Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
Is Todd Graham the best coach in the Pac-12? Ronnie Lott seems to think so.
Though Graham has been criticized for leaving schools quickly after arriving, he seems to have found a home at Arizona State and has brought his ideals of hard work and discipline with him. He has turned the once underachieving Sun Devils into a formidable force in the Pac-12 South.
After one short season at Pitt, he arrived in Tempe with a vision: to turn Arizona State into a powerhouse football team.
Thus far, he has made good on his promise.
After a mediocre 6-7 campaign led by then-head coach Dennis Erickson in 2011, Graham turned the team around and guided it to the first winning record since 2007. His 2012 record was 8-5, followed by a 10-4 record in 2013. The Sun Devils' unexpected success last season also led them to win their first Pac-12 South Championship, with an 8-1 conference record.
Unfortunately, the success of the 2013 campaign ended on a down note, with a loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game, followed by an upset by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.
Following the loss to Texas Tech, Graham did what any good coach would do, putting the blame on himself and his staff rather than blaming at his players.
Despite poor play at the end of the 2013 campaign, he remains positive about the upcoming season. Though he will have to replace nine defensive starters, Graham and Co. will return an arsenal of weapons on offense, which should prove to be one of the most prolific in the country.
Heisman dark-horse candidate Taylor Kelly, wide receiver Jaelen Strong and All-American running back D.J. Foster are all returning in 2014, along with a slew of top-rated incoming recruits. With the returnees and new faces, Arizona State could be one of the best in the country.
While any of the top three teams in this countdown could be the Pac-12 South champion, Arizona State has the coaching staff and returning players who are most likely to make it happen again.
Note: Star rankings obtained from Rivals.com.