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ASU Football: Todd Graham, Sun Devils 'poised' as team opens fall camp

Fall camp may have started for the Arizona State Sun Devils, but their journey to win this season started much earlier.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

New uniforms, same feel.

The Sun Devils debuted their Adidas practice jerseys Wednesday in their first fall practice. The new threads brought a fresh look to the team's sessions, as the players practiced in stylish gear that would have looked acceptable in play in an actual game.

Offense wore maroon jerseys with gold pants, while the defense wore white tops and maroon bottoms. The quarterbacks donned a new grey shirt.

Arizona State's new fashion was certainly a spectacle at the beginning of practice.

Everything else, though, was routine as the Sun Devils returned to work in coach Todd Graham's fourth — and arguably biggest — campaign with ASU.

It might be the first day, but the Sun Devils' opening practice — which consisted of veterans only — seemed no different than a regular-season session. Coaches yelled orders and teammates chirped all throughout the 2 1/2-hour long practice.

At the end of practice, Graham addressed the entire team for 15 minutes before he finally met with the media. Some bits were tough lectures, while others seemed more motivational.

With the amount of talent the Sun Devils have this year, the sense of urgency is there.

"This is the best looking team we've had, and I'm talking about the look in their eyes," Graham said. "Fastest, strongest, most powerful...They're very poised in and experience in how they worked in practice today.

"Today's word is elite, dominant, playmakers," Graham said.

The beginning of fall camp is far from the being the first step of the Sun Devils' journey working toward a Pac-12 Championship. With the expectations and talent set for this team, Graham admitted he changed several aspects of his team's organization over the long offseason — even some he hadn't changed since 2006.

Even with some slight modifications to the team's culture, Graham said the players responded well and called them the "most selfless" he's ever coached. Graham told an anecdote of when ASU Hall-of-Famer Darren Woodson addressed the team for 15 minutes and brought a huge influence to the group.

"I shut the door, and I said, 'Did you see that?' That's what success looks like, that's what it talks like, what it walks like.' And we have a bunch of different guys looking like that."

No player on the team embodies that model more than quarterback Mike Bercovici. Entering his fifth fall camp as finally the Sun Devils' full-time starter, Bercovici's mindset seems to be completely synchronized Graham's philosophy. He understands while the coaches are responsible for organizing the team, it's up to the players and their brotherly bond to achieve their goals on the field.

"Every day you walk in this building, you submit yourself to the team," Bercovici said. "That's what coach Graham is teaching us. We have signs in the facility: 'Big team, little me.' And it defines every single player on the team, like fifth-year seniors like myself to people who are just coming in the building. Every day, it's a reminder that this team is bigger than us as an individual, and it's amazing to see how that produces on the football field."

How much is ASU in good shape? Graham is now faced with an unforeseen, but good, problem that should make fall camp competitive and exciting.

"I would characterize our team as a whole bunch of veteran talent," Graham said. I think our freshman are very talented — the most talented group we've brought in here. It's going to be a challenge for them to get in the lineup. That's not a problem we've not had at this point."

As for the upcoming season, Graham compared achieving 15 wins as a mountain. The team worked all the way up to getting 10 wins in a season over the last three season, but the climb only gets tougher.

"When you get further up the mountain, it's harder and harder and harder," Graham said. Eight to nine wins is very close together. Nine to 10 wins, 10 to 11 is even closer. It's really steep [from there] and we talked about how we're going to get there.

"The only thing that will keep us from getting to that top of that mountain is if [we] stop," Graham said.

Devilbacker competition brewing

As expected, running back Kalen Ballage practiced on defense at Devilbacker (full story coming later). So far, Ballage is competing with Chans Cox, Jay Jay Wilson for the starting Devilbacker position.

Cox, who has not yet seen the field due to various injuries in his first two years on the team, worked out at Devilbacker with the second-team, a sign that was encouraging to Graham.

"Chans Cox had a great day," Graham said. "Looked really good, really athletic. He's healthy. I challenged him today, got after him a little bit and man, I liked what he looked like."