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QUOTES: Todd Graham Weekly Press Conference
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 08/27/2012
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Aug. 27, 2012

Head Coach Todd Graham

On his upcoming pre-game speech… 

“I’m not much on pre-game speeches. I tell them an awful lot. It’s kind of a build up the entire week. We have been in game mode for quite some time now. Actually, what I will say to them before they go out is specifically what the plan is and that’s obviously to own the football, no stupid penalties and put it in the left lane and hammer down. That’s it. Be very, very specific that the key to winning football games, especially in your first game of the year, is to not beat yourself. That is what we have to be focused on but I don’t want them out there trying not to mess up. One of the things we do is we put our lettermen in the Tillman tunnel and you go through those lettermen, look them in the eye and see the intensity there. That motivates them a heck of lot more than anything that I can say. We kind of get together and I have about 30 seconds and that’s it. The game lasts four and half hours and preparation is a process.”

On his two quarterback system game plan…

“Taylor will be the every down guy and Mike (Eubank) is going to play as he progresses. Eubank’s package is going to continue to grow. We are going to have Taylor do the things he does well and Mike do the things he does well. We are pretty comfortable using two quarterbacks but I do think that Taylor will get the majority of the reps. It wont be half and half. It will be more like two-thirds and a third. Here’s the thing, if I call a play and it works, obviously I am going to call that play again. It depends on what’s working. I’m hoping we can play 80-plus plays with Taylor playing 50 and Mike playing about 30.” 

On Northern Arizona’s offense…

“I think that their quarterback is a very good player. Our focus has been nothing but them. Our deal is to start this deal off 1-0 and to do that we have to really focus on them. I think they are 27th in a double-a poll. They have a really good tailback; he is a guy that can definitely play at this level. He is a guy that we have to keep in check. They are going to give him the ball, run screens, get him out of the backfield and he is the guy to stop. I think the quarterback extends plays. I like him. I think he is very similar to Taylor. He can really run with the ball. I have watched him in a lot of big games that he has played in and he is very calm, reacts very well against the blitz so we have to keep him corralled and not let him hurt us scrambling. Their receiving core is really good too.”

On preparation for the game… 

“We have focused a lot on their personnel and what we have to stop but the key is us focusing. The key is us. The key for us defensively is to get guys to do what they are coached to do every play, not 80 or 90 percent of the plays but every play. Take away what you’re supposed to take away. If you’re supposed to have A-gap be in it. That is going to be the key for us; remembering how we have been trained and don’t revert back to other things.”

On the things he wants before game time…

“I like them. They had a great spirit today in how they practiced. We have worked hard in their preparation. There are a lot of new things too that they will be going through. I want to make sure that they aren’t distracted. One of the things is our team walk through Wells Fargo. We have invited all of our fans to come out to that. All of our football players are going to have an autographed football that they are going to be giving away to the youngsters. We will give 80 of them away every week so hopefully people will show up. We are doing that because I want our guys to reach out and touch our fans, appreciate how important that is and to relax and play. I think it is one of the things I am most anxious about. Getting them out there on game day, I really think they will play like I have coached them to.”

On how important the message is that the team sends this first week and what he wants it to be…

“I just want to win. I don’t get too much into that. Obviously, we will get better every single day, every single game. I told the kids the other day, a guy that plays every down actually plays about 6 minutes and 15 seconds actually doing something through the course of a whole game. You take ten football games, and that’s one hour. That is not very much. These guys go through an awful lot to play 14 games and you are only guaranteed 12. We talk about maximizing each opportunity. What matters is that you get better everyday and that you win. I have been on the other side of the fence and we are not looking past NAU. I have been on the other side and won games like this. You are talking about how much this means to their program and that’s something that makes an entire season if you win that game. I just want to win. I want these guys to represent our fans the way they deserve to be represented, and I think these guys can do that.  I am excited and I am very confident in how they will play.”

On his biggest defensive concern…

“The big plays. People always talk about training and you have to recognize these guys have been training in another system, some of these guys for three years now. I see that coming back, good and bad, but they have to run our system and not give up big plays. Everybody wants to blitz, everybody wants to attack and everybody wants to do these things but you also have to make sure you are sound about what you are doing and not give up cheap touchdowns. Guys sometimes have all the right intentions but operate outside the system and that’s probably been the biggest challenge. These guys want to win but you have to make sure you do not operate outside the system. I showed them a tape of examples from last season, that if this guy would have just taken the A-gap, a very simple thing, when you are in one-back everybody has a gap and if he takes that gap you have another win on your schedule last year; but he didn’t get in his gap. He was trying to do somebody else’s job, trying to make a play but with all the right intentions. Nobody tries to mess up, but operating outside the system is the biggest challenge when you are new. That is why I am so passionate about the little things, about the details of things. I want them to know that that cannot happen. We are going to make some mistakes no-doubt, but I want to make sure we minimize them and that we do not have critical mistakes.

