Through three quarters of the Arizona State vs. Notre Dame game, the Sun Devils' run defense surrendered less than three yards per carry. Fighting Irish running back Cam McDaniel then put the positive omens to rest with excellent downhill running in the final 15 minutes.
The struggles up front are attributed to a variety of reasons, but the absence of Jaxon Hood is arguably the most logical explanation. After missing slightly more than two games, Hood will return to the starting lineup against Colorado. Hood wanted to play against Notre Dame, but the coaches decided to hold him back.
"Jaxon practiced and look for him to be back." Todd Graham said.
Hood didn't participate in the 11-on-11 drills but he wasn't donning the green no-contact jersey. During the individual unit drills, he was working alongside Will Sutton and company.
Key points of emphasis for the week
In Tuesday's practice, Graham stressed the importance of ball security and capitlizing on opportunities. Both issues proved to be very costly, whether it was Richard Smith's fumble or Damarious Randall's dropped interception.
"That wasn't something they made a great play on," Graham on Smith's fumble. "We don't do that. You got to guard the ball. When you're playing in a game like that nobody tries to do that. So you just got to learn from that and move forward. So no I'm not worried about that, and if we are, we shouldn't play him.
"Simply every week that is all I ever talk about [ball security]. If you look around that's the key, that's going to be key this week. Just like every single week," Graham said. "The margin for error of winning or losing is so small. Take everything else out, and I thought was the one [Smith's fumble]. And here's another side of that, the [almost] interception that Damarious had. He catches that and there's a whole sideline to go."
Because of Smith's struggles, Cameron Smith (not related) may see more chances to prove his worth. Smith hasn't been a major part of the offensive game plan, yet in his home return to Texas, he posted a career-high two catches. The true freshman could see that number rise because of his dynamic 4.4 speed.
Graham was asked if Smith will see increased repetitions: "I think so, he needs to. He can really stretch the field vertically. We are increasing his reps."
Despite the 17-tackle debut by Randall, which garnered high praise from Graham, Marcus Ball seems to still be in line to start once he comes back. Ball wore the green no-contact jersey again and didn't have pads on.
"We still need Marcus. I think Marcus is one of our best 11 football players on defense," Graham said. "We're hoping here this week or next week to have him back."
As for the linebackers, Anthony Jones started the first four games yet suited up with the backups for Notre Dame. The switch didn't last long. Jones was back working with the first-team at the WILL linebacker spot today.
"I think we have settled in there [at linebacker]. We just got to leave it where it's at and do the best we can with it," Graham said on the linebacker rotation. "You'll see them switching some just for different packages. If we played today, Anthony would be the starting WILL, Chris would be the starting SPUR, and Salamo or Steffon would start at SAM.
Graham impressed with Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre
Mike MacIntyre is in his first season as the Colorado football coach. He previously worked at San Jose State and turned the program around quickly. Graham believes MacIntyre has made strides to revitalize the Buffs, who have showed progress.
"Huge difference. They are a lot more consistent about what they are doing defensively," Graham said on the differences between Colorado in 2012 and 2013. "A lot less opportunities for big plays. Their structure is different. And special teams, they have done a really good job on special teams."
"I think coach [MacIntyre] is a heck of a football coach. I have been for a very short period of time. I watched him do the job at San Jose, he knows what he's doing," Graham said. "He's got the guys playing extremely hard. And there's nothing cautious about him. Everything that they are doing they are extremely sound. I'm very, very impressed."
Other Practice Notes
- If you're hoping D.J. Foster gets more carries and touches, you aren't the only one. Graham said Foster will be seeing more looks for the remainder of the season.
- Chris Young was wearing No. 5 instead of 21 at practice. The move appears to be permanent, as Graham wants him and Jaelen Strong to be able to play special teams together.
- Alden Darby had his Pat Tillman jersey revoked. Graham didn't explain his reasoning. In the previous times, Darby temporarily lost it for missing mentoring sessions.
- Kicker Jon Mora accidentally booted the pigskin at Paul Randolph during onside kick practice. Graham and the media members found it hilarious. Mora somehow shanked it so bad that the ball went parallel, connecting with Randolph.
- Scouts from the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers attended Tuesday's practice.