ASU football focused on staying safe to stay competitive

Players remain vigilant about guarding themselves against COVID-19 during the season to not miss any games

The ASU football team displayed a serious attitude toward guarding themselves against COVID-19 throughout the team's first week of practice. 

They understand well that with just six games currently scheduled, with a seventh to be determined in the Pac-12 Championship week, a positive case could jeopardize the Sun Devils' season.

“I think everyone in the locker room is taking that stance,” graduate student center Cade Cote said. “If anybody gets wind of anyone wanting to go out, that gets killed immediately. I think everyone is making sure everyone’s staying home, we’re masked up in the building, washing hands. We’re making sure no one is being selfish and putting them or the team at risk.”

Cote is a sixth-year senior who says he is in his last "hurrah" with the team. He knows if the offensive line group has a coronavirus outbreak and he contracts it, he could miss a significant portion of his final season.

Captain and graduate student wide receiver Frank Darby could also be in his last go-around with ASU unless he chooses to use his extra year of eligibility. He said he doesn’t go out and has been vocal about making sure his teammates are always aware of the risks of doing so. 

“I just keep reminding them, ‘Stay safe, stay safe,’” Darby said. “If anybody gets popped for COVID during the season, you’re out for 21 days, that’s three games. We have six games. I try to remind them every day, ‘Make sure you're washing your hands and putting your mask on. It’s going to be alright. It's just two months.’ 

“‘You don’t need to have company, you don’t need to be having parties, I just need you dialed in, let’s get this championship.'”

Darby and several other Sun Devils made it clear that this team has aspirations to win the Pac-12. 

But, head coach Herm Edwards previously said in a press conference on Sept. 25 that if his quarterback group sufferers a coronavirus outbreak, his team would have to forfeit games. There are no makeup dates or bye weeks in the Pac-12 schedule.

The message to stay as safe as possible throughout the season rubbed off on some of the younger players, with freshman wide receiver Johnny Wilson being one of them. 

“Now that we have a season, everyone’s being extra cautious with going out and being around people,” Wilson said. “The last thing you want is to catch that virus while we're going into the season and then, bam, you’re out two weeks missing practice and missing reps.”

ASU began fully-padded practices last Friday and also got to use the rapid-result testing for the first time.

A big reason why Pac-12 football was able to return was the partnership the conference made with Quidel Corporation, a medical manufacturer providing tests to the 12 schools. 

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott previously said the test takes around 15 minutes to produce results in a press conference on Sept. 3

According to an official team practice report last Friday, players tested using nasal swabs in groups of 20, starting at 6:30 a.m., and it went "smoothly."

Co-defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said his team has done well at staying safe so far, but keeping up that success will directly affect what the team looks like on Saturdays. 

“We are trying to convince our guys to stay within our little bubble we’ve got here,” Lewis said. “They did a great job before it got shut down in August, and now we have to go back and we were working hard at that. For us to have success this football season on the field, we’re going to have real success off the field in everything we do.”

ASU’s first game is Nov. 7 at USC. The Trojans have the best odds to win the Pac-12 Championship Game among teams in the south division, according to The Sun Devils have the third-highest odds to earn the title in the division, according to the site. 

To put up their best fight against USC on Nov. 7 and the rest of the season, the Sun Devils are determined to keep the virus out of the locker room.

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