With four quarterbacks vying for the starting job at Arizona State and four new offensive linemen set to defend said TBA QB, head coach Todd Graham recently noted that his team is best served offensively by not overthinking things.
Oh yeah, a new offensive coordinator is in the mix as well, just in case there wasn’t enough uncertainty on that side of the ball.
“The key for us is just not doing too much with four new starters on the offensive line,” Graham said. “Keeping it simple ... That’s going to be key for us. We adapt what we’re doing schematically and keep it simple.”
Graham likened the quarterback competition to the one he inherited when he came in for the 2012 season. Brady White, Bryce Perkins and Manny Wilkins all worked in the spring. And the team has Dillon Sterling-Cole coming in later this summer.
You might recall that heading into the spring of 2012, it was Mike Bercovici and/or Michael Eubank who were the favorites. Taylor Kelly was a distant third. We know how that one turned out.
Graham also said this isn’t the first time he’s had to replace four starters on the line, mentioning that he faced a similar situation one season at Tulsa.
“We recruited all of [the quarterbacks]. All of them can extend plays and are athletic and are more of the mold of being to extend plays like Taylor was,” Graham said. “We’re excited about that attribute. Now, none of them has thrown a pass or done anything in a game.”
That’s where new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey comes in. He replaces Mike Norvell, who went on to become the head coach at Memphis, and brings with him a reputation for developing quarterbacks. But while coaching them up, Lindsey will also have to account for the new faces on the offensive line.
“What’s been great about it for us offensively, we haven’t had to change any terminology,” Graham said. “We haven’t had to do really anything different other than really return to our traditional values of the program ... So for us, it’s not holding the ball and not putting too much pressure [the line] and run the football. The good news is we’ve got some pretty good backs and some pretty good receivers and I think some really athletic, smart quarterbacks.”
Headlining that group is running back Demario Richard, who rushed for 1,098 yards last season on 209 carries with seven touchdowns. He also added three scores receiving. With Kalen Ballage as a solid change-of-pace back and Tim White and Cameron Smith on the corners, the Sun Devils should have plenty of guys to get them into the end zone. Since joining the conference, Graham’s teams have never finished worse than fifth in the conference in scoring offense.
“You really have to be adaptive and you’ve got to stay healthy,” Graham said. “What I mean is that this league is constantly evolving and I think they key to winning this league is being able to run the ball, being able to stop the run and win the explosives.”
Asked if he’s against playing multiple quarterbacks, Graham said he “wouldn’t rule anything out.” In his first season, they had special packages for Eubank, who had four passing touchdowns and three rushing in 2012.
He said it will be full-steam ahead with the playbook for the quarterbacks, but tweaks will be made to protect his line.
“We’ve got four bright guys, that’s something we don’t have to scale back for,” Graham said. I think the things we’ll scale back on is making sure we’re not putting too much pressure on our offensive line.”