PAYSON, Arizona — It was raining. It was pouring. However, the Sun Devils were not snoring.
Despite dealing with less than ideal playing conditions and changing facilities, the ASU football team came out and opened up its annual Camp Tontozona trip in impressive fashion.
Players, coaches and fans alike woke up Wednesday morning to rainy conditions, which caused the practice to be pushed from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. and forced the team to move from Tontozona to Rumsey Park in nearby Payson, Arizona.
The Sun Devil equipment team went right to work, as they were squeegeeing the field dry from the time they got to Rumsey Park up until the team got there more than an hour later.
Despite the poor conditions, there was no doubt that the Sun Devils would practice that day, redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly said.
“We’ve got to get our practices in,” he said. “We’re at about 15 days until game day, so we were going to practice either way. You never know when you’re going to practice or even play in the rain, and it was good for our guys to experience.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell echoed his quarterback’s sentiments when he interrupted practice to speak to the first team offense.
“Let’s lock it up, and have a great day. Actually, let’s have our best day,” he told them, comparing the conditions to game-day preparations gone awry.
Dealing with the conditions is just a part of the game, head coach Todd Graham said.
“That’s football. (The rain) didn’t bother me any,” he said. “I kind of liked that we experienced things like that.”
The day, however, was not without its frustrations, as Graham was visibly frustrated at times during defensive walkthroughs.
“I was telling them today, ‘Take coaching. It’s how you respond to hard coaching,’ ” Graham said. “There’s no bad body language. There’s not anybody responding in a bad way, they’re just not responding like a national champion. Everything we’re doing is about the higher standard.”
The players responded, and the rest of practice saw great performances especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“(Defensive lineman Marcus) Hardison has been really solid. We’ve really been pushing him to go to a different level,” Graham said. “He’s always been very consistent, taking care of his job and what he’s coached to do, and making some plays. He’s going to have to be a playmaker, and a guy that’s a difference maker for us.”
Hardison, a senior, had five tackles and one sack in limited time over 13 games for the Sun Devils last year, his first with the Sun Devils after coming to Tempe as a JUCO transfer.
- Redshirt sophomore Carlos Mendoza is expected to miss three to four weeks with a knee injury, Graham said after practice. Mendoza had been taking first-team reps at the Will linebacker spot.
- Junior running back D.J. Foster was sporting the green no-contact jersey again during Wednesday’s practice, but did see time during 11-on-11 drills.
- Redshirt senior running back Deantre Lewis, who took some first team running back snaps in Foster’s absence appeared to be nicked early in the practice. Lewis was visibly sick and ran to the sidelines, where he took off his pads and stayed for the remainder of practice. Graham said the injury was “nothing serious.”
- Two plays stood out in Wednesday’s practice, as quarterback Taylor Kelly was able to find a diving Cameron Smith in the corner of the end zone during seven-on-seven drills. Also, redshirt junior safety Jordan Simone, who is competing for a starting spot, wrapped up practice in impressive fashion by picking off backup quarterback Mike Bercovici on a jump ball.
- After the late start to practice, Graham surprised the team by providing them with McDonald’s lunch on the bus waiting for them.
- Redshirt junior wide receiver Gary Chambers was among the southpaws celebrating “National Lefty Day” on Wednesday.
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