ASU Football: Coaching Moves on Defense


Yesterday, the ASU football program announced the hiring of Shawn Slocum.  A former college and NFL assistant, Slocum will coach the special teams and outside linebackers.

This move by head coach Todd Graham is yet another attempt to get better production out of the special teams.  The kicking and return games have been a thorn in the side for ASU football for the last two seasons.  In 2013, the special teams for the Sun Devils was one of the worst in the PAC-12 and the nation.  It was bad enough that special teams coordinator Joe Lorig was shown the door.

In 2014, Graham brought in a long-time friend and assistant Keith Patterson to take the lead in coaching the kicking game.  The performance on special teams was improved slightly, but was still a problem with the Sun Devils.  Recall that ASU gave up a punt return for a touchdown at USC as well as a kickoff return for a touchdown against UCLA.  Both of those returns were at critical points of the game and were extremely costly.  Meanwhile, ASU has had no special teams returns of their own, with one exception:  the final special teams play of the season when Kalen Ballage took a late kickoff to the four yard line, setting up the winning touchdown against Duke in the Sun Bowl.

Most recently, Slocum was the special teams coach for the Green Bay Packers.  The meltdown against Seattle in January left Slocum looking elsewhere for work.  It was Slocum’s unit that gave up a fake field goal by the Seahawks  in that NFC Championship game.  And of course, everyone will remember the on-side kick that Green Bay bungled horribly to give Seattle a chance to tie the game in the final minutes.  On that kick, backup tight end, Brandon Bostick was supposed to block for a receiver behind him.  Instead he tried to field the ball himself and fumbled it.  The TV cameras caught Slocum vigorously admonishing Bostick on the sideline.

In any event, Slocum probably brings a lot of knowledge and experience to ASU.  As always, how effective he will be remains to be seen.

The more curious part of this hire is the fact that co-defensive coordinator Paul Randolph has been re-assigned to an administrative role.  This is curious because Randolph has been a long time assistant for Graham for years and at almost every stop that Graham has made. (Tulsa, Pitt, ASU)  The exact nature of Randolph’s new duties is still somewhat undefined.  The reason for this move is also a little fuzzy.  To this point, Devils in Detail was not aware of any concerns with coach Randolph.

Overall, this move is somewhat of a surprise, especially when you consider the timing.  Spring football practice begins in twelve days.  Coach Slocum has a lot of catching up to do to be ready.  Sun Devil fans are hopeful that he’s up to the task and can help the ASU special teams turn the corner.