ASU football players' wishes were granted with Napier remaining on staff

Todd Graham has been let go, but offensive coordinator Billy Napier will still coach at ASU

Todd Graham may not be part of the future for ASU football, but his offensive coordinator Billy Napier and his offensive staff will remain.

Napier will not only stay as the offensive coordinator but he has also been elevated to associate head coach as well. His retention and promotion fall in line with Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson's vision of an NFL-style college football program. 

Anderson made it clear that he would like to retain some of the assistants since hiring new head coach Herm Edwards

Anderson specifically mentioned Napier as a coach that he would like to stay in Tempe.

"Manny Wilkins does not need a fourth coordinator in four years," Anderson said at his press conference last Sunday.

Many of the offensive players, including Wilkins, believes that keeping Napier as the offensive coordinator would be beneficial.

"It's self-explanatory — what we did this year was special," Wilkins said. "I think offensively we put up some pretty damn good numbers and it showed on the field how much we, as a group, just really bonded really well together, every position. I'm praying, hoping for the best."

The Sun Devils scored 31.9 points per game in 2017 and averaged 428 yards per game.

"I've learned so much football, and he's made me such a better football player, just in my mindset and how I think about the game, how I study the game," Wilkins said. "He's helped elevate my game to the next level and I'm looking forward to continue to take those steps with him."

Napier's guidance is seen in Wilkins's play. The redshirt junior signal caller threw 2,918 yards, completing 63.5 of his passes and tossing 17 touchdowns with five interceptions.

He has also been one of the best deep-ball passers in college football.

Wilkins' long ball success has plenty to do with his receivers, who have benefitted from Napier's coaching experience. 

Sophomore wide receiver N'Keal Harry had a great 2017 campaign, posting exactly 1,000 receiving yards along with seven scores. 

Harry, a five-star recruit from nearby Chandler High School, had world-class talent when he enrolled at ASU, but it was Napier who helped him mature to his current level.

"Last year in the spring, I was still a freshman. I was still thinking like a freshman," Harry said. "He (Napier) comes from Alabama so he wasn't dealing with it — he wasn't putting up with it. That's what I respect him so much for because he helped me grow as a person."

Harry's improved maturity contributed to his impressive season.

"It's just helped me in my approach, with everything, with practice, with games, acting like a professional," Harry said.

Sophomore wide receiver Kyle Williams, Harry's partner in crime, held Napier in high regard and hoped for his coach to stay with the Sun Devils. 

"It's just an honor working with him, and you can just see the genius in that coach," Williams said. "If he's able to stay, we can grow together and really take this program to the next level offensively and defensively."

Williams was a good fit in Napier's offense, as he was mainly used in short-yardage routes, but was effective in longer patterns as well. 

Napier's presence would be a welcomed consistency for Williams, who picked up 678 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season.

"It'd be awesome to bring him back just so we don't have to learn a new offense," Williams said. "Manny (Wilkins) just now is getting settled into our offense and just kind of getting used to the offense and the terminology of our offense, so it would be a bummer to learn a new offense."


Reach the reporter at mpharri7@asu.edu or follow @Harris_Mark7 on Twitter.

Like State Press Sports on Facebook and follow @statepressport on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.