Arizona State football may have been the second to last team to take the stage at Friday's Pac-12 Media Day but once they got there, they certainly had a lot to say. Ben Haber and myself just happened to be in the crowd and since we're no strangers to knee jerk reactions, it's time to breakdown their forum:
Ben Haber: The first thing I noticed wasn't anything new: Coach Todd Graham is ready to compete for a Rose Bowl bid. Graham said the 2013 football team will be the best squad he has ever coached. Taylor Kelly and Will Sutton embraced the heightened expectations, showcasing the progress ASU Football has made in just one season.
Cody Ulm: As evident as their well-vocalized expectations were, for me, it was more about how candid the forum was. While Graham pulled the good ol' "we were one field goal away from the Pac-12 Championship" line, he was quick to back it up by saying the team was still far away from that "dominating" level they wish to reach. For my money, that was the most refreshing quote of all. It really emphasized how much more this team can still grow and how hungry they still are even after last year's surprising success.
Ben: ASU's overall honesty was interesting, Cody. Will Sutton admitted he returned to college football mainly based on low projections in the NFL draft. On the contrary, Sutton did state his desire to accomplish some record-setting feats at ASU while leading the team into new territory success wise. Despite accumulating All-American honors, Sutton seems eager to improve.
Cody: And it's hard to believe Sutton won't at least maintain his play from last year with all the praise Graham had for him. Coach called Sutton the most intelligent defensive lineman he's ever coached as well as the most passionate defender he's ever had the pleasure to work with. Plus, there's that 20 pounds that Sutton gained. I don't know about you Ben, but from my vantage point, that certainly didn't look like "bad weight."
Ben: Honestly, I couldn't even tell the difference. But I'm not too worried about Sutton. The biggest question surrounding the team continues to be the wide receiver position. Yet coach Graham and quarterback Taylor Kelly did share that they expect a much better unit. Incoming junior college recruits Joe Morris and Jaelen Strong should see immediate playing time. And Kelly even seemed to have more confidence in the core they have pointing to guys like Chris Coyle, Kevin Ozier and even Gary Chambers. After averaging 38.4 points last season, the Sun Devil offense should be among the best in the nation if the wide receivers can live up to the hype.
Cody: Hype seems like the perfect word to end this on, Ben. Because although the Sun Devils are slowly becoming media darlings, Graham seemed set on not getting caught up in all that. Instead, he's instilled in his team that's it's about living up to their own standards; about really believing that a Rose Bowl is attainable and working towards that every day. The good news is Sutton feels that this team will have no problem with accountability. For the first time in his ASU career, the senior defensive tackle said that he doesn't have to worry about whether or not his teammates are going to do their jobs. And it's gratifying to hear that the player-to-player relationships are stronger than they've ever been. Less unified teams have been known to fold under this sort of hype over the years (cough, cough USC). After today, it's obvious the players and coaches are aware of the excitement but it's clear they're still eager to grow as a unit.