Spring football is often a time when newer players are afforded opportunities to make their mark, but this spring, it's one of Arizona State's coaches who is becoming a breakout star.
Newly hired defensive coordinator Keith Patterson came to Arizona State's staff merely a month ago, and the former West Virginia assistant has made the most of his time in the desert. Patterson is one of the most vocal coaches on the field this spring, and the energy and enthusiasm he brings to practice is apparent in every drill.
A former roommate of coach Todd Graham's, Patterson's relationship with the Sun Devils' head honcho goes back more than 30 years. Patterson understand's Graham's style of coaching, and his transition to the staff has looked seamless so far.
"When I see him, it's a mirror of myself," Graham said. "Except the thing that he brings that you don't see out here, is that he'll stand up and tell me exactly what he thinks and is not afraid to do that."
Patterson's presence is a welcome addition for Graham, who admits that he needs a system of checks and balances to succeed. In bringing Patterson to the program, Arizona State found a coach who can help make critical decisions in the heat of action.
"We have that kind of trust and relationship," Graham said. "I don't know that other than Gris (Shawn Griswold), if there was another person that would do that."
The pair plans on working closely together to put the defense in positions that will help cut down on boundary runs and provide an emphasis on rushing the passer. On Thursday, Patterson and Graham experimented with a variety of looks up front that switched the Devil backer, nose guard, Tiger, and end around against different offensive formations.
These changes are a direct result of Patterson's defensive knowledge, but also of the Sun Devils' adaptations to their personnel. Graham insisted the Sun Devils would experiment, and with young players like Chans Cox, Viliami Latu and Edmond Boateng ready to be molded, Graham is hoping Patterson can find ways to maximize production from the front line.
"He (Patterson) is going to initiate the play call up front and handle the run defense and until I stop having a pulse, I'll be involved defensively," Graham said.
Patterson is primarily responsible for coaching the linebacker group during individual drills, but Graham also brought him in to work with the special teams units. This week, the Sun Devils have spent an extended amount of time working on kickoff coverage and kickoff return schemes and Patterson has played a significant role in shaping those drills.
"What he brings, coaching kickoff return, his expertise, and coaching the blocking scheme up front," Graham said in outlining Patterson's special teams' duties. "Kickoff cover, he'll also run kickoff cover for us."
Patterson appears to be making the right moves so far, but time will tell as he has a considerable amount of work to do if the Sun Devils want to shore up their special teams issues. The passion is evident, and now the coaching staff is hoping that the drive Patterson brings on a daily basis will transfer over to the players.
- Arizona State looked at a number of different fronts on Thursday including some schemes where the Sun Devils flipped their front from last year. Chris Karpman of ASUDevils.com pointed out last week that the Devil backer and Tiger were aligned to the wide side of the field in the flipped front, and that puts the nose tackle and the end on the boundary side.
- Graham said earlier this spring to expect adjustments to put players in better positions to succeed, and the flipped front featured top pass-rusher Marcus Hardison rushing the quarterback from the boundary side of the field as a nose tackle.
- The Sun Devils looked at some defensive fronts that featured both Chans Cox and Viliami Latu on the field at the same time with one playing end and the other playing Devil backer.
- Christian Westerman took repetitions with the first-team offensive line for the second straight practice, but is still seeing the majority of his repetitions as the second-team left guard.
- Marcus Ball is still wearing a green non-contact jersey, and still taking a considerable share of repetitions at boundary safety with the first-team defense.
- On kickoff return, Arizona State used Viliami Latu to set the wedge, and Salamo Fiso and Alani Latu came back to join the wedge.
- The first-team kickoff returners were Kyle Middlebrooks and Jaelen Strong. The second-team returners were Deantre Lewis and Damarious Randall.
- Marcus Washington recorded a sack during a team period today. Washington switched to the defensive side of the ball to play Spur on Tuesday and after his sack today, Todd Graham jumped on Washington's back to celebrate.