Herm adds NFL heavyweights to coach ASU’s defense

With the spinning carousel of assistant coaches shaking up the foundation of Herm Edwards‘ construction project on the Arizona State football program, the third-year head coach has wrapped himself in a comfy, old security blanket — the one with the NFL logo on it.

Edwards is an NFL lifer, having spent almost his entire 30-year coaching career in the pro ranks. The lone exception was a couple of seasons spent as an assistant coach at San Jose State three decades ago.

So it was no surprise that he turned to a couple of former NFL stars to shore up the all-important coordinator position in a defense that has been in a state of flux lately.

Marvin Lewis, who spent 16 years as the Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach, will join with Antonio Pierce, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, as co-defensive coordinators. A common denominator for the player and coach: each has a Super Bowl ring.

Pierce will retain his title as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.

Both men were already on staff when Tony White left in late December, just six weeks after being named defensive coordinator to replace Danny Gonzales. White, who had been on staff the last two seasons as defensive backs coach and passing-game coordinator, took a job offer from Syracuse. Gonzales had departed after two seasons to become the head coach at New Mexico.

So Edwards was left to begin searching for another coordinator, with the window of time leading up to spring practice beginning to close. Plucking Lewis and Pierce from his staff provided an immediate remedy. Lewis had joined the Sun Devil staff last year as a ‘special advisor’ and Pierce has been serving as the program’s recruiting coordinator.

Edwards is eager to stabilize the defensive side of his staff since he also has to replace his defensive line coach. Jamar Cain spent just one season at ASU before leaving just weeks ago to accept the job of outside linebackers coach at Oklahoma.

When Edwards finds his replacement, that person will become the sixth defensive line coach in the last six years.

But once the carousel comes to a stop, Edwards should be able to put a defense on the field next season that will enable his Sun Devils contend for a Pac-12 title.

During Lewis’ six seasons as the defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens, he built one of the best defenses in the NFL. His 2000 squad set an NFL record for fewest points allowed (165) in a 16-game schedule and was a key to winning a Super Bowl that year.

That team is still regarded as one of the best defensive units of all time. Perhaps even the best.

And next season, the architect of that famous NFL defense will be calling the shots for ASU.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)