Being young doesn’t bother Todd Graham as much as being unprepared.
The Arizona State head coach is preparing to start three true freshmen on his defense for the first time at the school in three-plus decades, but it was a sophomore junior college transfer on the receiving end of his wrath Thursday.
In the team’s final Tempe practice before traveling to New Mexico for a game against the Lobos at 4 p.m. Arizona time Saturday, Graham lit into first-team Devil backer Edmond Boateng for not making the correct reaction on consecutive walk-through reps.
Onlookers winced, knowing what was coming. But it’s what happened following the tirade that was very telling. Boateng stayed on the field with the first-group even as Graham threatened to not play him for such obvious mistakes.
There just aren’t a lot of solid options at Devil backer and Graham knows it. That’s why in the last month he moved no fewer than three players there from other positions, including one from offense, to see if they could stick. The position is still quite shaky as the Sun Devils look to replace Carl Bradford from last season.
Such concerns don’t exist in the secondary, where there is a lot more quality competition, and Graham has determined that’s part of the problem.
“I like that back there because ain’t nobody messing around because of the competition,” he said. “It’s where we don’t have that competition is where it’s kind of frustrating at times, and we have a little bit of that too that we need to mature.”
What made Graham especially frustrated is that players along the defensive front have much less to remember and execute than in the ASU secondary. He told Boateng on the field that defensive backs have to remember 30 different coverages and defensive linemen and Devil backers have to know three. It makes mental mistakes far less excusable to his way of thinking, that much was obvious.
Going on the road is a bigger challenge than playing Weber State at home, but one ASU should still handle without much difficulty, even with the Lobos using a rare triple option attack, a relic of a bygone era of football.
For Graham, it’s more so about getting his team prepared in the short span they have before a serious four game gauntlet against ranked pre-season opponents starts in Tempe against UCLA on Sept. 25.
“We’re doing good but man, we’re trying to win it all, and we’ve got a long way to get there,” Graham said.