“[The video] consisted of 12 plays. I also showed them my team last year. We were at a game where there were four plays –the West Virginia game last year –that if we did what we were supposed to do, we’d have gone to the Orange Bowl. Four plays. If we did one of the four right we would have won the game. Nobody tries to do those things and that is what discipline is. People say it takes time, but I want it to happen pretty fast. I do think we have strained these guys hard and strained most of it out of them. My take is that they relied a lot on athleticism and not a lot on discipline, not on scheme, not on structure, and we have to be dependent on that, on the structure, on the discipline because that is our system. If you are not disciplined our system is somewhat complicated. If you ask our players if this defense is pretty complicated, they’ll tell you it’s pretty complicated.“ 

On the limitations for Cameron Marshall on Thursday…

“Nope.” 

On losing sleep before Thursday… 

“I sleep about four hours a night. That will probably be my weakness. I probably won’t sleep a lot. I don’t play but I’ll be real honest with you, I don’t get that keyed up on game day, Mark knows, when he sees me on Wednesday I’m pretty keyed up. I love playing this game so much, I still want to get out there and play. I try to be very calm so I’m pretty calm on game day. I’m not going to yell and scream and do that stuff with the guys. I’m getting fired up but I don’t see much use for sleep during football season.” 

Comparing this year’s team to last year’s team…

“There are a lot of differences. They were really good last year. They had over 400 yards a game. They were really, really good. Threw for 4,000 yards, so they were really good. What’s going to be very different is probably the run aspect. We’re going to run the ball to set up the pass. I have a lot of confidence in Taylor (Kelly) and just taking what the defense gives us. I hope what you see is very, very fast tempo; that’s the key to our offense. More run, play action pass instead of throwing it to set up the run. Again, we only have two simple goals on offense for this game. They are don’t turn the ball over, 100 percent ball security, and no penalties.  If we don’t do that, then we will be fine.  That’s how simple it is. One of the things too, is there is nothing wrong with punting. I have no problem punting. The bottom line is that we don’t force things; don’t try to operate outside the system. We want it. It’s a lot harder for Coach Norvell on the offense than it is for our defense. Early in the year, it’s harder for the offenses, especially when you’re putting in a whole new system; we have a new quarterback, all those things. We just have to be able to really execute what we do. I want to also deliver for the fans. I want it to be exciting. We’re going to attack. I’m a little unorthodox; I’m not big on punting the football. We get across the fifty, and we’re rolling. That’s what we’re going to do and I think our kids adapt well to that. I want them to understand that we’re going to be aggressive. Looking at last year, I would like to have this year’s passing game with this year’s running game. So we’ll see, we have a ways to go.” 

On the crowd expectations this season…

“I hope it’s full. Everybody tells me, “Coach, you can’t expect it this game, it’s on a Thursday, around Labor Day.” I really don’t buy into that. I shook a lot of hands, and I sure hope those people that I shook their hand will come. If not, we’re going to represent the ones that are here with great passion, I can tell you that. I’m not worried about it at all. Everybody always tells me how it is around here; we’re going to change that. I’m expecting to have a great crowd. “ 

On Corey Adams and Kyle Middlebrooks playing Thursday…

“I don’t think that either one of those guys will play. Corey, which I’m pretty fired up about, is feeling a lot better today. I think it’s going to be soon that he will get back. I think that we could probably play Kyle if we wanted to this weekend, but we probably will not.” 

On speculations that James Morrison is injured…

“He’s fine. He had a small deal from weightlifting or something, but he’s fine. Other than that, our guys are healthy and ready to go. Jake (Sheffield) is still a little bit (injured), but the trainers told me he’s going to be ready to go. As far as anything else like that, Jamal (Miles), is 100 percent, you guys asked me about that the other day. I’m obviously not going to talk a lot about our depth chart, I’m not going to do that as we get close to game time because we have different things we do different weeks. I won’t talk much about the depth chart, but I will tell you if guys are healthy or not. Jamal is 100 percent.”

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