Sun Devils Slate Annual Visit To Camp Tontozona

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An Arizona State University football team that is projected to be a PAC-10 title contender will prep for the season during an eight-day preseason stay at Camp Tontozona.

The Sun Devils arrive Aug. 15 and immediately begin two-a-day practice sessions.

The exact times of the sessions have not yet been scheduled. Traditionally, the practices are held about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. During the first few days of camp, the players are outfitted in shorts and helmets only.

Once full pads are donned -- on about the fourth day of camp -- the hitting begins in earnest.

On Aug. 17, the Sun Devils visit Taylor Pool for an aquatic respite from the rigors of preseason training.

The camp-ending fans scrimmage is slated for 10 a.m. Aug. 23 at Tontozona.

In past years, the scrimmage has drawn thousands of devils disciples to the scenic mountain retreat.

Longtime ASU fans know all to well that the early birds are the only ones able to stake claim to prime parking spots.

Late arrivals usually must hike up to a mile or more into the camp.

According to Town Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind, ASU officials have not yet requested to use the Rumsey South all-weather playing field as the team did last summer.

Because the Rumsey field is the same type as the University of Nebraska -- where the Devils opened the 2002 season -- ASU coaches spent two practice sessions in Payson familiarizing their players with the surface.

This year, ASU opens the season Sept. 6 in Sun Devil Stadium against Northern Arizona University. Frank Kush playing field in ASU's stadium is grass turf as is Tontozona.

During the Devils stay at Tontozona, most fans' attention will probably be focused on strong-armed quarterback Andrew Walter.

After taking over last year from early season starter Chad Christensen, Walter went on a tear.

In his first start against Stanford, he threw for 414 yards and led the Devils to a 65-24 victory. Walter went on to post three more 400-plus yards passing outings on his way to a school record 3,877 yards.

In a 45-42 victory over Oregon, Walter was almost unstoppable throwing for a whopping 536 yards

With Walter at the controls, ASU finished third in the PAC-10 and almost upset a highly potent Kansas State team in the Holiday Bowl. Unlike last year's stay at Camp Tontozona, Walter won't be playing second fiddle to a teammate. He'll be entering his second year as a starter and is being touted as a possible professional prospect.

Missing from the ASU arsenal this year will be defensive end Terrell Suggs.

Last August, after leaving Tontozona where he wowed the fans with his teeth-jarring hits, Suggs went on to post PAC-10 and ASU records in sacks with 24.

Suggs was taken in the first round of NFL draft. His departure will have ASU coaches scrambling to fill the void.

At Tontozona, hard core football fans will focus much of their attention on the Devils usual 4-2-5 defense that in 2002 gave up points at an alarming rate.

In late season, the California Bears torched defensive coordinator Brent Guy's "D" for 55 points. A game earlier, Washington State scored 44.

Devil coaches will probably use the friendly confines of Tontozona to shore up the often leaky defense.

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