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The Juice: Texas Tech facing role reversal against Arizona State

Todd Graham
Todd Graham (AP Images)

Three different coordinators in three years on one side of the ball. Ten total new assistant coaches over the last two offseasons. Depth issues up and down the defense. An undersized defensive line. The worst rushing offense in the league.

I'm not describing a Texas Tech team from 2012, 2014 or seemingly any season since Mike Leach's final season on the South Plains. No, that's a list of what ails Todd Graham's Arizona State squad.

For once, the Red Raiders' opponent is the one with a depth disadvantage on defense. For the first time in what seems like ages, the other team will field an undersized defensive line. For once, the team on the visiting sideline will be the one dealing with the fallout from a lack of coaching continuity.

Arizona State offensive coordinator Billy Napier is the program's third playcaller in three seasons. The Sun Devils' offensive line coach Rob Sale and wide receivers coach Rob Likens are both in their first season with the program, while running backs coach John Simon is in his second.

While wholesale schematic changes haven't accompanied the program's coordinator turnover, that's still a lot of new on the sideline for the Sun Devil offense.

Doug Haller, who covers Arizona State for the Arizona Republic, said Monday on Double T 97.3 that he thinks the program's staff changes have impacted the team's performance this season.

"Everybody has different languages," he said. "Every coach comes with different expectations and how they coach. I think it's taken a toll a little bit."

The toll on offense has been steep, in fact. The Devils have scored a total of 57 points against New Mexico State and San Diego State, and rank second-to-last in the Pac-12 in total offense per game (373.5) and dead-last in rushing yards per game (64), sacks allowed (12) and explosive plays (24).

The defense has dealt with some misfires as well under new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, mainly a staggering lack of depth.

"They're playing 12 guys on defense, total," Haller said. "I don't want to say that was a surprise because, coming into the season, I think anyone knew that depth was going to be an issue, particularly on defense. [...] They're starting two corners this year that have never played at this level; one is a junior college transfer, the other was on the track team last year. They have actually performed okay.

"We expected them, at least on third and long, to rotate in a nickelback and they haven't played any nickel at all this year. Usually, linebackers typically are out there a lot and certain standouts in the secondary and the defensive line, but there really hasn't been much of a rotation along the defensive line. They first time they subbed in their opener against New Mexico State was early in the fourth quarter and that was because there was a guy injured on the field and he had to come out."

For seven long years, Texas Tech fans endured a revolving door of defensive coordinators, assistant coaches and defensive schemes while the program regressed from the heights of 2005-09 to the fetid muck of mediocrity. Finally, Kingsbury and the Red Raiders have the stability and continuity that fans have long wanted. We'll find out Saturday if it matters as much as we all think it will.