The Arizona State Sun Devils were back in the Dickey Dome Tuesday morning for their first practice of the week. After practice, head coach Todd Graham could not stop raving about the team Arizona State faces on Saturday.
"From watching the film, we are playing a really, really good football team," said Graham about Notre Dame. "They remind me a lot of Stanford, big and physical and their defense is huge up front."
Those big physical players that Graham is taking about are Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. The two have an average weight of 330 pounds and both were All-Americans in 2012.
"They are a really, really good defense," said Graham. "They have played against Michigan, Oklahoma, Michigan State and I think they handled Purdue very well."
Todd Graham mentioned some potential defensive shifts on Monday and in Tuesday's practice we saw them.
Chris Young was back at SPUR linebacker, with Salamo Fiso replacing Young at WILL linebacker. Steffon Martin was back in the starting rotation at SAM linebacker and Carl Bradford patrolled his usual DEVIL backer position. The move forced senior Anthony Jones to the second team.
"We are working different personal groupings because of the match ups we have this week," said Graham. "Right now you have Steffon, Chris, Anthony and Salamo that will all see significant playing time."
The move is a result of the team's difficulty stopping edge running plays. Graham considers Young his best linebacker and the SPUR position helps set the edge and force running backs to cut back inside to the heart of the defense.
Both Arizona State and Notre Dame have had difficult roads to start the season. After opening with Temple, Notre Dame has played Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan and Oklahoma. The Sun Devils have faced two ranked teams in their first four games of the season.
"I like it, I think if you can stay healthy I think it makes you a better football team, when you play better people," Graham said. "Our players want to play in games like this and I want to coach in games like this, this is what college football is all about."
The Fighting Irish lost by 11 in early September to Michigan and last week by 14 at home against Oklahoma. The last time Notre Dame lost two games in a row was back in 2011 when they started the year 0-2 before winning eight of its next nine games.
"We have a tall order ahead of us, they (Notre Dame) are a lot better than 3-2," said Graham.
- Defensive tackle Jaxon Hood was in a green, non-contact jersey at Tuesday's practice. Hood did not participate in drills and it remains to be seen if he will play Saturday against Notre Dame.
- Freshman Matt Haack took reps Tuesday as the first team punter. Todd Graham reiterated the fact that Alex Garoutte will be used as the team's "rugby punter" in some situations.