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October 16, 2013

Hood nearly back to full strength




Jaxon Hood may be catching the eye of fewer coeds on Arizona State's campus this week but it's probably fair to say he considers it an acceptable trade off.

"Ya'll don't know it, but I'm hurt all the damn time," Hood said Wednesday in his first visit with reporters this season. "I think every defensive tackle is hurt all the damn time. Last season, I was walking tall in front of y'all but when I got on campus I was limping around a little. But that's how you meet some girls -- you limp around, get them to carry your backpack."

Hood, a sophomore defensive tackle, was more hobbled than normal in recent weeks after an injured hamstring suffered at Stanford on Sept. 21 forced him to miss the following two games. He returned against Colorado Saturday, but played at less than full strength.

"This injury was pretty serious," Hood said. "I couldn't really walk or sit down or tie my shoe or nothing. I still can't touch my toe on the left side. This is probably the worst injury I've ever had, but you know, that's a blessing because it's not a knee, it's not a tear, it's not surgical."

Even though senior Davon Coleman rose to the challenge in Hood's absence with a move inside to starting tackle after backing up senior Gannon Conway at end through the first third of the season, Sun Devil coach Todd Graham said not having his 300-pound run stopper was a significant factor in games against USC and Notre Dame.

"It's big time having him back," Graham said. "I don't think he was very healthy last week, I think he was probably 80 percent and he'll be close to 100 percent this week. He's vital to what we're doing and a guy who is just scratching the surface of how good he'll be.

"He's a great young man and a big time player for us up front. It really hurt us a lot more than even I anticipated it would, losing him. So, glad to have him back and have our guys healthy."

After playing the best football of his career in the last several weeks, Coleman has earned the start according to Graham, but Hood expects he'll play a lot, perhaps even a majority of the defensive reps in what could be a game with a lot of snaps Saturday against a potent Washington offense.

The Huskies feature junior running back Bishop Sankey, who enters the game averaging a BCS-best 149.8 yards per game. Washington likes to run Sankey downhill, where he'll try to sneak by Hood in the A-gap as often as possible.

"It's always a great opportunity to play the nation's leading rusher," Hood said. "On the remaining schedule, with (Arizona running back) Ka'Deem (Carey) and Bishop, we've got arguably two of the best backs in the country. We're looking forward to that and just silencing some naysayers on the road to the Rose Bowl."

Moeakiola on the move

With junior field safety Damarious Randall making an impact in his first career start with 17 tackles against Notre Dame two weeks ago, the Sun Devils are looking at re-positioning redshirt freshman Viliami Moeakiola, the team's previous starter at the position.

Moeakiola has worked at Spur -- a hybrid safety-linebacker position - for the first this week, even splitting first-team reps with senior Anthony Jones in practice Wednesday.

"That's a position that we want to improve the level of play," Graham said. "It's been adequate but it's been where we've given up a lot of big play runs and he's a guy that is very, very dependable and a guy that we're trying to provide depth and upgrade that position."

ASU has alternated between Jones and senior Chris Young at Spur this season depending on the opponent. Young, the team's best linebacker, has played WILL against pro-style teams and Spur against spread teams.

Graham has said the linebacker corps is probably one talented player shy of where they'd like it to be at this juncture. Moeakiola is getting an audition and freshman Marcus Ball may also get a look when he's eventually cleared to practice for the first time since the season started, which is expected in the next week or two.

The adjustment is one that Moeakiola said isn't particularly difficult considering he played a similar rover position at Trinity High in Euless, Texas.

"Coaches know what's in the best interest of the team and I feel like I can make plays at that position because it's just roaming around the box, but it comes down to technique also.

"Not too much thinking. [Tuesday] I was thinking a little too much but today I was just coming out here, playing off instincts. I prefer it. Don't get me wrong, I like safety but knowing you're the last man and you've got receivers out wide, you've got to fit your gaps. But at Spur, you're just setting the edge, making sure nobody gets outside you. It's a pretty fun position."

Notes

  • Junior Devil backer Carl Bradford wore what looked to be a cast on his left wrist for the first time in practice Wednesday but it wasn't cumbersome nor did it involve any fingers or appear to be hampering him.

  • Ball was in shells for the first time since breaking his clavicle in the Camp Tontozona-ending scrimmage but wore a green non-contact jersey and was not a participant in the defensive install or team tempo 11-on-11 segment of practice observed by media.


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