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ASU Football: Program expectations remain the same for Todd Graham in 2014

ASU media day was Saturday, here's what Graham had to say.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

Lose the Pac-12 Championship Game. Lose the Holiday Bowl to Texas Tech. Lose nine starters on defense. Upon first glance, that's an awful lot of "losing" headed into this season. But Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said at the team's media day that the expectations, attitude and goals of the program this season are no different.

"Good programs and great programs: They reload, they don't rebuild," Graham said. "Anything less than being a Pac-12 champion is unsatisfactory. I come here to win championships. I'm not interested in anything else."

Graham certainly has a lot of confidence, which is no secret to those who have watched this program closely since his arrival in 2012. He loves to speak in superlatives: "the best" practice, "the best" player, but he is still grounded in reality about what the team will face this season.

"There is no substitute for experience, I'm not downplaying that we graduated some really good people," Graham said.

But one legacy over the past two years has been that the Sun Devils aren't yet a powerhouse, but have garnered some national prominence. This was evidenced in the Sun Devils selection as the No. 18 team in the country in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

"A lot of coaches come in and say 'oh that stuff is not important.' Yes it is. To be picked 18th in the country? That's respect, that's expectation," Graham said.

It's how Graham and his team deal with those expectations that will define how successful the 2014 season will be. The Sun Devils could be squashed under the pressure of a top-20 ranking and a program on the rise, or could rise to the occasion. While some might be satisfied with an eight-win season for the maroon and gold, that's not anywhere remotely close to where Graham's head is at.

"I have the same mindset that I did two years ago, our mindset is going to be about winning championships," Graham said. "We were able to be Pac-12 South champions last year but that's short of what our goal is, we want to be in that championship every year, but we want to win it."

Graham has said time and again over the past week that the talent is there to have success, it's just a matter of developing it to where the coaching staff wants it to be. He's moving a lot of pieces around right now and admitted on Saturday it's probably frustrating his coaching staff a lot.

Although it is an inexperienced group with a lot of young players, Graham is doing what every coach should do, putting a lot of pressure on himself and his staff in this first week to adapt the schemes and sets they're teaching the players on the practice field to fit the players' best abilities.

The following week should tell a lot about where this team is headed, not only because of Camp Tontozona, but coaches have now given players the tools they need to succeed with all the packages installed. It's up to the players to go out and execute what they've been taught, and prove they belong on this team.

"Right in around this week and a half, two week area, either they shut down or they get it," Graham said. "This is kind of a critical time."

Media day notes

  • The team scrimmaged this morning with Pac-12 officials present, Graham said the team had nine or 10 penalties when usually it's only about four. Mike Norvell mentioned in passing that wide receiver Cameron Smith participated in the scrimmage today.
  • Graham mentioned Salamo Fiso and Marcus Hardison as players that had great scrimmages.
  • A phrase Graham has used no less than four times in the past week talking to the media? "Service mentality."
  • "I think one of the great challenges we have this year is how can we make our quarterback better, because we don't want him to be what he was last year, we want him to be the Pac-12 championship quarterback," Graham said.
  • Graham opted for flip-flops instead of alligator boots for media day.
  • Graham: "I like coming in and being picked top-20 in the country."
  • Talking to Mike Norvell, he mentioned that he would also like to see D.J. Foster get 20-30 touches per game, but they didn't all have to be on the ground.