Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
ASU head ball coach Todd Graham shares inside information regarding Will Sutton, UCLA's personnel, the kicking situation and more.
ASU is looking to bounce back after getting blown out by Oregon. Coach Todd Graham believes his guys are focused on UCLA, and have moved on past last week's disappointment.
"You got to get your guys ready to play every week. It's about being mature, it's about being a competitor, if you want to be a championship team," Graham said. "Coming off a game where we didn't play well, go to the next game, and this a big important game."
Despite the nationally televised debacle, ASU remains confident heading into their Homecoming game against the Bruins. The Sun Devils are 5-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play, still atop the South division, tied with USC.
"If you lose your confidence on one game you didn't have any," Graham said. "I think our guys are very confident in their abilities, we have great leaders on this team."
ASU's main concern may still arguably be the kicking situation. Alex Garoutte missed his sole attempt, from 43 yards, against the Ducks, putting him at 6-for-11 on the season. Special teams coach Joe Lorig's other option would be walk-on Jon Mora.
"Well we are not doing very good (regarding kicking), we got to get better and have been very inconsistent," Graham said. "It's almost a deal where we have to go out there and attack it, we are kind of trying not to miss it."
The Bruins of Westwood, California come into Arizona sporting a highly potent ground attack. Running back Johnathan Franklin leads the Pac-12 with 878 yards, while also producing four touchdowns. In addition, UCLA quarterback Brent Hundley runs well, carrying the rock for 240 yards and five trips to pay dirt.
"I think they run the ball really well, he (Franklin) is a really really good running back," Graham said. "The number one thing offensively is their ability to run the football, and he is a a very physical runner."
Stopping opposing ground attacks has been problematic for ASU all season long. The task wont get any easier, especially if star defensive tackle Will Sutton is forced to miss time battling a hyper extended knee.
"As a defense you can't replace the play making ability that he (Sutton) has because he is probably one of the best in the country," Graham said. "Obviously it's very encouraging to see him out there in uniform."
If Sutton can't suit up, junior defensive tackle Jake Sheffield is the likely replacement. The pressure of filling in for Sutton should not be overwhelming to Sheffield, after serving two tours of duty in Iraq for the United States Marine Corps.
"Jake is a special young man and has an unbelievable attitude," Graham said. "He is just a great example for our team, and our guys have a tremendous respect for his service."
Speaking of defensive tackles, suspended Mike Pennel is back practicing with his ASU teammates. In Sunday's practice, Pennel worked with the scout team. The 6-foot-5 355-pound monster could help solve the Devils problems, only if his attitude complies with Graham's requirements.
"He (Pennel) has been out for three weeks, basically just an attitude deal," Graham said. "In most places he probably wouldn't have missed a day, and Coach Randolph thought he was progressing."
With UCLA heading into Sun Devil Stadium, it means the return of former Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone. This past off-season, Mazzone left the blistering heat in favor of Bruins' new head coach Jim Mora Jr. Therefore, both ASU and UCLA have extreme familiarity amongst their respective staffs.
Coach Graham wrapped it up by stating "This is the time, the end of October and November, where you decide your fate, this is what you do all that work for."