(Photo: ASU Athletics)
Now in his third year as the Arizona State head coach, Todd Graham has become renowned for his ability to relate with players and squeeze out every bit of hidden potential in athletes who were either casted away from other programs or simply overlooked.
While the schemes and formations of his units are certainly conducive towards maximizing talent and finding niche roles, a great deal of that ability stems from his desire to move forward and avoid getting caught up in the significance of any moment. This is especially true as No. 17 Utah comes into town.
“We’ve got to be hungry,” Graham said after Thursday’s practice. “We’re at the top, the crest of the mountain, you can see it now. Don’t underestimate the other team. They have a lot of heart, a lot of leadership. It comes down to will. That’s the perspective I gave them. This team is hungry that we’re playing against and we have to be hungrier.”
Graham sees a similarity between his team and Utah: Both teams control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South; both teams were considered longshots to be in said position at the beginning of the season; and both teams have gone about their successes with a never-be-complacent attitude.
“You got a program just like our program, first thing I said when I walked in here, ‘We’re going to play defense.’ That wasn’t lip service,” Graham said. “We’ve had a major focus to do that and that’s what I see in their program. Their tough defensively, they do a heck of a job in special teams as well. They have just a blue collar mentality.”
Defensive Line: Marcus Hardison (End), Jaxon Hood (Nose Tackle), Mo Latu (Tiger), Demetrius Cherry (End)
Linebackers: Antonio Longino (WILL), Salamo Fiso (SAM), Laiu Moeakiola (SPUR)
Cornerbacks: Kweishi Brown (Boundary), Lloyd Carrington (Field)
Safeties: Jordan Simone (Bandit), Damarious Randall (Field)
- Quarterback Taylor Kelly was one of 17 student-athletes selected as a member of the 2014 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Class—college football’s premier scholar-athlete award.
- Utah wide receiver Dres Anderson has been ruled out for the season after suffering a knee injury. Anderson ranks fifth on the school’s all-time receiving list and has notched four touchdowns in 2014. Graham expressed his condolences for the senior receiver: “I really hate that for Dres. He’s a dynamic, explosive receiver, you hate to see that. He’s a warrior. He really impressed me last year with the heart and grit he played with so my heart goes out to him.”
- Graham also singled out two members of his defensive line in Tashon Smallwood and Demetrius Cherry: “Smallwood’s playing his best football. Cherry’s been a very steady, consistent force up there. I love coaching these guys because they’re smart, they listen. It’s been tough because they didn’t have much experience, but now they’re getting where they can execute some things that we’re excited about.”