Ladies and gentleman, we have entered the first week of Sun Devil football. ASU head coach Todd Graham took the podium on Monday to discuss his team’s matchup against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, and what he expects to see from his opponent and his team. Below are the key quotes from today’s presser.
“I expect a good game from (NAU). I know their coaching staff—they’re very well coached. That (Emmauel) Butler kid at wide receiver, he’s very, very dominant. Him and Case (Cookus), the quarterback, they’ve got this kind of know-where-the-ball-is-located deal. They’re explosive.”
Following the implementation of a pro-style, no-huddle offensive scheme, the Lumberjacks’ offense, well, exploded. Cookus threw for 3,117 yards and 37 touchdowns. His favorite receiver, Butler, caught 62 passes for 1,208 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Graham called the NAU offense explosive, saying that their offense makes them a formidable opponent. Cookus has a strong arm, and with playmakers like Butler and Elijah Marks they pose a legitimate threat to an ASU defense—particularly its secondary—that is still under construction.
On Naming a Quarterback
“Obviously, two guys that we have a lot of confidence in. We probably won’t do anything, but let coach Lindsey let me know when he wants to do that. Our guys know who our guy is.”
Graham was mum on regarding the quarterback situation, aside from reiterating that the team has an understanding of who the starting quarterback will be come Saturday.
It’s possible Manny Wilkins will be the starter after receiving a majority the initial first-team reps throughout the previous week. Graham said that Wilkins has displayed great maturity since first arriving in Tempe, noting that he’s worked hard in the classroom and off the field.
On What He Expects
“I want to see our guys perform at a high level. For our guys...it’s game time.”
Graham said that he’s excited for his team to take the field, however they need to put together a complete game in order to defeat NAU.
On A.J. Latu’s Improvement
“I always tell him he’s one of my favorite players on defense. Just the passion with which he plays. He’s a starter. He’ll be a guy—he and Koron Crump—at the DEVIL position. He’s a guy that just brings it with passion.”
Latu was named as a co-starter at DEVIL on the team’s first official depth chart alongside Crump. Defensive end JoJo Wicker worked out at the position during the preseason, however has seemed to move back to his natural end role, allowing Latu and Crump to slot in.
On Facing Cal Poly Last Season
“That triple-option/wishbone (offense) is a challenge. Just because that game was a game we struggled in, it had more to do with their scheme, and they were really good at executing that scheme. It’s a very difficult scheme.”
Graham said that last season’s 35-21 over the Mustangs wasn’t necessarily a fluke—just that the opposition’s style of play caused his unit fits.
This time around, the Sun Devils’ FCS-level opponent will feature an offense he’s generally more familiar with facing. Regardless, Graham was insistent that his team must execute at a high level in order to come away with a victory against NAU.
On Zane Gonzalez and Matt Haack
“Those guys have been great leaders for us in the kicking game.”
Gonzalez, who led the country in touchbacks last season, is a weapon Graham doesn’t take for granted, as he currently stands as ASU’s all-time leading scorer. Haack, who averaged 43.1 yards per punt last year, has served as a consistent weapon for ASU in a phase of the game Graham sees potential improvement.