Next season is going to be a critical one for Arizona State‘s head football coach Todd Graham after suffering through a couple of losing seasons. After the departure of three assistant coaches and the addition of three more already this off-season, the last thing he needs is more instability on his coaching staff as he begins preparations for a season that could realistically determine his future with the program.
But that didn’t stop his offensive coordinator from jumping ship after just one season.
Auburn announced earlier today that it has hired Chip Lindsey away from ASU, installing Lindsey as the Tigers’ OC and quarterbacks coach. It marks Lindsey’s return to Auburn, where he was an offensive analyst in 2013. He left to spend a couple of seasons as the offensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi, and then was hired by ASU before the 2016 season.
Lindsey didn’t exactly light up the Pac-12 in his debut with the Sun Devils. They finished last season as the No. 10 rushing offense in the conference and were sixth in passing. After averaging 33 yards a game, the Devils finished with a 5-7 record after posting a 6-7 record in 2015.
But Lindsey was being counted on for an additional contribution next season. The Sun Devils just secured the services of Blake Barnett, a dual-threat quarterback who was a five-star prospect out of California and rated by at least one recruiting service as the top QB in the 2016 class. He spent his freshman year at Alabama, where he played sparingly, and picked ASU as his transfer destination.
Barnett is considered one of the better quarterbacks coaches in the country and could have groomed Barnett into a star performer in the ASU program.
After Mike Norvell, Lindsey’s predecessor at ASU, left Tempe to take over the head-coaching job at Memphis, this will be the third hand on the tiller of the offense in three years, which makes it tough on players and hard for the program to get into any kind of rhythm.
Graham laid a solid foundation for improvement after arriving from the University of Pittsburgh in December of 2011. He won 28 games in his first three seasons in Tempe and claimed a Pac-12 South title.
But that foundation is turning to sand. Not only were the Sun Devils unable to put enough ‘W’s on the board the last two seasons, their defense was ranked last in the country both years.
This past season didn’t hold great expectations. Graham was working with a young team and a new quarterback, which resulted in pre-season predictions of a fifth-place finish in the conference.
But a losing record wasn’t in the play book.
The year before was the really big disappointment, when ASU entered the season with high expectations. A core of returning talent was given enough respect that at least a couple national sports commentators considered ASU as a potential participant in the College Football Playoff. A six-win season was a huge disappointment and difficult to explain.
Graham has two former offensive coordinators on staff and it has to be assumed they could be in the mix to replace Lindsey. Rob Likens, who is serving as wide receivers coach, has been an offensive coordinator at five different schools, the most recent Kansas. Offensive line coach Josh Henson was the OC at Missouri.
But neither has spent any time with the ASU program. Likens was hired in December and Henson came on board four days ago.
So, whether Graham hires from within or reaches outside, his new offensive coordinator will need some adjustment time at his new job.
And that makes it all the more important that Graham get his new guy in place soon. Look for him to pull one out of his hat before the end of the month.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)