PAYSON, Ariz. — As good as a coach Todd Graham is, not even he — the reigning Pac-12 Coach of the Year — can come up with a game plan to defeat Mother Nature.
So, after a thunderstorm blew through the night before and several more inches of rain fell in the morning, Graham told his staff to pack up the equipment, have the players board the buses and everyone head to Rumsey Park, about a 20-minute drive from Camp Tontozona, for practice.
The artificial turf field held up well once the excess water was squeegeed off.
“You got to be audible-ready,” Graham said of moving practice. “We came over and tried to figure out where the numbers were on this field and the hash marks, but guys worked good.”
Scheduled to start at 8:30, ASU did not begin practice until almost 9:45 because of the weather.
“That’s football. It didn’t bother me any,” Graham said. “I kind of like that we experience things like that. I like to see how the guys respond.”
Two hours into practice more rain hit the ground, but only a light sprinkle and it was short-lived. Besides, at that point, nothing was going to keep the Sun Devils from getting in their work.
“We’ve got to get our practices in. We’ve got to get prepared. We’re 15 days until game day (August 28 vs. Weber State), and so we were going to practice either way,” quarterback Taylor Kelly said.
The practice, despite the occasional slipping because of the wet elements, was crisp with the up-tempo pace to Graham’s liking.
“We don’t mess around. That’s what we do. We go pretty hard,” he said.
Work was done among individual position groups scattered across the field, and then the entire team joined up for offense against defense, including short yardage and goal line plays.
The offense had its moments, specifically freshman running back Jacom Brimhall out of Mesa Mountain View, but it was the defense that celebrated last with redshirt junior defensive back Jordan Simone intercepting Mike Bercovici to put an end to the two-and-a-half hour practice, the first for ASU at Rumsey Park since 2007.
“Adversity hit,” Kelly said about the weather. “That’s something that’s going to happen on the road, whether we go to Colorado and it’s raining or our flight is delayed. You never know what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to prepare for that and that was a good challenge for us, and I thought we attacked it well.”
Running back D.J. Foster was once again limited, wearing a green no-contact jersey, while defensive tackle Jaxon Hood (personal issue) remained absent.
Following practice, Graham announced sophomore linebacker Carlos Mendoza will be sidelined three to four weeks because of an injured knee. He had been running with the first unit.
“This team is really, really a special team,” Graham said. “They just run to the ball harder. They do everything just with much more purpose about them. For instance, I’m telling them today, ‘take coaching’. It’s how you respond to hard coaching. There’s no bad body language. There’s nobody responding in a bad way. They’re just not responding like a national champion. Everything we’re doing is about higher standards. It’s been good. I like how the guys are working.”
And what if Mother Nature should intervene once again?
“Weather doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’ll clear off, and we’ll have a great rest of the week.”