Graham knows success has to be immediate

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. - the Pac-12 Media picked Arizona State to finish next to last in the South Division in the 2012 season. Nonetheless, its first-year Head Coach, Todd Graham, knows that these lower expectations don't allow the program to struggle this year and yet have its players and fans simply accept those results because of the elements involved.

"You can come in and say ‘it's my first year and it's going to take some time,' Graham said. "The reality of that is that you cannot afford not to be successful. I come here because I want to compete against the very best people. People say: ‘you don't want to be a defensive coordinator in this league.' That's the league that I want to coach in."

"You can't recruit if you're not successful. But you have to have a plan and know who you are and what you are about. I think we have a lot of positives about our place and our program that a lot of people around the country don't have. Any kid that comes on an official visit to the Arizona State campus, we have a chance at him."

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ASU's Head Coach said upon his arrival to Tempe that he wanted to "shake 70,000 hands" representing the capacity of Sun Devil Stadium which Graham would obviously like to see packed with fans for every game. Between all the various appearances he has already made with students, alumni and ASU followers, it probably wouldn't be a stretch to state that there may have been several thousand different individuals that he has interacted with following his hire.

Graham said that this is an approach that he has taken to previously.

"I walked door to door at Rice. Literally," Graham said. "Wives, team, my kids…we averaged 4700 in attendance. You can sit around and whine about (Houston) being an NFL town, Texas and Texas A&M and we're about 9th on the list.

"We walked handing out $5 coupons for the first game. They reported 23,000 (fans) and then they just opened the gates because they had just two ticket booths open. It's a true story…People say that ASU is lucky to have me here, but it's their team. I'm lucky to be the coach and that is the mentality we took. We respect you and respect your support."

Often pundits and fans alike point to the fact that ASU football is constantly competing with the Arizona Cardinals, as well as the other three local professional sports teams in general, a predicament that ultimately hurts its attendance. Graham begs to differ.

"It's collegiate football and people will support it if you put up a product on that field that embraces the values of what your community is all about," Graham commented. "So how do you know that if you don't go out and meet people? I got a lot of good information from these people. They tell me: ‘coach, this is one thing that drives me crazy…' and that is important to me."

Graham doesn't feel that if you just win, fans will show up. Interacting with fans is imperative. For example, he said that this year when the players come off the bus at Sun Devil stadium they will be throwing out autographed footballs for the fans that are waiting for them.

"You have to compete for people's support," Graham said. "That is what I'm trying to teach these guys."

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Graham, despite the gloomy media prediction, is confident in the prospects of his team, and feels that the right mindset can lead to success.

"You can't go out and watch our team practice and tell me we don't have talent," Graham commented. "Do we have all the depth we want? I'll be sitting here five years from now telling you that I don't like our depth. I tell these guys to trust in me and we all have to be on the same page. I really like this team and we have to stay healthy…I think we are very talented. We have to do a great job of coaching.

"Schematically, it has been a very smooth transition. On offense I think we have to develop and execute our routes, because what we do is very precise in timing. Defensively it's about developing guys and we have some dynamic players coming in. Those players know absolutely nothing about our system right now, and they start practicing on the 3rd of August and you have to get them ready to play on the 30th of August. The key is that we don't try to do too much, build it and improve it every week. Most important personnel decision is quarterback, but probably next is developing this guys on defense."

"Special teams are going to be big. Every game we have to win on special teams"

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As a newcomer to this conference, Graham admitted that that one cannot overstate the importance of knowing the league. This is why he hired assistant coaches such as Chris Ball (secondary) and Bob Connolly (offensive line) who previously coached in the then Pac-10.

"But on the same hand this is a very unique situation right now," Graham explained. "We have four of the twelve having new (head coaches) and there is something about being new and having a little bit of an advantage too. The nature of what we do on offense and what we do on defense is so different that I think it's an advantage too.

"I think you have call upon those (conference) relationships, like in recruiting. Guys like (wide receivers coach) Del Alexander who's from L.A., (cornerbacks) coach Joe Lorig who's been recruiting California.. I thought it was very important that I find great teachers that fit my philosophy. So much of recruiting isn't so much a sales pitch as it is about the evaluation and getting the right guys."


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