Todd Graham needs a timeout; another assistant leaves


That gust of wind coming out of the Arizona State football offices is the revolving door taking another revolution as yet another assistant coach leaves the building – and the program.

Josh Henson has left for Oklahoma State to take a job at his alma mater.  Yep, the same Josh Henson who joined the Sun Devils coaching staff 27 days ago to serve as offensive line coach.  Head coach Todd Graham even assigned him the title of co-offensive coordinator to work with another newcomer, Billie Napier (Phxfan article Feb. 1, 2017).

While coaching turnover in the off-season is a problem all head coaches must deal with, it just seems like ASU has been snakebit lately.

Napier is the third offensive coordinator in three years as the ASU football program has hit some rough patches over that period, posting losing seasons the last two years.  Graham desperately needs to turn the tide back toward those 10-win marks he put up in 2013 and 2014 after taking over before the 2012 season.

He’s got a good start after bringing in a solid recruiting class and landing a huge catch in Blake Barnett, a five-star quarterback prospect from California who played at Alabama last season.

But, going into his sixth season on the proverbial hot seat, he can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to stabilizing his staff in the key roles.  Graham hired Napier three weeks ago to a position that has been the most unstable lately.  Mike Norvell left as OC after the 2015 season to become the new head coach at Memphis.  Chip Lindsey replaced him, but lasted just one season before leaving for Auburn to be the Tigers’ coordinator.

Graham also needed to find a new defensive coordinator for next season, which he did with the hire of Phil Bennett four weeks ago.  Three weeks before that, Graham replaced Jay Norvell, his wide receivers’ coach, with Rob Likens, who will also serve as passing game coordinator.

All appear to be good hires, seasoned veterans with good track record of success.  Bennett is one of the most experienced college coaches in the game, with 39 years on his resume that includes a head-coaching stint at SMU.  Likens, who was the offensive coordinator at Kansas the last two years, has invested 25 years in the coaching game.

But new hires are always disruptive, especially in the top positions.  It takes awhile to get everybody on the same page again.

In addition, those assistant coaches leaving the program often create recruiting hiccups.  Those incoming recruits in which they have developed personal relationships may begin looking for another program since that attachment is gone.

A good example of that can be found right here at home where Jared Poplawski, a tight end prospect at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, flipped from his commit to ASU to sign with Colorado.  The reason: his position coach at ASU, DelVaugh Aleexander, was no longer with the Sun Devil program.  Alexander left last month to take a job as receivers’ coach at Notre Dame.

Alexander’s departure had to be particularly difficult for Graham.  Like Mike Norvell, Alexander had come to Tempe as part of Graham’s first staff prior to the 2012 season.  Alexander was the last hold-out from the original staff.