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ASU Football: Graham readies Sun Devils for conference opener

(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)

As Arizona State enters the conference portion of its schedule this weekend against California Berkeley, there are two things that Todd Graham wants changed.

The team will continue to focus on rectifying the missed tackles that have plagued them to this point, and no one is going to drop the ball before crossing the goal line—a miscue that nearly cost Cal a win last weekend.

“Our guys hand the ball to the official, always have,” Graham said. “That’s just the way we do it and there’s a reason for it. You’d be hard pressed to find a time where one of our guys has scored in the last four or five years (and) they didn’t hand the ball to the official. That’s something that we started doing a while ago.”

Despite what happened in Cal’s late victory over No. 11 Texas—the situation in which running back Vic Enwere dropped the ball before crossing the goal line specifically—Graham still had high praise for the team’s coaching staff and quarterback Davis Webb.

Graham has already faced Webb once in the 2013 Holiday Bowl when the quarterback played at Texas Tech. In that contest, Webb led the Red Raiders to a 37-23 victory.

“They’re playing very well right now, they’ve improved every week,” Graham said. “I don’t really look past anything but trying to be 1-0.

“They’ve got a lot of momentum coming in here. They’ve got a good football team, well coached and very disciplined.”

As far as the tackling problem goes, Graham has still taken a reserved approach on how that can be fixed.

“We’re just working on getting better at tackling,” Graham said.

The Sun Devils will get a boost on defense this week with the reinstatement of redshirt senior linebacker Salamo Fiso.

Fiso has missed the first three games of the season due to a suspension, but Graham still expects him to play at a high level.

“It’ll be kind of like his first game,” Graham said when addressing any rust Fiso might be trying to shake off. “He’s also a veteran, so he’ll do well. I’m glad to have him back.”

In addition, Graham also mentioned that Tim White, Zach Robertson and George Lea should all be available to play on Saturday.

“I think we’ll be almost back at full strength as far as not having anyone out,” Graham said. “We’ve still got a couple of guys that need to heal up.”

On the offensive side, freshman wide receiver N’Keal Harry has started the season on a tear, posting three touchdowns in as many games.

Graham recognized the dynamic Harry has added on offense, also praising first-year receiver coach Jay Norvell for his progression.

“He’s really done a good job for us,” Graham said of Harry. “He’s continued to get better, I think he’s staying very humble and very hungry. Obviously he’s a very gifted young man. I think coach Norvell is doing a great job developing him. He’s definitely a threat for us.”

As a whole, Graham said the team remains focused heading into what will be the most rigorous portion of its schedule.

“I love this team,” Graham said. “I love their attitude. I was so proud of them Saturday, so proud of them, just the attitude and coming back.”

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