Next week may be ASU football’s annual homecoming week, but coach Todd Graham and eight players are returning to their home state of Texas this weekend to face Notre Dame.
Senior running back Marion Grice, redshirt freshman safety Laiu Moeakiola, freshman kicker Zane Gonzalez, freshman wide receivers Ellis Jefferson and Cameron Smith, redshirt offensive lineman William McGehee, redshirt sophomore defensive back Lloyd Carrington and freshman cornerback William Early were all recruited under Graham’s tenure and are all heading home.
ASU didn’t have much of a recruiting presence in Texas before, but Graham has emphasized establishing a pipeline there in his first two years at ASU.
One of the biggest highlights of the Sun Devils’ trip to Dallas this weekend is the chance to play in AT&T; Stadium. When the 80,000-seat stadium isn’t hosting Dallas Cowboys games, it stages the biggest high school games in the state in which many of ASU’s Texas natives have played.
Gonzalez went to Deer Park High School but didn’t get a chance to play at AT&T; Stadium as a Texas resident. He’ll finally get the chance to kick in front of his friends and family members expected to be in attendance.
“My excitement level is off the roof,” Gonzalez said. “It’s an awesome stadium. It’s ridiculously huge.”
Moeakiola played at AT&T; Stadium several times from his sophomore through senior years for state playoff games as a player for Trinity High School in Euless, Texas. He said playing at the stadium is an interesting experience, but it could also be a distraction for players who are caught up in the spotlight.
As a veteran of the stadium, he knows how to stay composed in one of football’s biggest venues.
“It’s a business trip,” Moeakiola said. “We got to have our perception in mind of just keeping our eyes on the prize while we’re there and don’t get easily distracted by the crowd noise.”
One of the team’s road rituals is visiting the stadium the day before the game, which gives the players a chance to walk through on the field. Gonzalez and Moeakiola agreed that it makes the experience easier for a game like this, especially considering it’s against Notre Dame and on a big stage.
“It’s definitely helps,” Gonzalez said. “You see the field and you see the grass, you get used to it and get ready in your head for the next day.”
-Sun Devil Athletics announced in an email to season ticket holders that the upper deck in north endzone of Sun Devil Stadium will be demolished following the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in December. The removal of the upper deck is the first part of ASU’s renovation project for Sun Devil Stadium and a full plan is expected to be released Thursday evening.
-Even though the team practiced in shells Thursday, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Mo Latu (knee) went through the full workout. Latu missed Tuesday’s practice and arrived late on Wednesday. Graham said Tuesday that Latu and sophomore nose tackle Jaxon Hood (leg) are listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game.
-Hood practiced in a green no-contact jersey again in Thursday’s practice and was just as limited as he was Wednesday.
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