The practices are winding down, the preparation is coming to a close, and at last, Todd Graham has spoken. The Sun Devil head coach addressed the media on Monday morning and shared his thoughts about how his team has progressed so far.
Here's a recap of some of the highlights from Graham's press conference.
On Having a Bye in Week One: "I think they're ready to play. I don't know if I've ever had a bye week in the first week. I do think that it's been a positive for us because we've had a lot of newcomers and a lot of injuries and things like that. Our guys are ready to play."
On Improving: "I've got 15 players that we call it our leadership council and we're working every day for those guys to do two things. That's have a great attitude every day and give great effort every day. And if we can do that, then we've got a chance. The key for us is to get more disciplined every day and to continue to develop that selflessness that it takes to have a great team."
Every day that we make our top five players better, our football team gets better.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) September 2, 2013
On the Pac-12: "That's one thing about having the first week off, I got to watch all of the other teams play and this conference is definitely better than it was last year. Whatever you did last year is not going to get it done this year. It's no question, teams are better, more talented."
On Facing an FCS Opponent: "I've been on that side of the deal a lot in my career coming from mid-major programs. I know how we prepared and went about doing it, it's your entire season. I don't really coach from that standpoint. I haven't really told our players, 'You better get prepared, you're going to get beat.' The key is, one, you have no excuse. We have no excuses. This is a game we should win."
On Coaching in Year Two: "One of the things that has been a positive for me is that I've been a part of quite a few transitions. In doing that, I've learned a lot. What kind of happens is like getting a new boss. They come in, they establish how they're going to do things, who we're going to be, and then everyone gets kind of used to it. We adjust and move forward. That's kind of where we're at. We said here's the standard, here's how we're going to do things. But what everybody has to understand is that was just a minimum standard. Now we take it and we move the standard up even higher than that."
The standard is higher this year across the board. The best players need to continue to improve.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) September 2, 2013
On a Contract Extension: "Things are going well, that's about all I can say right now. I'm committed to be here, I think the people here know how I feel about this place. This is a place that I want to put my name on and stamp it on. I plan on being here for a long time."
Graham: "I'm after Frank Kush's win record. It's going to be awhile."— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) September 2, 2013
On Playing Freshmen: "On defense, I don't think any (will play), possible some on defense in the depth. On offense, I think E.J. Jefferson is going to play. I think depending on where Cam (Smith) is, you know he had that muscle strain, but I think he will play this year. I think it will depend, kind of on how his development goes, with Ronald (Lewis). I think that Zane Gonzales is going to start. Right now it's back and forth with Matt Haack and (Dom) Vizzare. So not very many. I think Marcus Ball would have probably started if he wasn't hurt."
On Interacting With Fans: "I want to invite all of our fans to come out for the Devil Walk. That's something that I want to keep growing. Each of our players has an autographed football, we're going to do bigger ones this year. That's for students, fans, everybody to come out and be a part of. That's really for our fans, we do our walk for our fans and interact with them. That's something that I like the tradition of those type of things.
On his Pregame Ritual: "The only big kind of ritual that I have is I eat a hot dog. I've always done this, I'm telling you I've had some great hot dogs. This year, I'm trying to lose weight so I'm not supposed to be eating those. Anyway, what I do is have our GA (Grad Assistant) and usually it's our GA that works with me and he'll go out and here it's Butter. He tries to go and taste and find the best brat or hot dog he can find and he brings it back to me. And then I have the stadium's popcorn. I tell people the best hot dog I've ever had is in the North end zone, there's a little hot dog stand outside at Notre Dame, it's unbelievable. There's a pretty good hot dog at Army, Florida State's got a pretty good brat, so that's the only thing that I do."
Graham wants to keep game day talks to less than 90 seconds. Otherwise, staff is doing too much.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) September 2, 2013
On Sacramento State: "Their quarterback is very very efficient. In the first game, I don't think their offense was indicative of how good they are. They put up more than 400 yards per game last year. They had the ball inside the five-yard line and got no points last week. Then they missed two field goals. They had four scoring opportunities. A very good wide out, they have these scat backs...Just like any team, they've got good skill players. I think they do a heck of a job coaching on offense."
Damarious Randall and Joe Morris could play Thursday. Graham thinks Morris will play in a limited capacity, Randall likely won't.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) September 2, 2013
Graham: D.J. Foster has made the greatest jump from last year of any Sun Devil.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) September 2, 2013
Graham says he'll watch USC, UCLA and Arizona every week.— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) September 2, 2013