What a difference a year makes for Arizona State football. Last year at Pac-12 media day, the Sun Devils were picked to finish second in the Southern division and expectations were high for Dennis Erickson's experienced team.
After a 6-2 start, including home victories over USC and Missouri, some fans were smelling roses. However, the team crumpled its final five games, going 0-5 culminating in a blowout loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. The horrendous finish resulted in the firing of the team's head coach and the school's Athletic Director.
In steps Todd Graham, who was hired on December 14th, 2011 after spending one season at Pittsburgh. From the day Graham was hired he began changing the culture of the football program.
Graham brought a sense of discipline and accountability to the program that was lacking under the previous regime. Concepts that were in full effect during Graham's first spring practice.
"It's a lot faster than anything we've experienced before at Arizona State, at least me personally" said running back Cameron Marshall about the difference in this spring compared to last spring. "It was a lot more organized, every period, we didn't have much down time and everything was really explosive," said Marshall.
Another major difference that Graham brings is his connection to former players and to the community of Arizona State. Graham has reached out to former players and current students in the few months since he was hired, and at media day, Graham was the only new coach to bring up the tradition of his new program.
"It's been an honor for me to be at a place that Frank Kush built," said Graham. "For all of our great players that we have had in the past it's been a great time of coming together."
Graham insists on making former players more involved with the current team, an initiative he has already begun with the hiring of former Sun Devil Rudy Burgess as a management intern for the football team.
Graham knows it will take some time for his players to adjust to that new schemes his staff will implement.
"The key is getting good at something and not trying to do too much," said Graham. "I have a lot of confidence in the players that we have and the staff we have, we have a lot of things taught and instilled in them."
The defense will transition from a 4-3 to a hybrid scheme and offensively the team will transition from a pass-heavy offense to a downhill running team.
"Our offense last year threw for a lot of yards and put up a lot of numbers, but we are different, we are a down hilll, power, inside zone team," said Graham. "And Cam (RB Cameron Marshall) is as good as I've been around in my entire career."
One thing is for sure, Graham has high expectations for not only the 2012 Sun Devils, but the future of the entire program.
"We have the goal and the expectation of restoring this program to winning championships."