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ASU Football: News and notes from Todd Graham’s weekly press conference

Todd Graham discussed the Sun Devils playing in Texas as well as much more in his weekly press conference.

Northern Arizona v Arizona State Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Anybody who has heard Todd Graham speak knows the head coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils hails from Texas.

Because of Graham’s history and relationships within the state, Texas has become one of Arizona State’s top recruiting areas, with over a dozen players on the ASU roster hailing from the Lone Star State.

“Obviously that’s my home state and we recruit there and have a lot of players on our football team from the state,” Graham said at his weekly press conference.

Saturday’s game against UTSA marks the third time in the last four years that the Sun Devils have played a game in Texas. In 2013, the Sun Devils played against Notre Dame in Dallas and ASU opened last season in Houston against Texas A&M.

Next season, the Sun Devils will play Texas Tech in Lubbock and in 2022 the Sun Devils will play a road game against Oklahoma State, which boarders Texas.

“It’s hard to recruit a place you don’t play,” Graham said. “And our third-largest alumni base is in Texas. We always have great turnouts and support when we go there. We played Notre Dame in Dallas and Houston were both great turnouts.”

In 2016, Arizona State signed three recruits from Texas, including four-star quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole. In their 2017 class, ASU already has three commitments from the Lone Star State.

“Obviously our home base is in this state (Arizona) and a gas tank away in Southern California but I think if you look at outside of our base of area, that (Texas) is a very significant area for us to recruit, Graham said.”

New Faces on Offensive Line Impress

There were plenty of standouts on the offensive side of the ball in Arizona State’s victory over Texas Tech but one unit that Graham was particularly impressed with was his offensive line.

Starting right tackle Zach Robertson was forced to miss the game with a lower leg injury and that forced RG Quinn Bailey out to tackle and starting center Stephon McCray to guard.

Junior college transfer A.J. McCollum made his first career start at center last Saturday night.

“You wanna know a person I’m excited about? I’m excited about A.J.,” said Graham. “A.J. played really well. The physicality he played with, we were really knocking them (Tech) off the football.”

The two primary statistics that an offensive line is judged off of are sacks allowed and rushing yards. Against Texas Tech, Manny Wilkins was not sacked one time and ASU tallied 301 yards on the ground.

“With four new starters up front, the potential of that group is extremely high,” Graham said.

Sun Devils on the Move

Arizona State is working with a new technology this season that helps track their players during games. There is a chip implemented in the shoulder pads of ASU players that tracks the distance the players are moving throughout the game.

“Our two corners (Gump Hayes and Kareem Orr) in that game did the equivalent of four miles,” Graham said. “Where you are going to feel the effects of that is not in week four, five and six. It’s in week eleven, twelve and thirteen.”

Graham said that with this new technology they might change practice habits and the amount of times they sub players during games.

“We might need to have Kareem cover a few less punts or a few less kicks or maybe on first down we sub him out,” Graham said.

Besides the ASU defensive backs, Graham noted that tight end Kody Kohl, wide receiver Tim White and running backs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard are all covering over four miles per game.

Notes

  • The September 24 game between ASU and Cal will kickoff at 7 p.m. PT and be televised on ESPN2.
  • Kalen Ballage, to nobody’s surprise, has won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. Ballage was also named to the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll and also honored as the Rose Bowl Game Pac-12 Player of the Week, and CBS National Player of the Week.
  • Graham told reporters that Jay Jay Wilson is expected back this week and they “hope” to have RT Zach Robertson available for Friday’s game. Linebacker Salamo Fiso is not going to play Friday but could return for the start of conference play on Sept. 24.