After a day trip to Camp Tontozona on Wednesday, Arizona State held its fifth preseason practice and first in full pads Thursday night at Kajikawa practice fields. 

The Sun Devils are practicing at night for the first two weeks. Once school starts later this month, they will practice in the morning.

Leading off

“This is the longest stretch they’ve been on without a day off. We’ve got two more nights like this with pads on then after that we’ll give them another break. This is a little bit of hump for them especially the young guys. This week and next week then we’re about done practicing against each other. Then it goes into the mode of opening the season, so we’ve got to make some (personnel) decisions.” — Coach Herm Edwards

Starting temperature: 99.

Ending temperature: 95.

Attire: Pads. 

Media viewing: Entire practice.

Reverence for Camp Tontozona

Despite taking a tumble on his way down Mt. Kush, Herm Edwards was reverentially impressed with Camp Tontozona like most of his predecessors.

Edwards took his first ASU team to the camp outside Payson for a day trip Wednesday even though the new artificial turf field is not ready for play so the normal week-long stay had to be cancelled. The media was not allowed to tag along.

“It’s important historically when you think how that was created by coach (Frank) Kush,” Edwards said. “I can remember watching it and knowing I was getting recruited here. I wanted to honor the man and what he stood for here, but also college football. He’s one of the greatest college football coaches and sometimes that’s not talked about a lot.”

Edwards showed the team a video about the late Kush, how he helped to carve out Camp Tontozona so it could be a summer home for football practices starting in 1960 and what he achieved in his 22-year ASU coaching tenure.

“The players need to know the history, and sometimes in football we lose sight of that,” Edwards said. “I’m real big on going back to the past and understanding the people’s shoulders that we’re standing on. 

“I thought it was a unique experience for everybody. The mountain got some coaches coming down. I was one. I left a little bit of me at Camp Kush (as Edwards likes to call Tontozona) on the mountain. But we had a lot of fun.”

Edwards, 64, went early and climbed up Mt. Kush before the team: “We knocked out a path (with stakes) to follow and some of those guys wanted to make their own path. Some guys kept going (higher).”

ASU will be back to its usual 4-5 days and scrimmage at Camp Tontozona next year.

“The accommodations are hard,” Edwards admitted, “but it’s really about the bonding. That’s why I thought it was so important because we weren’t going to practice up there, but I still wanted to keep the tradition alive. We tried to group-sing the fight song, and there were some guys that kind of messed it up. I’ve been practicing, and the team kind of was revolting. I said, ‘I tried to help you guys so now you’re on your own. You’ve got to figure it out.'”


ASU football had to settle for a day trip to Camp Tontozona in coach Herm Edwards’ first season but made memories, including Edwards’ fall on Mt. Kush
Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral sports

The trip included dinner despite a flood in the Camp Tontozona kitchen that set off fire alarms.

“The water was coming down like a dam busted,” Edwards said. “At 6:30, dinner was ready.”

Edwards used that adversity as an example to his players during a meeting Thursday: “I said sometimes you think it’s hard in practice, you’re tired. Let me show you what these people did yesterday and what they had to deal with before they served you.”

He suggested that the players thank the food service workers before practice Thursday.

“Those players went back there and hugged them,” Edwards said. “Those are the things when you talk about character and team building that are important.”

Freshman linebacker Merlin Robertson is from Gardena, Calif., and one of those who hasn’t spent much time in an outdoor setting like Camp Tontozona. He said the closest he’s come before was attending Boy Scout camp.

“I was like, what the hell am I doing out here,” said Robertson, who has been working with the first team. “It was kind of cool and different. It hit me a lot knowing how deep the roots are of that place and how much tradition, all the legacy. It was great to be a part of.”

Edwards said him buying milkshakes for the team capped the day.

“They thought I was a good guy,” he said.


— ESPN followed Edwards and his players around Thursday for a SportsCenter segment scheduled to run early Aug. 19 and again after Sunday Night Baseball.

ESPN anchor Matt Barrie, an ASU graduate, was back on campus for the second time in four months. He spoke at an ASU athletic graduate ceremony in May.  

Mike McQuade, ESPN vice president for production, also made the trip along with his son, who is starting as an ASU student at the Cronkite School of Journalism.

“They’re old friends,” said Edwards, who worked at ESPN as a NFL analyst from 2009-17. “They did a great job. I think it’s going to highlight this team, which is good. Any time, you get the worldwide leader, everybody is going to see it. It promotes our university. As we all know, football is about what — recruiting.”

— Also in attendance Thursday was Rick Neuheisel, who grew up in Tempe before playing at UCLA then coaching at Colorado, Washington and UCLA. Neuheisel will be coaching at Sun Devil Stadium starting next year as head coach of the American Alliance of Football Phoenix team.

— Edwards, like almost every Division I college coach, is happy about a new rule allowing players to participate in up to four games without losing their opportunity to redshirt and retain that year of eligibility. 

Edwards compares it to when he coached in the NFL and rotated players off the practice squad to the active roster to keep them engaged and working hard.

“It’s one of the greatest rules they could ever do in college football,” Edwards said. “Now you can truly develop a player and you have the ability to coordinate when you want to use the guy to get him in playing competition and see how he reacts.”

— Practice ended 25 minutes early at 9:05 p.m. largely because of the three-day stretch in pads without a day off.

Up next

ASU practices Friday and Saturday beginning at 7:20 p.m. at Kajikawa practice fields. A scrimmage is scheduled Saturday. Practices are open to the public unless the team moves indoors to the Dickey Dome due to weather conditions.

ASU fall practice schedule

Friday, Aug. 10 — Practice 7:20- 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 11 – Open scrimmage, 7:20-9:30 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 13 — Practice, 7:20-9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 14 – Practice 7:20-9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 15 – Practice 7:20-9:30 p.m.

Practice dates/times beyond Aug. 15 will be announced later. 

The season opener is Saturday, Sept. 1 against Texas San Antonio.