Colin Parker is often reminded that it could be worse.
The Arizona State junior linebacker and son of former Sun Devil defensive back Anthony Parker (1984-87) is periodically regaled by his father with tales of how treacherous training camp used to be.
"The old guys always tell you that you have it easier," Parker mused. "He told me that when they had Camp [Tontazona] they would go three-a-days every day and they would have to run at five in the morning from their dorms up the road and back. It was a lot different than my Camp T experience."
Not that the younger Parker is complaining about his team's current workload of practices. The linebacker is just happy to be fully healthy and heavily in the mix.
A pair of anterior cruciate ligament surgeries in 2005 and 2006 slowed Parker as he came to ASU in 2007 as a highly recruited local prospect out of Hamilton High. After redshirting his first season, Parker was mired toward the bottom of the depth chart the past two campaigns as he worked to gain back some of the explosiveness he had lost after the surgeries, which came just nine months apart.
This season, Parker said he is finally back to full strength.
"This is the first time I've felt real healthy since my junior year in high school," Parker said. "I can tell by the way I play. I'm playing a lot faster and now that I'm finally getting reps, I feel like I'm getting a lot better. Hopefully I'll be able to contribute on the field this year."
Parker has already made a big impact as one of the most improved players in camp and was one of the defensive standouts in last Saturday's scrimmage.
Currently slated as the second-team strongside linebacker behind junior Shelly Lyons, Parker has also spent time in the middle. Regardless of where he is on the field, Parker is confident he will be a major contributor when the season kicks off.
"I feel like as a [linebacker] group we are solid and we're all going to get a lot of playing time," he said. "It's not just going to be the three starters playing the whole game, so I feel like all I can do is work as hard as I can and do the most with the plays I'm going to get, because I know they're going to come."
Parker's work ethic has yielded high praise from his coach, who compares Parker to a certain former ASU linebacker and fan favorite.
"Colin Parker is what it's all about as far as I'm concerned," coach Dennis Erickson said. "He's a guy that's been in this program and has worked hard. He's very similar to Mike Nixon in a lot of ways. He's very smart and he understands everything.
"He's a good player and we're going to use him a lot. If something ever happens, he's smart and you can trust him to go in and play. He's a heckuva football player."
Like Nixon, Parker has has put dents in the film-room chairs, spending countless hours breaking down what he and others at the position do right and what needs to be improved upon. Parker's affinity for studying film came while sitting out with injuries, knowing he could still find ways to improve even if he wasn't seeing time on the field.
"Since I've been hurt, I feel like since I've had some of my athleticism taken away from me, I have to make up for it with my mind," Parker said. "I knew I had to be at the right spot at the right time or I wasn't going to get on the field. Now that I'm healthy, it's just carried on."
Growing up and watching his father play football made Parker aware that injuries are a part of the game, one of the reasons the linebacker said he didn't allow the setbacks to quell his optimism.
"I kind of had to just fight through," he said. "The longer that I've been here the more I realize it's just something I have to work at and it will come around. That's where I'm at right now."
Early morning scrimmage
The team will have an open intra-squad scrimmage inside Sun Devil Stadium for the first time since camp started Saturday at 8 a.m.
Junior Steven Threet sophomore Brock Osweiler will each get two series' quarterbacking the first-team offense, with each series to run approximately 12 plays according to Erickson.
There will be three additional series' with the second and third teams and junior quarterback Samson Szakacsy and true freshman Taylor Kelly will see their time on the field with those groups.
New safety valve?
True freshman Alden Darby made an impression at cornerback through the first two weeks of fall camp, and worked his way to the first-team nickle slot.
In the last two practices, safeties coach and defensive coordinator Craig Bray decided to give Darby a look at safety.
Bray has been pleased with the consistent performance of junior Clint Floyd, but sophomore Keelan Johnson and junior Eddie Elder have been hot and cold.
Darby had a nice interception in a red zone segment Friday and appeared to be handling the concepts of the position reasonably well. He was getting a lot of personal instruction in between repetitions from cornerbacks coach Greg Burns.