
Time will tell if the Sun Devils manage to reload rather than start a rebuild. We’ll see if there’s anything in ASU’s bedroom come spring training.