TEMPE — In case you were wondering what the Arizona State Sun Devils’ goals were for their upcoming season, you don’t have to look hard.
Plastered throughout the third floor of the Carson Student-Athlete Center — the building connected to Sun Devil Stadium — are signs on every door that say the following:
1. Win Everyday. Men of Character
2. 100% Graduation
3. Pac-12 Champions
4. Rose Bowl Champions
5. National Champions
ASU head coach Todd Graham has always set high expectations for the program since the moment he got the job in 2012. Now in his third year, Graham only has time to care about one thing: championships.
“To our fans, our students, and the Sun Devil nation, anything less than being Pac-12 champions is unsatisfactory,” Graham said Saturday during ASU’s annual media day.
The Sun Devils came one win shy of achieving that goal last season, falling to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship. That loss — still fresh in the minds of every returning ASU player — is what made them come up with their rally cry for 2014: “Unfinished Business.”
“I really like this group’s leadership; it’s the best leadership we’ve had in my three years, and everything is just better,” Graham said.
Another improvement Graham has been able to do is earn respect for his program in the preseason. ASU enters the year ranked 18th in the Coaches’ poll — the first time they’ve been ranked in the preseason since 2008 where they opened at 16th.
“To be picked eighteenth in the country is respect, that’s expectation. Winning six or seven games is not going to get it done,” Graham said.
He also hopes to see the day where winning anything less than 10 games a year is unsatisfactory in the minds of Sun Devil fans.
Graham has already made a significant impact on the program, taking ASU to bowl games in his first two seasons, and winning the Pac-12 South for the first time since dividing the conference into two divisions.
Instilling in his players, coaches, and fans the need to have the highest of expectations year in and out is the lasting mentality he hopes to have during his tenure.
He also believes that he has the tools on hand to make all of his goals a reality.
“We’re in better shape than we were last year, and we are in a lot better shape than we were two years ago, in terms of being able to accomplish that goal. This is the best staff we’ve ever had. I think we’ve got so many things down that really help you to be a better football team as a whole,” Graham said.
The team returns a potential Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Taylor Kelly, who will get to distribute the ball to dynamic playmakers D.J. Foster and Jaelen Strong.
Foster is confident ASU has the right leader in place behind center.
“He’s number one in my books in every category,” Foster said of Kelly. “I definitely trust his leadership. I never second guess on that.”
Added Kelly, “We are going to be one of the teams with great chemistry. We care about each other, and we’re going to have a great season this year.”