He walked gingerly and chose his words carefully but Marion Grice indicated there's still a real chance he could play in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 30 against Texas Tech.
"I got to be 100 percent for sure," the Arizona State senior running back said, making clear he doesn't intend to play if he's not ready to.
Just two weeks removed from the game, Grice isn't nearly ready. He spoke with reporters while wearing a walking boot on his left foot after suffering an injury to his lower leg during ASU's win over UCLA Nov. 23.
Grice has shed the crutches he was on for several weeks but is still walking with a limp. Even so, his head coach was positive about his star's chances at playing.
"I look for Marion to be back," Todd Graham said. "He's very focused on being back and we'll see how that goes."
The nation's leading scorer when he went down, Grice has 20 touchdowns from scrimmage in 11 games this season with 996 rushing yards and 438 receiving yards.
The injury was the first of his career that caused him to miss games, and it came at the wrong time for everyone involved.
"It was very hard," Grice said. "I feel like I let the team down, but they told me to keep my head up and be there for them. And I'm there for them no matter what, no matter if I'm on the field or off the field."
Graham talks Texas
Graham built his foundation as a high school coach in the Dallas-area in the shadow of Mack Brown's re-building of Texas football several hours' drive south in Austin.
So it's understandable Graham has an affinity for the job Brown did in Texas, and he said as much when asked about the coach's decision to step down in recent days.
"One of the great people in this business that really cares about his players,' Graham said. "Runs a program with great integrity. Tremendous influence I think on other coaches and I know that I have tremendous respect for him and the service he's given to the young people and his players over his career has been phenomenal. Tremendous coach and a coaching legend."
When Steve Patterson left his position as ASU's athletic director to take the same job at Texas a month ago a lot of speculation centered around the possibility of Graham following him.
ASU President Michael Crow said when the school parted ways with Patterson, there was an agreement that precluded him from hiring any ASU personnel.
Graham said Sunday he's not concerned about any potential distractions associated with his name being part of the rumor mill with the Texas vacancy.
He's also not shy about the expectations that come with success and wants that to be present at ASU.
"You don't win 11 games next year you're not successful," You're not in the Pac-12 championship game, you're not successful. That's what I want. I want to build a national power here. We want to be a Top-5, Top-10 program in the country….We want year in, year out to be a Top-5 team. I want those kinds of expectations. I want to be a place that is committed to doing that. I believe we are and we've got great people, great support behind what we're doing here. These players have really worked their tail off to put us in that position. Maybe I'm a different person, that's what I signed up for. I want those kinds of expectations, that kind of pressure."
Scout team bowl
ASU held a scout team bowl game Sunday with seniors Will Sutton and Alden Darby running the defense and calling plays and Evan Finkenberg and Chris Coyle calling the offense. The offense won but only scored 12 points, with Graham cracking that ASU's coordinators' jobs are secure.
"It was pretty impressive what they could do. They had 10 minutes to get them ready and they ran nickel on third down, obviously they pressured on almost every down. That wasn't a surprise. It was fun today and I think that's part of it. I want to enjoy every moment I have with these seniors and this group, it's a special group."
Sophomore offensive lineman Christian Westerman is eligible for the Holiday Bowl as a mid-year transfer after sitting out the season. He's practiced at both left and right guard in recent sessions with the second team. It's unclear if he will play.
Senior cornerback Robert Nelson has missed the team's bowl practices thus far after several deaths in his extended family. He is expected rejoin the team this week.
2014 Goodyear (Ariz.) Desert Edge three-star athlete Ismael Murphy-Richardson attended practice with coaches from the school and watched the Devil backer position primarily.