Turnabout is fair play, they say. That works for Arizona State football coach Todd Graham, who lost his offensive coordinator less than two weeks ago to Auburn.
Graham just reached back into Alabama and pulled out his new OC.
The fifth-year head coach announced yesterday the hiring of Billy Napier as his new offensive coordinator to replace Chip Lindsey, who left to join the Auburn staff as their new coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach. Lindsey succeeded Mike Norvell, who left after the 2015 season to become the new Memphis head coach. Lindsey spent just the 2016 season in Tempe, during which the Sun Devils finished with a 5-7 record.
That team finished last season ranked as the No. 10 rushing offense in the Pac-12 and sixth in passing. So maybe Lindsey’s departure is a blessing in disguise.
Graham will also add a co-offensive coordinator title to Josh Henson, his offensive line coach who was hired last month and had been an offensive coordinator at Missouri, helping Mizzou to back-to-back SEC East titles in 2013 and 2014. He will share the OC duties with Napier, with Napier taking the lead.
Napier has been the receivers’ coach at Alabama while Nick Saban was building the program into a college dynasty. During his five seasons with the Crimson Tide, the offense averaged 6.27 yards per play and 36.4 points a game. The Tide has been dominant in recent years, winning four national titles since 2009. They racked up 26 consecutive wins in 2015 and 2016, won the national title in 2015, and lost in the BCS championship game in the final seconds to Clemson last season.
In 2011 Napier spent a season with the Tide as an offensive analyst, helping Alabama to a national championship. He left to join the Colorado State staff in 2012 as assistant head coach and quarterbacks’ coach, but returned to Alabama the next year to become the receivers’ coach.
A big reason for the Tide’s consistent success is recruiting. And that’s where Napier excels, generally considered one of the best college recruiters in the country. While on staff at Clemson in 2009-10, he was instrumental in the Tigers pulling in the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class in 2009. The next season, the Clemson offense set an all-time school record for most points in a season.
And that’s the real coup here for Graham. Lindsey, too, was a top recruiter and Graham desperately needed to fill that void.
Plucking that recruiter from a high-profile power like Alabama is a big, bright feather in his hat.
This is the third offensive coordinator to work with the Sun Devils in the last three years, so hopefully Graham has found one that will stay around awhile. Norvell spent four years at ASU, coming to Tempe with Graham after the 2011 season, but he and Graham had been together for nine years as Norvell followed his head coach during stops at Tulsa and Pitt. At ASU, the pair worked together to win 34 games and take their teams to four straight bowl appearances.
Now Graham starts over again, breaking in a new offensive coordinator – actually two co-coordinators, since Henson is still in the process of learning the system.
After two consecutive losing seasons (6-7, 5-7), Graham will be on the hot seat next season. He’s hoping Napier and Henson can help bring the temperature down.
Maybe it will take two guys working together to get the job done this time.
Hey, whatever it takes. We’re in crunch time now.