As ASU reaches the midpoint of its 2013 football season, coach Todd Graham has given a theme for the latter half of year — it’s a single-elimination tournament from here.
Graham has expressed his respect for the Pac-12 conference throughout the season and knows any team is capable of beating another.
He said he watches all of the “Football in 60” programs on Pac-12 Networks where the channel shows an abridged replay of each game. Seeing Utah upset No. 13 Stanford at home last Saturday supported his point.
The Sun Devils visit the Utes on Nov. 9.
“From top to bottom, there can’t be a conference that has any more parity than what this one does,” Graham said in his Monday press conference.
One team Graham said he enjoys watching is No. 2 Oregon. He said the coaching staff doesn’t spend time watching teams that ASU won’t end up facing, but he watches the Ducks anyway for how well they execute on offense and to study how they win.
“There’s no better team in the country than them,” he said.
Graham then listed off every team in the conference and their strengths, beginning with Oregon, Stanford and UCLA rounding up the top of the conference, and then called No. 20 Washington, ASU, Utah, Oregon State and UA as contenders.
He gave credit to Utah and how the Utes approached their game against Stanford.
“We’re extremely motivated, we’re extremely healthy and we have a shot,” he said. “It’s the team that plays with that kind of spirit and that kind of enthusiasm that is the key.”
Of course, the Sun Devils will need to maintain that attitude when Washington comes to Tempe this Saturday. The Huskies are coming off back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon heading into the game.
“We got to win this game,” Graham said. “If you want to be conference champions, we’ve got to be undefeated at home. We’ve got a very talented team coming here, as well as we’re talented. “
De’Marieya Nelson to play defense
During the postgame conference on Saturday, Graham said redshirt junior tight end De’Marieya Nelson could possibly play defense against Washington after praising redshirt senior defensive end Davon Coleman for his touchdown.
Graham confirmed on Monday that Nelson will indeed appear on defense this Saturday as a pass rusher and will play in about five plays.
“We’re going to play probably around 90-plus plays on defense and we need another pass rusher,” Graham said. “He’s a guy that can go for limited reps and be an impact against the quarterbacks. He’ll definitely play this week on defense a little bit.
Graham praises reserves
The second half of the Colorado game last Saturday allowed the team to rest its starters and give experience to other players who weren’t able to find playing time during ASU’s rigorous four-game stretch.
Redshirt sophomore defensive back Ezekiel Bishop was the first player Graham mentioned as a reserve who played well against Colorado. Bishop recorded six tackles and impressed the coaching staff with his coverage.
“He looked like a guy that’s ready to play some, Graham said. “I was very proud of how he played. I thought he did some really nice things.”
Graham also named redshirt senior running back R.J. Robinson, who scored ASU’s only touchdown in the second half, and freshman offensive lineman Stephon McCray as standouts.
Marcus Ball update
Graham said he is waiting for freshman safety Marcus Ball to be cleared as soon as late Monday. Ball suffered a shoulder injury during the Camp Tontozona scrimmage back on Aug. 17 and has missed the first half of the season.
Still, Graham has no plans of redshirting him.
“If he does (get cleared), then that will be a big plus for us,” Graham said. “I do think he’s a guy that can help us tremendously, especially like the game we’re expecting to play. We need as many athletes as we can to put out there.”
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