ASU’s Hood fired up for full return vs. Washington

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State might be playing it’s most important game yet against Washington on Saturday, and defensive tackle Jaxon Hood couldn’t be more excited about making his legitimate return after dealing with a hamstring strain.

“The lights aren’t going to be on, but the sun’s going to be out, and we’re going to come to play,” Hood said. “I’m happy to be back, I’m fired up to be back doing what I do best.”

Hood should provide the Sun Devils a boost in the middle as they try to shut down national rushing leader Bishop Sankey of Washington. It technically will be Hood’s second game back, but against Colorado last week Hood was limited and sat out with the rest of ASU’s starters in the second half due to a big lead.

Coach Todd Graham believes Hood should be more effective this week than he was in his roughly 25 snaps against Colorado.

“I don’t think he was very healthy last week,” Graham admitted Wednesday. “I think he was probably about 80 percent, and I think he’ll be close to 100 percent this week.”

Hood agreed with that assessment and said at mid-week he feels about 90 percent. In a post-practice session with reporters, Hood revealed the severity of his injury to have been more severe than believed.

“This injury was pretty serious,” Hood said. “I couldn’t really walk or sit down or tie my shoe or nothing. I still can’t touch my toe on the left side. This is probably the worst injury I’ve ever had, but you know, that’s a blessing because it’s not a knee, it’s not a tear, it’s not surgical.”

Hood said there actually was concern he would need surgery, which would likely have ended his sophomore season. But after Hood saw numerous doctors, it was determined that because the hamstring was not fully torn. no surgery would be needed.

“For a while I couldn’t really even walk,” Hood said. “I was rehabbing about four times a day for three weeks straight, just over and over repetition. It was good to take that green (no-contact) jersey off and get some reps against Colorado. Now I’m just getting the rust off and getting back in the groove of everything.”

All told, Hood missed about 2 1/2 games after leaving early in ASU’s loss to Stanford. He said it was disappointing to miss ASU’s big win over USC and marquee game against Notre Dame in Dallas, but getting healthy was more important.
 
Hood has not spoken to the local media much this season, but by the end of Wednesday’s interview he was his usual light-hearted self, joking about his health this season and last.

“Ya’ll don’t know it, but I’m hurt all the damn time,” Hood said. “I think every defensive tackle is hurt all the damn time. Last season, I was walking tall in front of ya’ll, but when I got on campus I was limping around a little. But that’s how you meet some girls — you limp around, get them to carry your backpack.”

His body might still be on the mend, but Hood’s spirit is certainly 100 percent.

While Hood was sidelined, senior Davon Coleman has emerged to play the best football of his ASU career. It appears likely he will start against Washington, but Hood said he expects to have a significant role.

“It’s big time having him back,” Graham said. “It really hurt us a lot, more than even what I anticipated it would losing him. So we’re glad to have him back and have our guys healthy.”

Hood should bolster ASU’s run defense against what appears to be its toughest rushing test yet. Washington ranks 15th in the nation in rushing offense, and Sankey leads the nation with 149.8 yards per game.
 
Hood said he and his teammates welcome the challenge and know beating Washington would make a big statement.

“It’s always a great opportunity to play the nation’s leading rusher,” Hood said. “On the remaining schedule, with (Arizona running back) Ka’Deem (Carey) and Bishop, we’ve got arguably two of the best backs in the country. We’re looking forward to that and just silencing some naysayers on the road to the Rose Bowl.”

EXTRA POINTS

— Devilbacker Carl Bradford practiced with a cast on his left wrist Wednesday but was not restricted in his participation. His specific injury is not known, but it does not appear to be a major issue.

— Safety Laiu Moeakiola got more reps at spur linebacker Wednesday. Graham said ASU needs to elevate the level of play at the position.

— Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is expected to attend Saturday’s 3 p.m. game at Sun Devil Stadium.