Arizona State returned to the practice field on Wednesday in preparation for Saturday's matchup with UCLA, but the Sun Devils did things a little differently in hopes of gaining an edge over the reigning Pac-12 South champions.
For the first time this season, the Sun Devils went without pads for a Wednesday practice which is typically one of the most rigorous days of the week for Arizona State. Todd Graham said this isn't the first time he's made this decision at Arizona State as he implemented a similar policy late in the season last year.
"The last two weeks of the season I did the same thing last year," Graham said. "I just want them (the players) to be really fresh and you can tell they kind of liked that today."
Graham consulted with strength and conditioning coach Shawn Griswold before he made the call and he frequently mentions the faith he has in Griswold's feel for the player's health. Graham said he didn't notice a drop off in the energy level from the Sun Devils at practice today although he did indicate it's easier to tell when he has a chance to reflect in the film room.
"I'm hoping they were mature enough to handle that and I think they were and I'll know when I watch the film," Graham said.
This isn't the first time Graham has changed up the practice regimen for the Sun Devils this season. During the bye week prior to the Washington State game, the Sun Devils went without pads for three consecutive practices and they looked sharp in a 55-21 victory over the Cougars.
Graham also said that this year's practices have looked a little different because he's had players wearing pads three days a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) as opposed to just two days a week last season.
"Last year, every Thursday we didn't wear pads," Graham said. "This year every Thursday we have (worn pads) so it's kind of a little different."
The Sun Devils have played a grueling schedule this season and Graham ultimately believes that practicing without pads will help players stay healthy while also keeping them focused.
With the Pac-12 South title on the line, the Sun Devils have readied their bodies for action and they're ready to pry the division crown away from the Bruins.
"You need to remain humble and you have to work and prepare and go and take it," Graham said. "It's not going to be something they're going to offer up very easily."