Todd Graham has been busy at work since being hired as ASU's football head coach in mid-December, doing everything from recruiting to contacting to current players to meeting with boosters. He's been all over the place, and right now his biggest task will be to breathe some life into an ASU football program that ended last season on a disastrous note.
So what's Graham thinking about these days? Craig Morgan of FoxSportsArizona sat down with him for an interview. Highlights follow after the jump.
FS Arizona: How much of an emphasis will you place on local recruits vs. national recruits?
Graham: Our plan is to win and get the best and brightest in Phoenix, then the best and brightest from Arizona. That doesn't mean we won't recruit anywhere else. It's about priorities. To me, the key to recruiting is relationships and knowledge. So if a kid's right down the street here at Chaparral, we're going to know more about that kid. People in the community are going to know everything about him. The further you move away, the more margin there is for error.
Can we nationally recruit? Can we go to Texas, my home state, and recruit? You're darn right we can, and we will. But you've got to hang your hat on something, and I think football in this state is really good. I'm looking at the film. The kids we're recruiting here right now are difference makers, not just for Arizona but for the whole country.
Graham's success at ASU could very well be defined by his ability to recruit. He's certainly made an effort to reach out to the community in Arizona- and especially Phoenix- as certain Phoenix coaches have reported that they can't recall the last time ASU was this active with local athletes. Right now Graham's big target is Saguaro running back D.J. Foster, who is currently choosing between ASU, USC and Cal right now. A committment from Foster would do wonders for Graham's program at this early stage.
Graham also talked about ASU's quarterback situation, now that Brock Osweiler has declared for the NFL Draft:
FS Arizona: What have you seen from your remaining QBs?
Graham: Character. I talked to everyone in the building, and they talk about their tremendous character. When it comes to character, work ethic and discipline, they've got to be at the top, and all three of those guys are. We have a good problem. We have three really talented guys who can flat spin the ball.
It will be interesting to see who emerges from the pool to take over ASU's starting job. Graham wouldn't give any hints, and the loss of Texas recruit T.J. Millweard to UCLA earlier this week further limits ASU's deciision. This will be a very important issue to watch moving forward into the 2012 season since choosing the right QB will be instrumental in running ASU's offense.
Or maybe not:
FS Arizona: How does your 'high-octane' offense differ from what Noel Mazzone ran last year?
Graham: The tempo is probably faster, but we are much more of a run-first mentality or a run, play-action team. We want to be able to establish the run. We were fifth in the country in 2008 rushing the football. We were 15th in 2010. We were leading the country through six games last season until our tailback got hurt at Pittsburgh. There are similarities, and they did a very good job here offensively last year, but there will be a little more run in it, because if you pass the ball every down and you're going fast, your defense is going to play 80 plays. Our desired balance is 80-plus plays on offense, 65 plays on defense.
This is good news for Cameron Marshall, Deantre Lewis and all of the other Sun Devils who figure to see some time at the running back position. Marshall exploded for 1,050 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns last year, stats compiled in an offense that threw the ball a lot with Osweiler. Who knows what he and the explosive Lewis could achieve given more touches?
No matter how you look at it, ASU football is in a period of transition. From the quarterback situation to the head coach and everything in between, the Sun Devils are preparing themselves for a new era behind Graham. He has a lot of decisions to make and people to talk to before ASU hits the field in September. For now, we'll have to see how he does on the recruiting front in the coming weeks.
You can find Morgan's full interview with Graham here.