Devils Den Blog

Grinning Like Sparky


It is only January 17, 2012, and there has already been some great football this calendar year:

  • Alabama worked LSU to win the BCS National Championship.
  • The Denver Broncos ran all over the vaulted Pittsburgh defense to an upset Wild Card victory.
  • The Giants soundly defeated the Falcons at home.
  • The 49ers forced five turnovers en route to beating the hyped New Orleans Saints.
  • Finally, the Giants went into vaunted Lambeau Field and dominated the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers on the frozen tundra.

As we watched all of these games, we could not help but grin about Arizona State and new head coach Todd Graham.  The new boss in Tempe is going to bring an entirely new atmosphere to ASU football.  In his opening press conference, Coach Graham talked about making relationships with current players and recruits, as well as wanting to recruit hard locally.  Well, he is already following up on those words with pursuit of running back DJ Foster, safety Reggie Daniels, defensive tackle Jaxton Hood, linebacker Zach Hoffpauir, and most of the other top Arizona recruits.  Additionally, most of the top high schools have had a visit in person from an ASU coach – something the previous regime didn’t do.  So why not smile as big as Sparky while watching these huge football games and comparing these teams and their key traits to what Coach Graham wants to bring to Tempe.

“Discipline” . . . . like how Alabama committed one penalty in the championship game.  Or, of the eight teams playing in divisional weekend, the most penalties committed were 5 by the Broncos.  The other seven teams had these totals:  0, 3, 2, 3, 0, 3, 3

“Play with a very physical nature” . . . . the NFL playoff teams remaining are some of the toughest teams in the NFL and their offensive and defensive lines own games. The 49ers and the Giants practically gave an all day Sunday clinic on how to own the offensive and defensive lines.

Then there is a new offense focused on power, dominating the war in the trenches, and utilizing a tight end, something former offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone offense never used.

We have seen big games from Vernon Davis, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez.  Vernon Davis scored the game-winning touchdown by smoking one on one coverage with a linebacker.  During the 3rd quarter, Jimmy Graham broke down one-on-one coverage against a linebacker and scored a touchdown over the middle.  Then in the fourth quarter, Graham, a former college basketball star like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, destroyed a safety on a vicious block during the Darren Sproles receiving touchdown.  Gronkowski and Hernandez ARE the Patriots offense, moving all around the formations, waiting for Tom Brady’s perfect passes.

These four players represent the new age of the tight end, where teams are using extremely big athletic and adaptable players to exploit mis-matches.  It’s simple . . . these new tight ends are too big and strong for safeties and too fast for linebackers.  Coach Todd Graham is hoping to do the same thing with his two new JUCO signees Nate Ingram and Darwin Rogers as well as redshirt freshman Josh Fulton and possibly junior Chris Coyle, who spent 2011 in a WR role.

Consistency, discipline, toughness, and extremely athletic and explosive tight ends are keys to this seasons successful post-season teams in both college and the pros, and they are part of what Todd Graham wants to bring to the Sun Devil football program, which leaves us smiling like Sparky in the Devils Den.

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