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Glenn Thomas: 'I Think This is Just a Diamond of a Place'

Pressure creates diamonds. We'll see what Glenn Thomas is made of.

TEMPE -- In his first appearance in front of reporters, Sun Devils offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas sweetened the ears of ASU faithful.

"Well, just from the outside (looking) in, I think this is just a diamond of a place. I mean the city, not only the university (but) Ray (Anderson), the administration, the whole deal. I think this is just a fantastic place," said Thomas after spring practice. 

"Obviously they've had a lot of success here through the years. The recruiting, I mean there's so many layers in place that this is just a dynamic place, (I'm) excited to be a part of it."

Thomas was named as Arizona State's offensive coordinator on Jan. 31, taking over for Zak Hill following his departure due to the ongoing NCAA investigation. 

Thomas had spent the previous two seasons at UNLV where he operated as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach before making a lateral move to ASU. Thomas says the transition was easy thanks to head coach Herm Edwards already having a staff assembled for him that included new additions such as offensive analyst Brian Billick.

Thomas said, "Obviously, a benefit of me coming in already is having an offensive staff in place, so I got great feedback as far as skill set, who was here, who was returning, what they do good. I've been able to lean on that a lot to not only the film study, but just leaning on the guys that are already here just trying to learn the skill set of what's here.

"So I think that's been a huge help for me and shoot, maybe has even minimized some of the aggressiveness in film study. We've already had guys in place to maximize what they can do."

Thomas takes over an offense that searches for new starters at quarterback, running back, tight end and three spots along the offensive line. Although familiar faces are ready to step up for ASU, Thomas is still getting acclimated through the early stages of spring practice.

Thomas touched on his transition and how he's been able to meet his new players in the middle.

"I think it's been good and I think it's not only them adjusting to me, but me adjust to them. I think it's both ways," said Thomas. "I mean, I'm super conscientious so this isn't necessarily my offense. This is what we're doing. How can we collaboratively put this together and maximize everybody in place? So I think that's been good, that'll continue to improve. 

"Shoot, yesterday was my first practice too. So, you know, kind of understand the philosophy, where I'm supposed to be in a given period in practice. That's a learning curve for all of us."

Despite the tremendous amount of talent Arizona State presented on offense, the Sun Devils did a great job of limiting themselves thanks to turnovers and penalties, perhaps the most consistent part of ASU's attack in 2021.

There's been a strong conviction from Arizona State on how to alleviate those mistakes, as Edwards has already laid out the blueprint for how the Sun Devils can do better moving forward. 

Thomas admitted it's a two-way street between coaches and players.

"I think it goes on both sides. There's obviously a player element, but there's also a coaching element and we can hopefully create some consistency schematically that might help minimize some of that stuff, whether it be pre-snap, post-snap, maybe some thinking things from a coaching perspective. But from a player's perspective, it comes down to just an emphasis of focus (and making it) a priority as far as eliminating some of that," Thomas said. 

"At the end of the day, when you're in second-and-15, it's tough to get first downs when you're behind the chains and fighting uphill. So that has been a point of emphasis and we're working through them right now."

Installing an entirely new offense can be challenging on multiple fronts. When you're arriving to a new destination to coach, not personally having a grip on players and how they'll be able to translate the playbook is a challenge new coaches often face. 

How does an offensive coordinator balance getting as much information as possible to their players and not overwhelming them? It's a delicate balance that Thomas is learning on the go here in Tempe. 

He said, "From an installation standpoint, it was really nice (the transition). I think maybe historically, they've started spring ball a little earlier. And then with the timing of me here, Donnie (Henderson) here, I think they pushed it back a couple of weeks. So that allowed us to have some meetings, pre-spring break as far as an introduction to some offense. So that really helped us in installation. 

"There is a fine line. We're trying to be as aggressive as we can with the install, trying to spread it over eight, 10 or 11 days. Try to get as much as we can in but not overwhelm them. (Our goal is) at least that broad stroke of terminology we'll try to get done. So I think I wouldn't say being overly aggressive, but we're at least trying to hit all the hot topics for sure."

With running back Rachaad White (who accounted for nearly 29% of all Arizona State offensive yards last season with 1,462 scrimmage yards) out of the picture, the Sun Devils now search for a viable replacement in production. 

The running back stable has been a hot topic of discussion at ASU considering the amount of emphasis Arizona State has placed on running the rock, and 2022 again sees a talented depth chart at the position. 

Daniyel Ngata returns with the most experience at ASU out of the potential starters, while transfer running backs Xazavian Valladay and incoming recruit Tevin White also look to play a role in Arizona State's backfield next season.

"I think we have a variety of backs as far as skill set. I don't think there's one particular skill set that you'd say, 'I love to have this'. At the end of the day, are they dynamic with the ball? Whatever that skill set is, it's our job as coaches to put them in that position, whether that be they're more of a stretch player, get them to the edge (or if) they're more of a downhill, shoulder-square type runner (or) a receiver in the backfield," said Thomas. 

"All those things, whatever they are and do the best, that's our job to allow them to do and I think we have a nice room as far as a little bit of all that to be honest. We're so excited to get all those guys out there and kind of see what they can do moving forward."

At UNLV, Thomas' backfield saw a carry distribution with two different angles of attack. 

In 2020, his lead running back (Charles Williams) carried the ball 116 times with the next closest player at 61 (quarterback Max Gilliam). In 2021, there was a heavier workload for Williams, rushing the ball 254 times. The next closest player (quarterback Cameron Friel) had only 46 attempts. 

When asked whether he preferred utilizing a bell-cow running back or a committee, Thomas said the more runners the better. 

"I think you need to have multiple options. Even in the NFL these days, if you have two or three guys that can do it, just from a longevity standpoint, that bodes itself well," said Thomas. 

"I mean, it's hard to say you're gonna put all your eggs in one particular guy and then God forbid something happens (where) he's injured or whatever the case may be. So you need to be able to utilize, maybe take some reps, take some hits off of that main guy, your starter, whether there's injury involved or just a maintenance-type situation. The more guys you have, the better off obviously you'll be."

With a new offense set to take the field for ASU, all eyes are on Thomas and how he'll orchestrate the Sun Devils attack for the foreseeable future. While he wasn't able to reveal anything in heavy detail, Thomas did manage to touch on a few of his inspirations for coaching, one holding an ASU connection. 

"Dirk Koetter was a big one for me, obviously he's got Arizona State ties. He's been fantastic. Mike Mularkey in Atlanta, he was a big one for us. Those were probably the foundation," said Thomas. 

"Before I got to the NFL, it was more of a spread type and just more run-and-gun tempo. Not so much schematic, but tempo, run a bunch of plays. When I got to the NFL, those two guys probably instilled a lot schematic, sound offense in my mind, and that's kind of where I've turned my thought process in some ways."

We'll soon see how that thought process translates to the field. 

For the mean time, just know that Thomas is elated to be at Arizona State and believes something special is brewing. 

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