Graham confident injured players will return in final home game against No. 16 Utah

Nov 9, 2016, 6:10 AM

Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) warms up for the team's NCAA college football game agai...

Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) warms up for the team's NCAA college football game against Washington State, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

As Arizona State comes off its bye, the team prepares to face the 16th ranked Utah Utes in the Sun Devils’ last home game of the season.

Head coach Todd Graham is optimistic he’ll get many of his guys back this week from injury, though he didn’t name anyone in specific. Quarterback Manny Wilkins looks to be on track to start, with the same going for running back Demario Richard, linebacker Salamo Fiso and defensive backs Kareem Orr and Armand Perry. Linebacker Christian Sam looks to be out, while offensive linemen Sam Jones and Stephon McCray are questionable.

“Right now we’re just focused on trying to beat Utah, and then go to the next game,” Graham said. “We feel like we’re going to have more than half those guys back, and so that’s going to help us tremendously.”

With the slew of injuries the Sun Devils have suffered this season, Graham is open-minded to trying new techniques for his guys. Whether it’s yoga — or even Pilates — Graham plans to thoroughly look into every option to help his team get through injuries.

“I really felt like our guys were in great condition coming in, but we’ll look at that too, sometimes you can over-train,” Graham said. “We’ll look at all those factors, but right now we’re trying to do everything we can around the clock to get them healthy, and you also got to practice, so we’ve got more than half of them back practicing, so that’s a positive. Our focus right now is figuring out a way to go send these seniors out with their final game at Sun Devil Stadium with a win.”

The Sun Devils have gone through a rough patch after starting the season 4-0. They have lost four of their last five games, with their lone win being a 23-20 victory over UCLA on Oct. 8. ASU has gone 1-4 in Pac-12 play in that span as well, and the Devils currently sit fourth in the Pac-12 South.

With a determined Utah team coming to Tempe looking to bounce back from a loss to Washington, it would be favorable to have a full arsenal of players ready to go.

“We got the 16th-ranked team in the country coming in here, and nothing matters except our guys in this senior bunch figuring out a way when this gun goes off to be one point ahead,” Graham said.

It’s going to be a special night once 7:30 p.m. rolls around at Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday. America’s veterans will be honored, and the seniors will play in front of the ASU faithful one last time.

“It’s the one game where they introduce them, I hug them, and I really try to focus on not being real emotional, because it’s so important, and our guys have done a good job of that. It’s a special day and we do a special deal introducing them and recognizing them,” Graham said. “It hits me more afterwards, and it’ll hit me more after we’re done with the season.”

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