Graham, Erickson share mutual respect on, off the field

Dennis Erickson didn’t necessarily need to get a head start watching game film preparing for Saturday’s game against Arizona State.

After all, Utah’s first-year offensive coordinator recruited several of the Sun Devils key players defensively like Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Alden Darby and others. Not to mention a handful of offensive players including quarterback Taylor Kelly, tight end Chris Coyle and offensive linemen Kevin Finkenberg and Kody Koebensky.

The present will meet the past this weekend in Salt Lake City.

Erickson’s five-year tenure as ASU’s head coach ended late in November of 2011 after the Devils 6-2 start was washed away with four-straight losses to end the regular season and a lop-sided bowl loss to Boise State which would be the last time he paced the ASU sidelines. His career record was 31-31.

After a year away from coaching college football, Erickson re-surfaced on Kyle Whittingham’s staff and has jump-started a dormant Utes’ offense which has struggled since joining the Pac-12.

He insists this weekend is just another game and there’s no extra motivation to beat the school which fired him a little less than two years ago.

“No, really it doesn’t,” Erickson told The Deseret News earlier this week. “It’s us against them-University of Utah against Arizona State…so we’ve got to have a good plan and see what happens.”

On the opposite sideline will be Graham who not only respects Erickson’s character and how he handled the transition from ASU but realizes he and his entire staff have benefited from the talented players he inherited from Erickson.

“When I was hired he was very gracious,” Graham said Monday at his weekly press conference. “I asked for the opportunity to meet with him and he visited with me. Nothing but respect from my standpoint for him…very grateful for the job that he did here.”

Graham said he even received congratulations from Erickson after beating Arizona to re-claim The Territorial Cup last year in Tucson.

The respect for Graham is mutual, as well.

“Todd Graham has done a great job with them,” Erickson told The Deseret News. “You don’t do what they have done this year without being good.”

The Sun Devils (6-2, 4-1) and Utes (4-4, 1-4) kickoff at 2:00. Sports360AZ.com will be in Salt Lake for complete pre and post-game coverage as the Devils look for their fourth-straight win.