Many viewed Todd Graham’s first season as a breath of fresh air and a pleasant surprise.
Graham took over for a defeated Dennis Erickson following the 2011 season and led Arizona State to an 8-5 record which included a come-from-behind win over Arizona in Tucson and a blowout bowl victory against over-matched Navy.
This fall the expectations are higher and the challenge even greater as the Sun Devils look to navigate a brutal early-season four-game stretch which includes Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame. Three of the four played in BCS games last season.
“This is an attempt to put ASU on the map,” ASU quarterback legend and College Football Hall of Famer Danny White told Brad Cesmat in a recent interview on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “That’s what you have to do. Your non-conference schedule can’t be against NAU. You can’t be playing the West Texas State’s. Teams like that are just w’s for the schedule.”
The former Mesa Westwood High star said it’s easy for schools to dumb-down their non-conference to pad their record and ensure a bowl bid but you’re not enhancing the image of your program or making the younger players better competing against sub-par competition. He warns playing an enhanced non-conference schedule is a risk-reward situation, especially if the Devils stumble out of the blocks. They have a bye the first week of the season before hosting Sacramento State on September 5th.
The Devils return a slew of playmakers on both sides of the ball including junior quarterback Taylor Kelly, tight end Chris Coyle and running backs D.J. Foster and Marion Grice. The defense is anchored by senior All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton, along with fellow pass-rush specialists Carl Bradford and Chris Young.
White applauds Vice President for Athletics Steve Patterson and Graham for raising the bar with ASU football.
“This is not going to be a third, a fourth or fifth-place team. That’s not going to be acceptable anymore. We will know after the first month of the season what we got with the ASU football team. I love it.”