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July 26, 2013

Todd Graham

Taylor Kelly

Will Sutton


THE MODERATOR:  Representing Arizona State, Coach Graham, quarterback Taylor Kelly, and defensive tackle, Will Sutton.  Coach?
COACH GRAHAM:  It's a great honor for me to be here representing Arizona State University, our fans, former players and the 2013 football team.  A lot of excitement around our football program this year.  Last year we laid a great foundation, had a great buy‑in from our players.
Obviously, I inherited some great young people and two of them are sitting next to me.  We've a lot of talent.  I think we have built some great team unit in our first season and obviously our fan base is excited.  It's the best football team that I've ever coached and we have developed.  This is a much more mature football team right now.  We had a great spring, great summer.
I think how they have developed as leaders and the leadership that we have had, obviously last year our coaches led the team and to win a championship you have to have players leading the team.  We've got great leadership and we've developed.  I think our strength coach, we are fortunate to have the best strength coach in the country and the our training has been phenomenal.  This team is in great shape, one of the best conditioned teams I've been around mentally and physically and the two young men sitting next to me are special people.  They represent a great football team.
I'm excited to be here and we're looking forward to competing for a Pac‑12 championship, Rose Bowl championship and ultimately a national championship.

Q.  Coach, the polls justified last year that no one expected ASU to make an impact and now you're considered a contender.  How do you prepare your players for games against Stanford and USC and the pressure?
COACH GRAHAM:  That's why we do this.  We like the pressure.  We're competitors.  That's one of the things I love about this football team.  These two guys sitting next to me are intense competitors.  That's where you want to be.  This conference week in, week out you're going against the best talent in the country and that's what we want.  We don't prepare‑‑ there is no added preparation on our part.  We got simply one goal at our place and that's to be champions.  That's what we're set out to do and we don't mind being held accountable to that.  It's not undue pressure.  We want it; we like it.

Q.  Taylor, I've seen videos of you drag racing and I wanted to know if that is something that bothers your coaches, that you're involved in something like that?  Do you have another hidden talent that you want to share?
TAYLOR KELLY:  It bothers them a little bit.  I only do it once a year, but I'm going to stop doing that and focus on football.
COACH GRAHAM:  Bothers me a lot!  (Laughter.)

Q.  Will, Clowney is getting publicity going into the season.  How do you look at his success and do you models yourself after him or do you think that you can "one‑up" him this season especially with that big hit that keeps being played over and over again?
WILL SUTTON:  I don't pay attention to Clowney.  I know he's a great player and the prototype for the next level, but the main thing I have watched is the Michigan hit but I don't try to model my game after him.  I try to be the best I can be and be myself and go out there and compete for myself and for my teammates and try to accomplish something that's never been done here before.

Q.  Will, how sufficient a decision was it for you to decide to come back to Arizona State and what went into that decision that made you want to go back?
WILL SUTTON:  It was a tough decision, recruiting all over again, picking what school to go to.  The deciding factor was my grade from the NFL committee and also what I needed to get done here at ASU.  I'm nine credits from graduating and I will be done in December.  I love my teammates, the coaching staff and the atmosphere around here.  We want to accomplish something that once again hasn't been done here before and I want to be part of that.

Q.  Taylor, last year you guys put up 38 points per game but lacked production at the wide receiver position.  Talk about how that position is progressing and especially the new junior college recruit?
TAYLOR KELLY:  It's going well, with Coyle and Smith and Chambers, they're doing a great job, and I'm excited for Morris and Strong to get here and start working with them.
COACH GRAHAM:  Like you appointed out, we feel like we have developed, owes certificate and Rick Smith have had great springs, we have three freshmen wide receivers coming in that are special and Joe Morris and Jaelen Strong the junior college transfers, and Jaelen we feel will be dynamic, to learn our system.  D.J. Foster, a versatile running back and one of our best receivers and Chris Coyle broke all of the regards at ASU in one season, we have De'Marieya Nelson, a running back/tight end.  So we have upgraded personnel and with the tail backs we have in Grice and Foster, obviously the guy we have over here operating the offense, we were 14th in the country scoring points, and we want to be number one in the country.  So we think we have improved that through our development and training program and we've got a chance to be more explosive outside.

Q.  Coach, you've got that four cupcakes right at the beginning of the season, SC, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Stanford in there.  You are picked as the dark horse.  If you get past those four games, sky the limit this year?
COACH GRAHAM:  Obviously, we have to take‑‑ all coaches say this, you got to take one game at a time, we have to beat Sac State and then go to the next one.  We have on our wrists "Any Challenge" and we don't look at that with any regret.  It's a great opportunity on our schedule.  These guys have worked hard and we have the highest standards in the country I can tell you as far as work ethic in character and how you do things.
I like this team.  We have a team that loves each other, guys that have invested and worked hard and put themselves in position to compete for a championship.  So we're not‑‑ I'm not‑‑ I can tell a sense of urgency, we know the challenges on that schedule, and this season is about winning championships, so I know our fans and our football team is excited.  We can't wait to get started and take 'em one game at a time.  The great thing about our schedule, all you gotta do is win 13 games and you will be playing in a national championship because it's a challenging schedule.
That's why you do this, our guys want to play in those games, they're excited about the opportunity and I think they know the potential that our football team has.  Also, the investment that we have put in.  So we're looking forward to a championship run and taking it one week at a time.

