TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 14: Head coach Todd Graham of the Arizona State Sun Devils speaks at a press conference introducing him as the new head football coach at Sun Devil Stadium on December 14, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
With ASU's football season only three days away, Coach Todd Graham addressed the media on the upcoming season and opener against NAU Thursday, beginning with the team's quarterbacking situation.
Starter Taylor Kelly will get the majority of snaps, although Graham did state that he will ride the hot hand.
"Taylor will be the every down guy and Mike (Eubank) is going to play," Graham said. "It wont be half and half...hoping we can play 80 plus plays, I would see probably Taylor playing 50 and Mike playing about 30."
While most expect the game versus NAU to be a blowout, Graham refuses to overlook the Lumberjacks. Graham has previously been on the other end of the spectrum, and understands the importance of this game for NAU's program.
"Our focus I can tell you has been nothing but them, our deal is to start off 1-0," Graham said. "To do that we have to really focus on them, I think they are 27th in the I-AA poll."
Despite the problems NAU presents, Graham's main concerns are internal in making sure ASU players simply do their jobs. Installing the new systems has been tough, which has triggered speculation on what problems may be in store, particularly on defense.
"The thing you have to recognize is these guys have been trained in another system, some of them for three years, I see that coming back good and bad," Graham said. "They got to run our system and just not give up big plays.... you got make sure that you do not operate outside the system."
Even though Graham was not here last season, he knows a lack of discipline was the primary reason for the 0-5 finish. The Sun Devils inability to be on the same page cost them big time, including a South division title and birth in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.
"We have strained these guys hard....my take is that they relied on a lot on athleticism and not on discipline, not on scheme structure," Graham said. "We have to be dependent upon that, the structure and discipline."
Discipline is needed, yet having the starting players healthy is key to ensure execution of the schemes. Star running back Cameron Marshall has no limitations heading into the NAU game. Marshall had previously missed the last two weeks of practice due to an undisclosed injury.
In other injury news, defensive tackle Corey Adams has been ruled out for Thursday with a back injury. Running back Kyle Middlebrooks is doubtful, but could play if needed. Wide receiver Jamal Miles is 100 percent and James Morrison has a minor problem from lifting, but both players and everyone else are ready to go.
All this game talk means off-season training is finally over. Throughout countless hours of training and hard work, the anticipation is high, even effecting sleep patterns.
"I sleep about four hours a night.... probably won't sleep a lot," Graham said. "I do not see much use for sleep during football season."