Graham has Sun Devils focused on getting better despite recent success

Oct 25, 2017, 7:00 AM | Updated: 1:18 pm
Arizona State coach Todd Graham stands on the field during the first half of the team's NCAA colleg...
Arizona State coach Todd Graham stands on the field during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against San Diego State on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona State football has a lot to rejoice about these days.

The Sun Devils are coming off another superb upset last Saturday at Utah, the team’s first Pac-12 road victory in over two years, and have a chance to take the lead in the Pac-12 South this Saturday.

Despite all that, ASU head coach Todd Graham is not letting the recent success get in the way of anything.

“We don’t dialogue a lot on all that stuff,” Graham said at his media availability Monday. “The whole thing is I think we’re focused. You just have to be focused, you have to be focused on getting better. I feel like we are doing that. You just got to not have distractions. Continue to focus and have a passion everyday to get better fundamentally.”

The Sun Devils have gone through a difficult schedule, as six of the seven teams they have played have been ranked at one point during the season. The road doesn’t lighten up either, as this team will play host to No. 21 USC Saturday. Once again, ASU is the underdog heading into the game.

For Graham, this is nothing new. In 2013, the Sun Devils played against nine schools that were ranked at one point during the season, including non-conference opponents Wisconsin and Notre Dame.

Graham believes tough people come out of tough times.

“We been through the hard times,” Graham said. “I think it builds character and it builds toughness. You get to a point you realize what it takes sacrifice wise to get there. These guys have done it. Behind the scenes, I think there’s a lot of confidence building with our guys because we just kept our head down, we just kept plugging and kept getting better.”

The sixth-year Sun Devils coach was on the hot seat to start the season, as many assumed he was not a part of ASU’s future plans. Despite the early success, Graham has not changed his attitude.

He is, in fact, doing everything the exact same way.

“It’s just a fun deal to be associated with especially when you have been through the muck,” Graham said. “You guys know how I feel about change. We don’t change anything. The times are all the same. Everything is exactly the same. If it was up to me we wouldn’t have a home and away uniform.”

Not everything has stayed the same, as the program has shuffled through different offensive and defensive coordinators through his tenure. This season, the Sun Devils brought in former Baylor defensive coordinator and longtime coach Phil Bennett and Billy Napier from Alabama, who assumes the reins of the offense.

Even with the hires, Graham has followed the same game plan.

“Every person that I hire I want to hire good men that believe in the teacher model,” Graham said. “That’s first and foremost and that means you got to love your kids. You got to love this and you got to have a passion for it. You got to be a guy that embraces our philosophy.”

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