One offensive linemen after another stepped into the gauntlet opposite Mo Latu during the most physical of Arizona State's spring practice drills, and one by one Latu dispatched with them seemingly with ease, tossing some aside like rag dolls instead of the 300-pounders they are.
Two days earlier ASU coach Todd Graham called his defensive linemen fat and out of shape. Latu and his position mates seemed to take that as a challenge and responded with their best effort yet in the team's 'W' Drill, a modified Oklahoma Drill made to test a lot, but especially a person's manhood.
"I told them, why do I got to make you mad before you do that" Graham said following the Thursday workout. "Why don't you just do it every day? That's what a champion does."
Following surgery for torn meniscus in his right knee last summer Latu's weight ballooned to nearly 400 pounds and he spent the 2013 season battling soreness in the joint and a lack of conditioning due in part to the added weight.
Latu said his knee now feels 100 percent and he claims to have lost 24 pounds to a weight of 370 pounds, which is still quite a ways from his target goal.
"Definitely feeling lighter," Latu said. "I can't even imagine how being at 335, 330. It's going to be that much better. More explosive and just more power, more agile too so I'll be able to move more better."
Currently working with the first-team at nose tackle, Latu's on an aggressive schedule to facilitate the weight loss, including 45 minutes of cardio in the weight room immediately following practice.
"I have a little method," Latu said regarding the mundanity of his weight loss routine. "I just sing songs in my head while I'm doing it. No matter what it is, I sing songs in my head.
"You know, just a little island music, think I'm in paradise a little bit even though I'm on the treadmill the whole time, but that's the only way I can think of it."
First-year starting linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said Latu is on the right track because his approach to the process has been pristine.
"I tell you, it's about his attitude," Patterson said. "He walks in everyday, has a smile on his face, has a great spirit about himself. You know he might be the biggest guy on the field, but he's the first one to the drills. It shows he has the desire, the want to, and [sports performance coach Shawn Griswold] will get him there, where he needs to be physically. He has a great spirit about himself."
Douglas works at tackle
With the Sun Devils looking to find their best five offensive lineman to start as a unit and seven players regularly practicing at a high level, position coach Chris Thomsen has a bit of a dilemma, but one he'll never complain about.
Senior Jamil Douglas will definitely be a starter if healthy, of that there's no doubt. You can mark it down in permanent ink. What remains undetermined is whether Douglas will play left guard -- the position he played as a starter the last two seasons -- or left tackle, where he practiced on Thursday.
"I really don't have a preference to be honest," Douglas said. "Of course I feel more comfortable at guard because I spent the last couple years there but I was recruited here as a tackle so I have experience with that as well. I really feel like I can play both and it'll help me in the long run."
The move to tackle kicked sophomore Evan Goodman down to the second team instead of the first-team left tackle spot he's been at all spring. But instead of playing behind Douglas, he worked at left guard for the first time.
"It's a little different," Goodman said, while admitting he prefers tackle. "Tackle is just different. Guard, you can't really wait. On left tackle you got to wait for them to come in. Guard, it's a little faster."
Regardless of which lineup ASU goes with, Douglas said the group has a lot of potential, echoing Graham's repeated comments of late that his offensive line is the strongest unit on the team this spring.
"I think we can be better, a little more explosive than last year, a little more athletic, and no offense to those guys (who left) but every year we want to get better and that's something that we're focusing on right now," Douglas said. "I think we have a bunch of guys who can be great right now."
Junior wide receiver Jaelen Strong did not practice and had his right foot in a walking boot due to what Graham termed a toe sprain.
After injuring his leg in Tuesday's session, junior cornerback Rashad Wadood attended pratice Thursday but did not participate with what's being termed a deep thigh contusion.
Sophomore linebacker Carlos Mendoza didn't wear a walking boot for the first time all spring but still did not participate during the practice session.