Before a variety of reporters at Pac-12 Media Days in Hollywood, California on Thursday, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham set a few things straight.
He loves his new coaches, veteran players, high-tech facility and this year’s motto — “Sun Devil tough.”
Going into his sixth year at the helm of Sun Devil football, Graham seems to be the most constant figure in the program.
“Probably the most important thing I did was hire the coaches that work with our players and the personnel,” Graham said.
Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and offensive coordinator Billy Napier headlined the Sun Devils class of four coaches — which also included assistant coach Rob Sale and wide receivers coach Rob Likens.
“Every guy that we’ve got on our staff is very passionate about what they’re doing. They’re all great teachers as well,” Graham said. “We gotta get back to running the ball and playing with speed, physicality and to finish every play with passion. So that’s what you see with guys like Rob Sale and Slater and Bennett and Rob Likens.”
Graham then implied he feels his team has matured. The Sun Devils have 22 seniors, including its senior running back duo Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. Linebackers Christian Sam, DJ Calhoun and Koron Crump are all seniors as well, bringing a veteran edge to Arizona State’s defensive core.
“I like our team because it’s a veteran team. We have a lot of experience on both sides of the football, so the whole key for us is getting back to playing discipline hardcore football. I like that,” Graham said. “I think they’re a veteran bunch and I like the maturity of our team.”
One of those seniors, Sam, suffered a season-ending injury in ASU’s first game against against Northern Arizona in 2016. When a reporter asked Graham how badly he missed Sam last season, he turned straight to his new facility to speak on injury recovery and prevention.
“From a nutritional standpoint, we’ve gone from the bottom to the top on how we can take care of our players as far as how we feed them,” Graham said. “From an athletic standpoint, and injury prevention stand point, as far as our strength room, anyone who’s been in there you can see its going to have a huge impact.
“Technology wise, it’s on the cutting edge. It’s very innovative.”
With a nutritional shake bar, underwater treadmill, barber shop, strategical rooms for each position and a team wide movie theater-like team meeting room, Graham believes his new facility may be the nation’s best.
“I have looked all over the country and I believe there is not one that is better than our facility for teaching and training and innovation as far as the technology.”