Sun Devils Attract Heat-Weary Valley Crowd To Rim Country

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An obviously heat-weary flatlander stepping out of a luxury SUV into the cool, crisp, pine-scented Rim Country air, turned and asked her husband, "Tell me again why is it we live in the Valley?"

Her husband, shrugged and muttered, "I don't know. It's certainly more enjoyable up here."

The two, clad in Arizona State maroon and gold, were about to make the one-quarter mile stroll along Camp Tontozona road to the perfectly manicured football field that has been the preseason training site for the Sun Devil football team since 1960.

At Tontozona, the two would be among the almost 1,000 Devil's disciples who savored a two hour Saturday morning game-condition scrimmage.

With temperatures in the high 70s and cloudy skies, Tontozona represented a cool respite from the searing desert heat scorching the school's Tempe campus.

During the scrimmage, spectators' attention was focused on Sun Devil quarterbacks Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter who are widely considered two of the finest signal callers in the nation.

Keller was the starter for the first seven games of last year before a thumb injury shelved him.

Carpenter came on to relieve Keller and became one of the nation's passing leaders.

During the scrimmage, both struggled to regain the efficiency they showed in 2005 prompting coach Dirk Koetter to say, "both these guys are pressing too much."

Carpenter completed 15 of 23 passes for 123 yards and one TD. Keller was 11 of 17 for 98 yards and did not throw a touchdown.

With the two apparently locked in a dead heat for first team honors, Koetter said he might not name a starter until an Aug. 18 scrimmage in Sun Devil stadium.

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Arizona State University coach Dirk Koetter (center) explains pass routes to wide receiver Brandon Smith (9) and tight end Zack Miller (86).

Fans attention during the scrimmage also centered on two Arizona-bred players, Kyle Caldwell and Zach Miller.

Miller, who starred at Tempe Desert Vista High School, has been named to the Lombardi Award Watch List given annually to the nation's top offensive or defensive lineman. Miller is also a consensus preseason All-American and All-PAC-10 selection.

Caldwell, a 6 foot 3 inch, 270-pound defensive end from Scottsdale Saguaro High School is one of the conference's finest players when he is healthy.

He was recently named to the preseason All-PAC-10 second team.

"D" thumps "O"

On the Tontozona sidelines, most spectators said they were there expecting to see Koetter's high-octane passing offense dominate the defense. That's understandable. This past year, the Devil defense was ranked 114th nationally and the offense was No. 2 in the nation.

But much to everyone's surprise, defensive coordinator Bill Miller's bandits were clearly the better group.

"I think the D got the better of it," Koetter said.

Following the scrimmage, players boarded busses and traveled to Payson where they swam in Taylor Pool and took in a movie at Sawmill Theaters.

The following day, Sunday, rain at Tontozona forced the Sun Devils to return to Payson to practice on the artificial surface field at Rumsey Park.

The Sun Devils will continue to practice in the Rim Country, whether at Tontozona or Rumsey, until Aug. 18 when the team returns to Tempe to begin preparations for an Aug. 31 season opener against Northern Arizona University in Sun Devil stadium.

Tontozona schedule

Tuesday, Aug. 15

Practice #15 (pads): 8:35 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.

Practice #16 (shells): 3:50 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 16

Practice #17: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 17

Practice #18: 8:35 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.

Depart Camp Tontozona.

Friday, Aug. 18

Practice #19 (scrimmage),

7 p.m. at Sun Devil Stadium.

-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 115 or e-mail mfoster@payson.com.

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