Q.  We have a fan question for Taylor and Will on Facebook.  In Coach Graham's postgame speech after your Bowl game last year he said that this team is good enough to take the Rose Bowl.  Do you believe that and what is different about this year's team?
TAYLOR KELLY:  I believe that 100%.  We have great guys coming back and the summer that we had and spring ball has grown and this year is huge and I can't wait for it to get started.
WILL SUTTON:  I also believe Coach talks about building relationships and I feel like our relationships are stronger than we ever had; and we believe in one another and we don't have to worry about somebody else doing their job because we know that they're going to get it done.  We feel like we have all the confidence in the world to accomplish our goal.

Q.  Coach, how would you like to see them loosening up the recruiting guidelines, giving you fewer restrictions, and would you like to see the bigger conferences have more autonomy so they can have better relations?  Since you were at Tulsa, how fair do you think that would be?
COACH GRAHAM:  First and foremost, I'm all about relationships and I wish I could go out in the spring and recruit.  They don't let head coaches do that.  I think it's hard on young people making decisions because it's pushed up‑‑ guys are committing so early and recruiting has been pushed up so early.  I think opportunities‑‑ I know that I come from a very‑‑ as far as socioeconomics, a very low socioeconomic background where a lot of those kids' parents can't come see their college because we can't pay for them to travel.
I think there are a lot of things we can do for our student‑athletes and their wellbeing.  It's one of the things I'm proud to be a part of a conference where player safety is foremost.  It's a full‑time job being a college football player and another full‑time job being a full‑time student at a top‑100 university in the world.
So having a little extra money if they want to get a hamburger or something like that, I do think that we‑‑ I'm not for "pay to play."  I'm not saying that, but I do think there are things we can do to improve that.  Some schools maybe can't afford that, is what you're questioning is looking at and I think we got to get past that with obviously in our conference and with our players.
Also, the requirement of their time at this level is different, too, than other levels.  So I think that that's something I would be in favor of.

Q.  Coach, can you talk about your expectations for Will's impact on the team, and what areas you think he needs to get to improve in this season?
COACH GRAHAM:  I can tell you first and foremost, a lot of people don't know this, probably something I could tell you about him that you don't know, smartest defensive linemen, one of the smartest defensive players I've been around, understands the game, knows the game and about runs me over game day coming out of the tunnel.  In 27 years, I've not coached a defensive player more passionate than he is about competing.  Everything we are about is about value system, it's about character, it's about discipline, and it's about competing at everything that you do, giving your very best.
We expect these guys to compete in the classroom as they compete on the field and I focus‑‑ I don't ask them to do anything I'm not doing.  How Coach Graham has to get better, I got to get better at every one of those values that we hold dear as a program.  I can tell you he's 305 pounds.  I think he was 280 last year, he's stronger, bigger, faster.
So he's put himself in a position to have a better year than he had last year.  I think we're just getting started, is what I want him to think and I think he knows that.  We've a great surrounding cast.  He's not the only one that improved over the summer and over spring ball.  Our deal is getting better every rep, at everything that we do.
Offensively us, you know, we take care of that with each individual we can accomplish our goals together.  I said all he's gotta do is hold that Rose Bowl trophy up above his head and the Pac‑12 trophy above his head and the National Championship trophy above his head and he doesn't have to worry about his draft status.
That's what we have done as a team, it's not my philosophy anymore.  It's "our" philosophy and I think these guys believe that and understand that and you answer so many questions about your individual performance and ability, but it's all about the team's success and these guys have bought into that.

Q.  A lot was made of Notre Dame's attempt to back out of the contract they have with you guys for the home‑on‑homes after the neutral site game this year and a lot has been made about Arizona State football having high expectations entering a season and those coming up short.  Do you think those correlated at all?  Are you upset at Notre Dame's attempt to get out of that and does that motivate this team to prove the nay sayers wrong?
COACH GRAHAM:  All that is speculation.  I don't‑‑ we don't worry about those things to be honest with you, have not given it much thought.  We're working on "us."
We focus on us and us getting better.  We have a tremendous belief in each other and nobody puts our expectations on our team than ourselves.  We know what we're able to accomplish.  I think these guys‑‑ we were one play‑‑ we got beat a last‑second field goal and got beat in the championship and we recognized we were a long way away from dominating the way we want to dominate and these guys have worked hard.  Our deal is‑‑ that's what I love about this game we sit and answer a lot of questions but then you get to play the game.
We're looking forward to the 12 opportunities we have ahead of us and put that go into a 13th and 14th game.  Our goal is to play 14 ballgames, and I believe our team can do it and they have a great belief in each other so we don't concern ourselves with stuff like that.
In rival games, people think there is more emotion in the game, the key is to win the games and if you get too emotionally involved in all of it, it gets distracting.  We prepare the same way every day and that's the key to winning preparation.
THE MODERATOR:  Thanks Coach, gentlemen. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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