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August 20, 2014

Hood focused on present

The last year has been unkind to Jaxon Hood and he's ready to put it behind him.

Re-joining the Arizona State program last Thursday after what he said was a 26 day absence, the junior defensive tackle didn't want to go into specifics.

"No, I can't," Hood said. "It was a personal issue. And I'm just going to leave it at that.

"I wanted to be here, but I had to take care of my business. It's great to be back. It was great motivation, and it kept me sane, knowing that I was going to come back to my team."

Hood said there was never a doubt in his mind he'd be back with the Sun Devils and just three days after returning, was already earning first-team reps at nose tackle in the team's Saturday scrimmage at Camp Tontozona.

Sun Devil defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said the goal is to get Hood conditioned to play, a process the former local standout at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., said is progressing nicely.

"I've already lost 11 pounds since Thursday so it's real smooth and by the time kickoff comes (for the season opener) I should be about 285 pounds," Hood said.

If Hood can recapture some of the success that made him a Freshman All-American in 2012, it will be a big boost to a defensive front that lost four starters from last season including two all-league players, one of whom was two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton.

Hood was starting last season early on and performing at a relatively high level when he got hurt with a hamstring injury at Stanford and was never the same, finishing with 17 tackles on the year.

"I got cleared, but I was playing on a leg and a half," Hood said. "You know, it's rough, but that's a part of football, injuries and stuff. If you ask me, I was primed for a pretty big season. You guys saw my play against Wisconsin. It wasn't a matter of losing my job, it was a matter of getting hurt."

In the spring, Hood had surgery to repair a broken hand and was forced to try to practice wearing a heavy brace, yet another setback. Now, he's able to work without any restrictions and feeling much better.

The confidence coaches have shown in him, which includes providing him with first-team reps in his first padded practice back after missing several weeks of camp, is not lost on him.

"Coach (Todd) Graham means everything to me," Hood said. "He's the father I never had. I look up to him. I believe everything he says, good and bad. He's an awesome leader. He has so much ambition and passion … when I'm 50 years old, that's who I want to be. I can't say enough good things about him."

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