Graham's Media Day Interview Highlights

With the season opener against Sacramento State less than a month away, Head Coach Todd Graham held his annual media day press conference Saturday. The tone of the press conference was very positive and focused on acclimating newcomers and taking the next step as a program.

Here are some of the highlights from that event:

On Offensive Standouts

"D.J. Foster is a guy that has really stuck out to me, he has really, really gotten faster. Very, very explosive in practice. Obviously, you got Marion (Grice). Five new wide outs that I think are going to be tremendous players for us. I am very excited about Tyler Sulka. Tyler is competing well, and moved into being the starting right tackle right now, doing a great job of competing. Offensive line has been solid as well. I am very, very excited about our ability to score points."

On Ball Security

"The number one thing in camp preparing for the season, is we got to take care of the football. That was our No. 1 goal last year, and we didn't do very good at that. We have to do a lot better job at taking care of the football and keep getting better running."

On Defensive Camp Standouts

"Defensively, Chris Young has been a guy that really stood out to me. He is really, really growing and getting better, again, all the guys are faster and stronger. Obviously Will (Sutton), I really believe is a lot better than I he was last year. He is bigger, 305 pounds, he is very, very explosive and he has also been a great leader. Obviously, (Alden) Darby, (Osahon) Irabor, all those guys are faster and stronger. We got some freshman guys like Marcus Ball that has been a standout, James Johnson, Marcus Hardison up front is looking good."

On Special Teams Standouts

"Probably our biggest thing I think should be impacted is our team speed and how it affects our special teams. Place kicker Zane Gonzales has been outstanding. We got some work to do in the punting game, that is an area of concern. We haven't done quite as well as I thought we would do."

On State of Program

"I think that completely different than a year ago. I think last year it was my philosophy, and they had to do it. This year it is our philosophy. So I think very solid. Look at what our guys are going academically, 2.62 GPA, incoming freshman over 3.0."

"Obviously we're not there yet. Last year I would have said last year we were probably around 5 or 6, this year we are probably around 7 or 8. Just being honest with you, we still have a lot of work to do."

On Newcomers

"In summer, I can't tell you one newcomer that we brought here that I have been disappointed with the first four days of practice. I couldn't tell you that last year. I think our coaches did a good job of recruiting and getting the right guys. Obviously we have a lot of moving parts with incoming freshman and newcomers from junior college that factor in the two deep. We got to pull everyone together."

On Irabor and Finkenberg Not Being on Watch Lists

"Yeah, I don't understand that. I think (Evan) Finkenberg is as good as there is out there. He is definitely the leader of our offensive line. Probably projects at being a guard at the next level, but I think he is a great player for us."

"I don't know how all that (preseason stuff works). The key to those lists is being able to make them at the end of the year."

"I wasn't surprised any of the other eight guys were on there, but I was pretty surprised they were not."

On Being Players Buying In

"I think that the way it was a make or break deal when we were on a four game losing streak, I think they showed their character, they believed in what we were doing, that was when the buy in occurred. I think that that momentum went into the last games and winning the bowl game. We were really, really a lot better football team in that bowl game than we were in the start at the season."

Oh High Expectations

"I want those expectations, I want a program and our fan base to expect us to win Pac 12 South and Pac 12 championships. I do think we have those expectations where they need to be, but I think there are a lot of distractions we didn't have last year than we do know. I think it is much harder to coach a great player than it is to coach an average player. I think it is much harder to handle success than to get something turned around. I think last year was the easy part."

On Taking the Next Step

"Going to 8-5 was the easy part, to be honest we probably should have won two more games. We should have won 10 games. But winning 12, 13, 14 is a whole different deal, and that is what we're trying to do. I think we are where we need to be."

On Backfield

"D.J. (Foster) is so versatile and they (him and Grice) are so different. Marion (Grice), every time he touches the ball he is going to do nothing but get better. I don't know what his ceiling is, but I know it is pretty high."

On Winning Championships

"I talked about winning championships last year, I don't know that everyone kind of believed that. I think after being so close, I think they have seen that we can do that."

"There is no doubt in my mind that we have talent and the ability to be in the hunt. Sure, we'd like to be dominant, and we have a long way to go to do that, but we do have the ability to do it."

"I think our guys expect to win a championship. I know that they believe that, I'm not sure they all did last year. We'll see, I hope."

On Improving Run Defense

"I do think there are some scheme things that can help us. The schedule doesn't help us, because we are playing some guys that run the football."

"If you come to practice, you see a lot less spread and a lot more power."

"The key to that is being consistent. We are not consistent right now, but we are a heck of a lot better. We got bigger inside, we got deeper and we are faster."

"I think we are better against the run, but we'll see."

"I would gladly trade being third in the country in the pass, or whatever we were, for the pass."

On Deantre Lewis

"I think Deantre (Lewis) has had a solid camp. I think he is 100 percent physically, I think it is the first time he has been, and I think he is close to being mentally where he needs to be."

"But he factors in. Obviously you got Marion (Grice) and D.J. (Foster), who are the guys, but Deantre (Lewis) is fully capable of being in the group."

On Wide Receivers

"Well, E.J. Jefferson has probably been the guy that has really stuck out to me. Big, fast physical, loves to block, it is nice to have size like that. He has been very impressive."

"Joe Morris brings a physical dimension to that group. Joe is a guy that will be our gunner on kickoff coverage. He is a guy that wants to be physical on the edge."

"Take the talent we have with Chris Coyle and De'Marieya Nelson at tight end, and you add those three freshman (Jefferson, Cameron Smith and Ronald Lewis) and Joe Morris and now Jaelen is back out there, we got to pull them all together."

On Kevin Ozier leading receivers

"He is, I think, the key person at receiver to bring that group together."

"Kevin has been very, very instrumental in that group, because we got a lot of work to do with them. High risks with five new guys, penalties, and missed assignments, there are all kinds of things like that because our defense is not simple."

On Camp Tontozona Team Building

"We are going to do a lot of team building stuff. We have a lot of newcomers and a lot of quality freshman. You are going to have that every year, but this year a whole bunch of those guys factor into our two-deep."

"We really need to learn each other's names and get to know each other."

On Camp T Field Conditions

"I am a little concerned about the quality of the field. Last year, we had some holes. I want to make sure we don't do too much on that."

"My number one goal is get this team ready and be healthy in week one."

On Carl Bradford

"He has got to get better against the run."

"He is a tremendous athlete, very explosive, and he has taken pride in doing that."

"Working on him being a leader. He is a guy that always does his job, but he has got to step up and be a leader."

"I am expecting him to get a lot better, but one thing he's got to get better at is against the run."

On Freshman Starting

"On defense, I think there is a chance for maybe one to start maybe. I think that maybe a couple more in the two deep."

"On offense, I think there is a chance for maybe two to start."

"Obviously we pride ourselves at getting guys ready to play. I think we have had like seven freshman All-Americans in the last seven years as a head coach. We have no problem playing freshman that are ready to play."

On Cornerback Position Battle

"I think we got three guys right now that have really separated from the others. Obviously Osahon (Irabor) and Lloyd has been very, very impressive. I think he is a guy that has really developed. Then Robert Nelson has done really, really well. We will play three corners. Then (Rashad) Wadood, he has had a solid four days."

"We are really a lot deeper at corner."

"I think three guys are up there, and Wadood is closing on them."

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