Todd Graham

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Arizona State asks fans to direct online negativity their way, not at players

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Arizona State dropped a home game last night to San Diego State, losing by a score of 30-20. A week after being pushed to the limit by New Mexico State, the Sun Devils are not off to an inspiring start in Tempe. As such, critics and fans are coming from all angles to hurl their criticisms in Arizona State’s direction, and Arizona State would like to make sure it is the recipient of those attacks rather than the players.

In the hours after the setback dropped Arizona State to 1-1, Arizona State’s official Twitter account posted an update seemingly responding to social media comments made in the direction of individual players.

Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins had three fumbles on the night, including one that was recovered by San Diego State. After the game, some fans were on Twitter suggesting directly to Blake Barnett that he should be playing ahead of Wilkins. It would be unwise to scan the Twitter mentions of Wilkins right now, which is why Arizona State’s social media team stepped in the way it did.

Things may not be going particularly well on the field for Arizona State, but venting and insulting student-athletes is pretty low of some fans. It is good to see Arizona State looking to protect their players from such animosity.

Of course, Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham has certainly been on the receiving end of a good amount of Twitter hate as well, as his seat continues to warm. There is no shielding him from the critics.

Todd Graham subtly names Manny Wilkins starting QB at ASU, says Barnett will have to win the job

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Arizona State picked up a nice addition to the depth chart with the addition of quarterback Blake Barnett this past winter. Barnett was given the chance to be immediately eligible to play for Arizona State this season rather than have to sit out a season, but he will have to get to work in order to win the starting job with the Sun Devils if Todd Graham‘s latest comments are accurate.

Speaking to media today at a facilities tour, Graham was asked about the quarterback competition. Graham not-so-subtly named Manny Wilkins the team’s starter for the 2017 season, barring any other changes between now and the start of the season.

“I didn’t make an announcement, I just didn’t want our opponent know who was going to play but I thought our opponent knew, I think everybody knew,” Graham said, referring to a season-opening game against New Mexico State. “We have a returning starter and he’s the starting quarterback until someone beats him out.”

Perhaps most notably, one of the quarterbacks who will look to knock Wilkins off the top of the depth chart will be Barnett, the transfer from Alabama who was a major recruit for the Crimson Tide not so long ago. Barnett started the  2016 season as Alabama’s official starter but lost the full-time job to Jalen Hurts right out of the gate with a shaky performance in the season opener while Hurts put on a show (and led Alabama to the national championship game). Barnett then opted to leave the program in search of a new opportunity to compete for the starting job.

“Right now, we have a starting quarterback and Blake knows he has to beat him out,” Graham said. “I’m looking forward to see that competition and a very physical, Sun Devil tough training camp.”

ASU adds former Sun Devils and Dallas Cowboys QB Danny White, ex-Wyoming coach Dave Christensen to staff

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Arizona State has announced the addition of former Sun Devils quarterback Danny White to the staff as a consultant. White, who previously played football for the Dallas Cowboys, returns to the program to help out as an ambassador for the program he once played a key role in building. It also seems to be a thrill for head coach Todd Graham.

“As a lifelong Dallas Cowboy fan Danny White has always been one of my heroes,” Graham said in a released statement. “He is one of the finest persons I have ever met. What he brings to our program and what he can do to make a difference in our player’s lives is something I am looking forward to. He will be tremendous for us.”

White played quarterback for the Arizona State program from 1971 through 1973 and played a role in leading the team to a 32-4 record, three WAC championships and victories in the first three Fiesta Bowls in the bowl game’s existence. This all helped pave the way to receiving an invite to join the Pac-8, along with Arizona, to former the Pac-10. White will not have any direct coaching responsibilities with the program but will assist with prep work and handle other responsibilities to represent the program in front of potential donors.

In addition to the White announcement, Arizona State also announced the addition of former Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen. Christensen is taking on a non-coaching consultant role with the program, bringing with him 35 years of coaching experience as a head coach and assistant.

“Dave Christensen brings a lifetime of knowledge and experience in college football to our program,” Graham said. “He’s been a part of championships and that will be invaluable to our program.”

Former Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett says he has “never compromised my integrity”

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While the fallout of the scandal within the Baylor football program continues to have a ripple effect, one former assistant coach under disgraced former head coach Art Briles continues to hold his head as high as possible as he gets ready to open the spring with a new football program. Phil Bennett, now the defensive coordinator at Arizona State, remains confident his name will not be sullied as he aims to turn a page on his career.

“The reason I’ve stayed in this business for 40 years is I’ve never compromised my integrity,” Bennett said according to ESPN.com. “[I’ve] learned every place I’ve been.”

Bennett still seems to struggle to come to grips entirely with what went down at Baylor with players accused of sexual assault and coaches actively attempting to cover things up. To date, Bennett has not been attached to any of the misdeeds that have been documented so far in Waco, and a full vetting process by Arizona State cleared Bennett for being hired to lead the defense under head coach Todd Graham.

“Obviously, he wouldn’t be employed here if he didn’t go through the vetting process and we didn’t get approval,” Graham said, per ESPN.com.

Despite a full vetting process, it will be nearly impossible for Bennett to dodge questions about what has happened at Baylor, although he will make every attempt to set his emotions aside and focus on what’s next for him and Arizona State.

“I just know what I experienced there, that’s all I can talk about,” Bennett said. “I’m trying to move to the future. Right now, anything you say stirs it up.”

Todd Graham takes blame for Arizona State’s mismanagement in Cactus Bowl

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For those who stayed up late enough to experience Pac-12 bowl action after dark on Saturday night and into the early Sunday hours, you were witness to some poor game management by Arizona State and head coach Todd Graham. Arizona State (6-7) lost to West Virginia (8-5) in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, 43-42, in part because Graham opted to kick an extra point to build a late six-point lead. Given the offensive trends in the game and the timing of the situation, going for two points was an easy call, and Graham blew it.

It’s my fault,” Graham said, accepting blame for the kicking of an extra-point instead of opting for a two-point conversion attempt with 4:56 to play. “We have a chart in the (coaches) box that we go by. We’re supposed to be going for two. We didn’t. Mismanagement on my part. That’s my responsibility.”

“Ball was snapped, kicked the extra point, tried to call a timeout. We had several things like that today. Not much to say about that—just mismanagement.”

There was more mismanagement, as Graham calls it, in the fourth quarter that resulted in a burned timeout. Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez kicked a 48-yard field goal to pull the Sun Devils to within one point of the Mountaineers in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Before the ensuing kickoff, Graham called for a timeout because Graham wanted to attempt an onsides kick but the wrong kickoff team was on the field.

“We were fixing to do an onside kick and we didn’t have the right personnel on the field,” he said. “Another mismanagement deal.”

That was quite a blunder of its own. The mistakes were there all night for Graham and the Sun Devils, such as a delay of game penalty on the first play of a drive, a false start penalty on third down that likely killed another drive that ended in a missed 40-yard field goal, and the list goes on.

Of course, you knew it wouldn’t be Arizona State’s night when plays like this were happening for West Virginia…

You can blame Graham for much more than those mental and coaching blunders (and one Arizona outlet is already calling it the lowest point of Graham’s career at Arizona State). Arizona State’s defense was ripped to shreds by Dana Holgorsen‘s West Virginia offense. The Mountaineers totaled 676 yards of offense, including 532 yards through the air by Skyler Howard (five touchdowns as well) with receivers Shelton Gibson and Ka’Raun White each going off for 100-yard nights 29 first downs.

It gets tiring watching coaches getting paid big money make such silly mistakes the way Graham made them last night.