With the promotion of assistant coach Billy Napier, ASU might have figured out an interesting blueprint that just might work.
This is going to be interesting.
Make no mistake about it; Herm Edwards is the Arizona State head football coach.
This is going to be his program, and this is going to be his team, and this is going to be his coaching staff. However, when he became the most unconventional, out-of-leftfield hire of the coaching carousel season, Athletic Director Ray Anderson hinted that the assistants were going to stick around.
That flies in the face of everything a new head coach wants.
No major head man worth his salt would ever take a Power Five gig without having full control of his entire coaching staff, but when its a hire like Edwards, keeping around offensive coordinator Billy Napier and promoting him to Assistant Head Coach – along with all of the other offensive coaches – makes a whole lot of sense.
There’s still a question about whether or not Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett and his group will stick, but that’s not so much of an issue. Bennett just turned 62 – he’s not the future of Arizona State football.
Napier could be.
It wouldn’t have been entirely crazy if Napier was named the head coach after the firing of Todd Graham – early, but not insane.
He rose up the ranks as an offensive coordinator at Clemson before being a part of the Alabama coaching tree, turning into a good recruiter and strong receivers coach under Nick Saban. He’s only had one year at the offensive coordinator helm at ASU, but he’s a rising prospect in his late-30s who ASU might just want to keep an eye on to see if he really does become the next big thing.
So now, you have the young up-and-coming coach who’ll work with whoever is on the defensive coaching staff side coming into next year to do all of the dirty work, and at the top is a guy with peerless energy, motivational skills and enthusiasm.
What Anderson appears to be doing is taking the idea of finding specific skill sets for specific spots to another level. So Edwards has been out of the game for almost a decade – let Herm be Herm, and you have a media star in a Pac-12 South that now demands at least a B+ list head coach.
It’s not fair to suggest Edwards will simply be a CEO type who’ll only be a figurehead Face of the Program type of coach, but early on, it’s become clear that the more this guy is out there talking to recruits, boosters, the media, and everyone else, the better Arizona State football is going to look.
Of course, every program delegates across the board – there’s nothing new here – but its a new way of looking at things, especially among the mid-to-older coaching lifer crowd.
At some schools – Alabama front-and-center – there’s one guy. He’s it. It’s his vision, it’s his world, and it’s his team, and everyone else is just happy to be part of it. But not everyone can have that guy.
The head coach gets the $75 million contract when things go fine, and he’s on the Coaches on the Hot Seat lists when there’s a problem – Texas A&M just hired both things in the same guy. But if ASU does this right and is up front about it, it could be a blueprint for how an operation should run.
If Edwards really does become the main man who handles overseeing the operation, and Napier really does become the everything-but-gameday coach who takes care of everything else, and there’s a clear delineation about it, now you have your system. And you might have your next-coach-up.
A lot has been made about Herm Edwards’ age – he’ll be 69 when his first recruiting class is finished. And now, ASU has its audition period for the backup plan.
This isn’t like a true transition period like Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema for a year – Edwards just got hired – but Anderson is potentially getting the best of all possible worlds.
And this just might work.