Tale of two camps…ASU, UA football take different paths

<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons above -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2013/08/tale-of-two-camps-asu-ua-football-take-different-paths/' addthis:title='Tale of two camps…ASU, UA football take different paths'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>College football recruits look for a lot of things when comparing schools they visit… things like facilities, tradition, campus atmosphere, the coaching staff – even the style of uniforms worn […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2013/08/tale-of-two-camps-asu-ua-football-take-different-paths/' addthis:title='Tale of two camps…ASU, UA football take different paths'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>

College football recruits look for a lot of things when comparing schools they visit… things like facilities, tradition, campus atmosphere, the coaching staff – even the style of uniforms worn by the players.

Generally, there are not a lot of differences when you get to the major-college programs.  They all spend tons of money on awe-inspiring facilities and have cool unis.

But Arizona’s rival Pac-12 schools have at least one thing that differentiates the two programs and it shows up just about this time each year.

The Arizona Wildcats just returned from their end-of-summer trip away from campus, where each year they continue preparing for the new season.  Arizona State players just left for theirs.

But it’s the destinations that define the difference between the two trips.

Arizona spent the better part of five days last week at an Army post not far from the border with Mexico.  The Sun Devils will be spending their five days in the resort community of Payson, among the pine trees of a camp that borders the Tonto National Forest.

The ASU tradition of Camp Tontozona was begun back in 1960 when legendary ASU coach, Frank Kush, picked the spot that was situated on 36 acres of towering pine trees just east of Payson to isolate his team from the distractions down in the Valley and concentrate on the business of football. Dennis Erickson brought his teams back down to the ASU campus during his five years in charge of the program, erecting an air-conditioned practice facility to deal with the 100-degree temperatures. But when Todd Graham was hired last year he renewed the tradition.

The team will practice there through Saturday, concluding with the annual scrimmage that draws large crowds from Payson and the surrounding area and also becomes a destination for fans down in the Valley.

Arizona also draws some fans to its practices at Ft. Huachuca, but they’re mostly soldiers on the base mixed with members of the local community.  The Army installation is located in Sierra Vista, a city of about 45,000 in Cochise County, sitting about 70 miles from Tucson and 15 miles from the border with Mexico.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez likes the idea of using a military environment as a positive motivator for his team.

“”The biggest thing I like is that it gives us a true camp atmosphere, particularly being around the military guys and getting a feel for how they do business,” he explained while at camp.

There is a lot of intermingling with the soldiers on the base that has a population of about 6,500 active-duty personnel, plus another 12,000 or so family members and civilians who work there.  UA players and coaches have meals with the military personnel and Saturday the players spent the night in the barracks.  And Sunday morning, before departure back to Tucson, they participated with the troops in some non-football activities.

But bottom line at both camps, whether among the towering trees and picturesque scenery of Payson or at the base of a series of beautiful mountain ranges in Sierra Vista, is helping the players to come together as a team, foster bonding among the newcomers and the veterans, and push each other toward the common goal of a Pac-12 crown.  (ASU is projected by the media to finish second in the South Division and the Cats are projected for a fourth-place finish.)

Graham says he’s looking forward to his experience and, although his staff is not planning on running two-a-days, they will be working long hours to get as much out of the trip as possible.

Rodriguez has already evaluated the success of his camp as the Cats were back on campus Monday, back at practice.  He sounds like he was pleased with what he saw durng his camp experience:

“We look way better than we did last year… we’re looking good.”

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)