ASU football: Healthy Carlos Mendoza looking for big season

Carlos Mendoza shuffles to anticipate a the snap

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Carlos Mendoza shuffles to anticipate a the snap in a drill during a practice on April 9, 2013. Mendoza cannot fully compete in spring practices but makes the most of the mental reps. (Photo by Edmund Hubbard)

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Carlos Mendoza has been stung by the injury bug more than most of his teammates.

He turned in a career game against Illinois in 2012 in just his second game with ASU. Mendoza snared two interceptions, but his performance was costly, as he ended up hurting his shoulder and missed the rest of the season.

Mendoza was able to take a redshirt that season because he played in less than a 30 percent of ASU’s games and suffered a season-ending injury.

Last season, he appeared in six games as a reserve, but had a “big mental setback” from being marred by “injuries that I’ve never had before.”

“It upset me mentally because I felt like I was unreliable to my teammates, towards the coaching staff,” Mendoza said of his injuries. “I wanted to make sure that I could be a player that they can depend on. I tried as hard as I can and I work very hard to get my body to the best of its ability so I wouldn’t have to worry about it (health).”

What’s next in store for Mendoza in his third season remains to be seen.

Redshirt junior linebacker Antonio Longino was practicing at weak-side linebacker, but because of the dearth of players at Devilbacker, Longino changed ositions.

With Longino moving, Mendoza is now one of two favorites to win the starting position at WILL. He’s competing to start with freshman D.J. Calhoun, a position battle that ASU coach Todd Graham said was “neck and neck” last night.

“He’s a good player,” Mendoza said of Calhoun. “He’s young so he’s got a lot of things to work on just like I did when I first came in… It’s a competition, but it’s still a brotherhood. If he needs help, I’ll help him out with something. If I need help, I’ll ask him.”

Off to Camp T:

Video by Justin Janssen | Sports Reporter

One of the more popular moves Graham has made in his ASU tenure is bringing the team back to Camp Tontozona, which is near Payson.

ASU will head to camp Tuesday afternoon and the team will practice from beginning Wednesday, and will hold a scrimmage Saturday.

“Camp T’s all about coming together as a team, honoring the guys that come before us,” Graham said.

Graham added that he thinks former ASU coach Frank Kush will be speaking to the team on Friday.

“That’s what makes it so special, we talk to them, every great Sun Devil, every championship has flown through Camp Tontozona,’ he said.

Additional Practice Notes

- Redshirt junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong and junior running back D.J. Foster lined up to block punts in practice. Graham has said Strong wants to be involved in special teams – he’s also getting an opportunity to return kickoffs, but the team may not want to overexert him.

- Junior defensive tackle Jaxon Hood was not at practice again on Tuesday. He has not been at practice this fall. Graham said yesterday he expected Hood to join the team either that night or Tuesday, so he could be joining the team at Camp T.

- Freshman running back Kalen Ballage did not attend the practice. He was at the night practice on Monday, but was not participating.

- Redshirt senior De’Marieya Nelson has been practicing with the offense more recently. He is expected to play on both sides of the ball.

- ASU had a “half-scrimmage,” during the portion of practice closed to the media. Graham said “big plays” for the offense were the story of the day .

Reach the reporter at Justin.Janssen@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @jjanssen11