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Posts Tagged ‘Maroon and Gold’

ASU Football: What to Watch For at Camp Tontozona

July 30th, 2017 by Carolyn Stanley & Tim Ehrhardt

What’s New?
The Sun Devils start camp extremely early with their first practice at Camp Tontozona scheduled for the morning of July 31. This is partially because of a new NCAA rule that limits teams to just one practice per day. Long gone are the days of three practices a day.

What’s the Biggest Story for the Season?
Some may disagree but for me it’s Coach Todd Graham’s job status. After consecutive 10 win seasons in 2013 and 2014 Graham’s teams have struggled, finishing 6-7 in 2015 and 5-7 last year. 2016 was also the first time in six years that the Sun Devils did not play in a bowl game. According to what I’ve consistently read online, the feeling around the program is that the Devils have to win at least six games this year for Graham to return next year.

What else is new?
Coaches. Lots and lots of new assistant coaches. After having a relatively stable staff his first few years in Tempe, Graham’s staff has seen many changes the past two years including five new coaches this year. The staff changes include new offensive and defensive coordinators.

Position Battle to Watch 
Quarterback. Junior Manny Wilkins, who started 10 games last year, will battle Alabama transfer Blake Barnett for the right to lead the Devils’ offense. Both were highly touted coming out of high school, though Barnett a little bit moreso. Wilkins has opened camp with the first team, but many figure that it’s just a matter of time until Barnett overtakes him. Don’t forget, new offensive coordinator Billy Napier spent the last five years as Alabama’s wide receivers coach.

Other Things to Watch
Defense. Defense. Defense. The Sun Devils ranked 127 out of 128 FBS I-A teams in yards allowed per game last year. While some of this can be attributed to the high number of possessions in each Sun Devil game, the fact is that the defense was flat out bad last year and was not much better in 2015. Unfortunately the Sun Devils unexpectedly lost their two best secondary players during the offseason. (Retirement and transfer) There is some good returning talent up front but with a thin and young secondary new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has a major challenge ahead of him.

Tontozona Schedule
Practices are scheduled at Camp Tontozona on Monday through Thursday, from 8:35 AM to 11:20 AM. If there is inclement weather practice may be moved to Payson Rumsey’s Park or postponed until Friday. There will be a practice/scrimmage on Saturday morning at Camp Tontozona starting at 9:30 AM.

Viewing Tips
The practices during the week have a little bit more relaxed vibe whereas Saturday’s practice/scrimmage is a major event with thousands of people. Both are enjoyable. Both are worth checking out in my opinion. In years past they have had player rosters on gold sheets at the practices which are invaluable when watching.

A Note About Photos
At least in past years, you cannot take pictures during the week. Now more than ever most coaches are paranoid about their practices and it’s no different at ASU. In fact, Tontozona has typically been the only time, including spring practice, that the media has been allowed to watch a full practice while Todd Graham has been the coach. If the football staff sees you taking pictures during the week they will ask you to stop. On Saturday, I’ve never heard of someone being asked not take pictures, probably because there are so many people.

Other Events
The Town of Payson has done a great job of embracing the Sun Devils. There will be a pep rally on Friday August 4 from 5 to 9 PM at Payson’s Green Valley Park. It will include the Sun Devil Spirit squad, Sparky, football competitions and games, alumni autographs, and food vendors. On Saturday August 5 there will be a food truck festival at Payson’s Green Valley Park from 2 to 9 PM. You can learn more at PaysonRimCountry.com.

Frank Kush
On June 22, 2017 legendary ASU football coach Frank Kush passed away at the age of 88. Kush started the tradition of ASU football at Tontozona in 1960. While nothing specific has been publicized, reportedly the Sun Devils will be doing something to honor him this year at Camp Tontozona. Regardless, his presence looms large. There is a nearby mountain that is named for him, Mount Kush, because he had his players run up it after they made mistakes.

The Weather
Every year the weather is a concern at Tontozona and this year is no different. If it’s too wet for too long they may return to Tempe early, as they did last year. The Payson area has been greeted by a very wet monsoon season and high chances of rain are forecast throughout the week. I am particularly fond of the National Weather Service point forecast. Check it out for the Camp Tontozona area here.

Who to Follow Online?
I really like Twitter and given that there’s a possibility of moved or canceled practices, it’s important to check before heading out. Here’s a link to my ASU Football list. https://twitter.com/PaysonRealtor/lists/asu-football

Something I Just Had to Share
I just came across this Twitter post this morning and it blew me away. Tremendous work by Dan Trujillo.

– Blog post by Tim Ehrhardt

Note: A lot of my opinions are based on the SunDevilSource.com site. Chris Karpman and his staff do an excellent job, in my opinion, in covering the Sun Devils. But the key thing is to remember that they are just opinions and they are mine and mine alone. 

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