The word “discipline” was rarely used during Dennis
Erickson’s five years at the helm of Arizona State
That is, of course, if you don’t count the many fans and
media members who said the Sun Devils’ lack of it was
Nowadays, though, you cannot go anywhere near the team
without being told about how new coach Todd Graham has
brought the much-needed attribute to the program, ensuring
that the very things that cost the team its season last
year will not show up again anytime soon.
“I think it was just not being disciplined,” junior
defensive end Junior Onyeali said of what caused the team
to lose its final five games of the 2011 season. “And then
when things went bad not pulling ourselves out of it.
“We just stayed stuck in the bad. We lost to teams that we
really should have beat like — let’s just say we lost to
teams that we should have beat.”
Much of the excitement surrounding Graham has to do with
the fact that he’s not Dennis Erickson. He does not come
to town with a reputation for letting the players run the
program, and he does not arrive with the type of baggage
that would make you question how he runs his program.
How he may leave a program is a different story, but even
that discussion has faded to be background because at the
end of the day no one cares about what you did in the
past, only that you win games now.
But with uncertainty at quarterback while trying to
integrate players into new offensive and defensive
schemes, that may not happen much in 2012. It would be
understandable to some and disappointing to many.
And while players talk about their appreciation for
Graham’s approach right now, losing wears on even the most
ardent of supporters. Remember, everyone liked how
Erickson ran things when he was leading ASU to 10 wins and
the Holiday Bowl in 2007, with questions only beginning to
surface as the losses began to mount.
As Graham is still undefeated, everything he does is
looked at favorably.
“That’s the thing that Coach Graham is trying to get into
us since the first day we came in here,” senior receiver
Jamal Miles said. “He’s just trying to get everybody
disciplined because the Sun Devils are known as an
undisciplined team from past experience.”
Graham’s style is one that likely came as a shock to some
players, especially those who were cozy under the Erickson
regime. Gone are some of the freedoms that were afforded
to the players. Gone is the lack of accountability.
In their place are rules, some of which are accepted now
because of where the program has been, but likely won’t be
if things don’t turn around.
“One of the first things he did coming in here is he wants
to ask us to take our earrings off when we walk into
the building, he also asks us to take our hats off in the
building and no headphones in the building,” sophomore QB
Mike Bercovici said. “When he first came in here he asked
us to do it now he’s telling us to do it because the way
we walk, talk and present ourselves, not only in here, but
outside the stadium is a representation of our football
None of the changes Graham has instituted have resulted in
a mass defection from Arizona State, and nothing he is
asking his team to do is really that unreasonable.
Carry yourselves as professionals; act like adults.
After losing 28 games over the last four seasons, any
change will be welcomed, and that the players are buying
what Graham is selling is as good as it is not surprising.
“He’s bringing out the best in each one of us; he’s a
really good coach,” junior safety Alden Darby said. “He
knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart coach. What he brings
to the table is by far what we need.”
Right now what the Sun Devils need and what the Sun Devils
want are synonymous.
Only wins will keep it that way.