Most striking about the Arizona State University football team’s first practice at Camp Tontozona since 2007 was the presence of legendary coach Frank Kush and the speed, quickness and hustle the players showed in drills and brief scrimmages.
It all occurred Wednesday morning in front of a gaggle of Payson-area fans, a larger Valley contingent and media members from about every radio and television station in metropolitan Phoenix.
Kush, the coach responsible for turning Tontozona into a football training camp more than 50 years ago, watched from the sidelines during the early part of the session then, during a brief practice break, was beckoned onto the field by first-year coach Todd Graham, who appeared to ask Kush to point out the trail up infamous Mt. Kush.
Graham has said he and his players will make the run up Mt. Kush just as former Sun Devils did under Kush from 1959 to 1979.
While the venerable former coach was a popular draw, football aficionados also took notice of the rapid-fire pace of drills and conditioning.
Players sprinted from station to station usually with an assistant coach barking in their ear, “Don’t be last, don’t be last.”
Throughout the practice, players sprinted to their spots in formations and hustled both on and off the field.
Graham has said his style of play this upcoming season will be bang-bang with an emphasis on a fast pace and quick tempo.
The team underwent two-a-days on Wednesday and then practiced at 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. both yesterday, Thursday, and today, Friday. The Sun Devils will hold a fan scrimmage from 10 a.m. to noon tomorrow, Saturday. ASU officials are expecting thousands of fans to turn out for the scrimmage so their best advice is to get an early start.
Because a road widening construction project is under way on SR 260 near the Camp Tontozona turnoff, entry into the scenic mountain retreat can be confusing.
In approaching the camp turnoff while traveling east on 260, be sure to pay close attention to signs and stay to the right side of the highway that forks just before reaching the turnoff.
At Tontozona, the chamber of commerce will set up a hospitality tent where they will be doling out “Chamber Hospitality Bags” to fans.
In them will be discount coupons to local businesses.
Fans are welcome at all the practices and there is no admission charge.