With a bowl game just weeks away and a four-state recruiting trip that couldn’t be postponed, it was a tough time for Arizona State head football coach Todd Graham to try to find time to replace his offensive coordinator.
But he knew right where to look.
Just six days after the official announcement on Dec. 4 that Mike Norvell was leaving the Sun Devil program to take the head-coaching position at Memphis, Graham had his new assistant in tow. With a good pitch, the right timing, and maybe a little luck, Graham was able to convince his No. 1 choice to come to the desert.
Chip Lindsey has been the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Southern Mississippi for the past two seasons and runs the kind of high-powered, explosive offense that Graham employs. Despite that advantage, Lindsey won’t be calling the plays against West Virginia during the Jan. 2 Cactus Bowl. That will fall to assistant head coach Chris Thomsen.
But Lindsey will be there on the sidelines to lend support; he already has his first practice under his belt and should be a lot more comfortable with his new team by Jan. 2.
ASU’s offense under Norvell scored at least 50 points in six different games in the 2013 season, averaged 37 points a game to rank 16th in the nation last year, and finished this season averaging 474 yards and 38 points a game to put it second in the Pac-12.
Lindsey’s offense at USM this season broke five major offensive single-season school records. The Golden Eagles, who finished 9-4 and won the Conference USA West Division, were ranked fifth nationally in total touchdowns, seventh in total points, and eighth in total passing yards.
In the ‘explosive’ category, they led the nation in plays of 20-plus yards, with 102.
And that, folks, is music to the ears of his new boss. Todd Graham loves to score quickly – and often.
USM had another impressive distinction this year. It was was the only school in the nation with a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard receiver, and two 1,000-yard rushers. Lindsey’s work with quarterback Nick Mullens for the two seasons he was there resulted in Mullens becoming the first USM player in school history to be named Offensive Player of the Year. Mullens passed for 4,145 yards and 36 touchdowns.
That expertise won’t help ASU’s starting quarterback Mike Bercovici much. The senior will be graduating after the West Virginia game.
But it will have an immediate impact on the program going into the 2016 season when Graham will have to replace Bercovici, a team captain and motivational leader who has been with the program since Graham took over for the 2012 season.
Lindsey will have a group of inexperienced applicants for Bercovici’s starting job next season, which right now includes redshirt freshman Manny Wilkins and true freshmen Bryce Perkins and Brady White. Perkins is a local standout from Chandler High School, while Wilkins and White are imports from California.
The new OC will have a blank canvas to begin his work, and some times that’s a good thing. He will be able to mold the youngsters to fit his system and help them avoid any bad habits as they develop their mechanics.
And, thanks to Graham’s earning a fourth consecutive bowl bid, his new offensive coordinator is enjoying an extra couple of weeks in this season to get a head start on turning one of those QB hopefuls into the next Nick Mullens.
And, in the process, continue the success Norvell enjoyed in creating a high-octane Sun Devil offense that is fun for the fans to watch – and tough for opponents to contain.