In the land of the Sun Devils the 2016 football season was a disaster. No way around that fact for the Sun Devils. However, as with any other football program, when spring time gets close, football teams turn the page to the New Year. On Wednesday, Arizona State turned the page to the 2017 season with their Spring Football Media Day. The Sun Devils put forth coaches and players to talk about all the possibilities about the 2017 season.
The first person up for me was N’Keal Harry. Harry had a great freshman campaign for the Sun Devils. He was one of the few bright spots for the Sun Devil team.
Question: Are you ready to be the focus of the offense?
“I wouldn’t consider myself being the guy because we have so many weapons, but I definitely see myself as a big threat to opposing defenses. Being that threat will open it up for the other guys on offense.” Harry stated.
He is a guy with goals as well.
“My own personal goals are to work on my route running and blocking. I just want to be more productive even though I had a pretty good season last year there is a lot more I can do for the team and myself.” Harry said in a matter of fact tone.
Question: Who do you want to beat the worst?
“Probably Oregon State because there are so many Chandler High teammates on that team.” N’Keal Harry stated with a smile.
I did let N’Keal know that I am an Oregon State graduate and we both shared a laugh over that, but I did ask him about why so many ex-teammates of his are heading to Corvallis.
“Seeing and talking with Markus Wheaton and Darryl Garretson probably helped a lot and when they took their visits up there that probably played a big role in the comfort level for them.” Harry said.
Next up was head coach Todd Graham.
“My philosophy has always been having four quarterbacks is a good thing. It makes it easier to recruit. We learned our lesson last year, the Pac-12 learned their lesson last year as well on having plenty of quarterbacks on rosters. We learned the lesson once we got to our fourth string quarterback. We never want to be in that position though. You look at the teams we were playing. We played UCLA and they were playing pretty good football and they lost their quarterback in our game and that was it.” Graham said.
We continued on talking about the number of quarterbacks and the injuries that the Sun Devils suffered at that position last season.
“We lost Manny, lost Brady, our third string was already gone coming out of camp, and now had to go to our fourth string. Manny played, but he wasn’t healthy at all. In fact he had three injuries the rest of the year. You can’t be in that position.” Coach Graham stated.
“I want to get back to competing for championships for 2017. That’s what I am looking forward to for 2017.” Graham stated.
I also asked him about the struggles on the defensive side of the ball. He agreed that it was a long year on that side of the ball. To be honest with the situation the coaching staff faced, the back end of the defense was hampered by a ton of injuries.
“What hurt us was we were thin in the back end and when we got injuries it became a challenge. Getting guys hurt in the secondary and being thin in the secondary is like getting your quarterback hurt in this league. It is very difficult to manage.” Graham said in an honest tone.
Sun Devil fans can only hope this talk of competing for the Pac-12 South and playing in the Pac-12 Conference Title game comes to fruition.
Next up was one of their prize recruits, Blake Barnett, who has transferred in from Alabama. He’s a big, tall player with a great arm, good feet, and just looks the part of a college quarterback. The only part I will nit-pick on is his thin body build. I know the nutrition and weight-lifting coaches will take care of that, so it’s not a huge concern right now.
Question: Why come to ASU?
“There are a lot things I look at when choosing a school. Some of the biggest factors were finding a place where I can grow as a player, person, and student. Coach Graham and the morals and integrity that he represents makes a great foundation for me as a player and as a person. We have tremendous talent and potential here. I trust Coach Graham wholeheartedly. We have coaches around us that want to impact our lives in positive ways.” Barnett said.
Question: What do you bring to the table for this team?
“The big thing I pride myself on is being able to affect people. I ask myself consciously everyday about how I have affected people for that day. Not just players, but coaches as well. I want to have them to have this competitive nature that I have. I want to help them grow. You have to earn respect and trust and that starts with getting to know these guys as people first.” Barnett said.
Blake Barnett is an impressive young man and has the chance to make this Sun Devil team special. He’s calm, cool, and collected. He’s every bit of California cool as you are going to get. Let’s hope it translates to the field in 2017.
Finally, I had a chance to talk with the new defensive coordinator of the Sun Devils, Phil Bennett. Coach Bennett comes to Arizona State with 40 years of experience and with 40 years of success. He will certainly be a welcomed sight on the Sun Devil sidelines.
Question: What brought you to the Sun Devils?
“Well, you know, I have a long time, 25 year relationship with Todd. I like his passion, my son is graduate assistant here, and I felt like I could help the team. I bring a lot to the program. I bring all my experience, schemes, and dealing with kids. You don’t ever forget that this game is played by young men. I think I bring the experience to help maximize their ability.” Bennett said.
Question: What does the renovation tell you about ASU?
“Well, it tells you that the powers to be consider athletics a vital part of the mission of this university.” Bennett said.
We continued on about the defensive collapse last season, especially in the second half of the season.
I asked Coach Bennett are the Sun Devils close to solving their defensive issues?
“Second half was a collapse. When you lose three quarterbacks, you are not going to win many games, you won’t be going to bowl games for sure. The tackling, alignment are things that I believe can be fixed.
At the end of the day we all know that all the talk in the world guarantees absolutely nothing. Plays have to be made on the field and the team has to stay healthy to have any chance in the 2017 season. The coaching staff has brought in some good talent, so for Sun Devil fans it’s a time to cross their fingers. Forks Up!