ASU cornerback Chase Lucas strolled into the Sun Devils practice facility Thursday with his beanie on. He quickly realized he was inching close to the danger zone with head coach Todd Graham. The rising redshirt sophomore cornerback started to take his beanie off, but there was one problem.
Todd Graham isn’t his head coach anymore.
So, instead of getting yelled at by Graham for having it on, as he said happened in the past, Lucas’ new head coach was kind of wondering why he took the beanie off.
“What are you doing?” ASU head coach Herm Edwards said to Lucas.
Lucas, perplexed by the change in philosophies by his two head coaches responded: “Oh, alright man.”
That instance is just one small example of the substantial differences between the last two ASU head coaches, and after speaking with Lucas for just minutes, it’s easy to see which philosophy he favors.
“You go from a coach like coach Graham, where it’s strict discipline, and you have a coach coach Herm, which is like you’re free,” Lucas said. “You have your own swag, you get freedom.”
Lucas, who is known for having a fun, outgoing personality, said Edwards is just “one of the guys” while noting that Graham is a “hard person,” who’s very disciplined.
That was one of the things that Graham prided himself on, though. Having a team that exemplifies hard-core discipline and toughness and doesn’t make dumb mistakes on the field — which contributed to ASU being fourth in the country with only 3.85 penalties per game last season.
But according to Lucas, many of the Sun Devil players weren’t too fond of Graham’s discipline.
“Looking back on it, everybody was so scared of Graham but they weren’t scared,” Lucas said. “We just didn’t want to mess up so we couldn’t play.”
The Chandler High School alum then compared that to Edwards and his staff, most of whom have extensive playing experience and have been in Lucas’ and other ASU player’s shoes.
He said that makes the coaching staff more patient, allowing each player time to fix their mistake before pulling the plug on their playing time and practice spot.
“You’re going to make mistakes and if you make the mistakes you have to understand that you have to fix them,” Lucas said. “And if you don’t fix them, then you’re not going to be able to play. With Graham, it was like, ‘ok, you made a mistake – alright, get out.’”
Edwards understands that it can’t be all football, all the time. Lucas said that the first-year ASU head coach told the team that he’s going to be in the locker room “joking with you guys.”
“I’ll be joking with Coach Herm and he’ll be joking with me right back,” Lucas said. “I’ll say something smart to him and he’ll say something smart right back.”
Now, as Lucas was quick to point out, having that personality from a coach, which sets the tone for the overall personality of a team, doesn’t take away from football and getting work done on the practice field and in the film room.
The CEO role that Edwards was hired into was scoffed at in droves, and the amount of coaching he would actually do was questioned. After just a week and a half of observing Edwards’ practices, though, anyone can quickly see that he’s hands-on, especially with the defense.
Chase Lucas getting some 1-on-1 coaching from Herm pic.twitter.com/7vocm5k10I— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) March 20, 2018
Many players, including running back Eno Benjamin notice vast differences between Graham’s practices and Edwards “NFL style” ones.
“It’s not necessarily as intense,” the rising sophomore said about his new coach’s practices in comparison to his old coach’s. “But we’re still getting the same amount of work done.”
Lucas echoed Benjamin’s statement about the 63-year old’s efficient practices: “He doesn’t want to be out at practice for three and a half hours. He wants to be out there, get our work done and get on with our day.
“When it’s work time, it’s all work. But when it’s time to joke and play, there’s always time to joke and play.”
Whether they’re talking to the media or out on the practice field, the Sun Devils seem free — free to talk to teammates, free to tell jokes, free to wear beanies. It’s a system where the coaches instill a bevy of trust in the players, and as a result, the players feel more accountable for their mistakes.
A prime example of this came on Thursday. Lucas, who was named a Freshman All-American last season, was caught “loafing” seven times in the film of Tuesday’s practice. Those loafs turn into “perfect-10s” or 10-yard sprints for the defense and Lucas himself racked up as many as the entire linebacking unit.
Lucas told defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales that he wanted to run them all while the rest of the defense watched him. Gonzales stepped back, according to Lucas, and told everyone what Lucas wanted to do, but everyone still got on the line and ran them.
“Everybody has a piece of the defense,” Lucas said. “If you don’t complete that piece, then we need to find someone else. I feel like it’s everybody loving together.”
Although it hasn’t even been two weeks since spring football started, the players seem fond of the stylistic coaching change. Edwards’ flexibility is creating opportunity for his players, and who wouldn’t want that?
“I’ve loved Arizona State since I got here,” Lucas said. “But, now, I really love Arizona State.”