Carr embraces new team direction

Entering spring practice, perhaps the area with the most uncertainty other than quarterback for the Sun Devils is in their secondary. Last year's graduating class saw the loss of many defensive playmakers, but with returning starting cornerback Deveron Carr back in the fold for another year, the senior is looking to lead by example on the field.

The Sun Devils wrapped up their second day of spring practice under the lights Wednesday evening with a better sense of what to expect from new head coach Todd Graham and his staff. The frenetic pace and high intensity in Tuesday's first session caught both players and fans by surprise, but Carr feels his teammates responded well in day two.

"I feel like as a team we did better," he remarked. "We ran to the ball better and we most definitely knew what to expect. I felt like we were more knowledgeable about the game and the new defensive concepts. I felt like we felt a little bit better, like our legs were under us more today and we had a little more control."

Though it's early, it feels like Coach Graham has brought a change to Tempe, one that both players and supporters of the Sun Devils appear to be welcoming with open arms. Discipline and accountability are the cornerstone for the Sun Devils now, along with a commitment to hard work and putting the team before the individual.

"With me, I'm real big on discipline, so I like them because they're huge on discipline," he Carr after practice. "I mean, they've got it down to a 'T.' It doesn't matter if it's even something that doesn't have to do with football, if they ask you to do it, just do it.

"I feel like the way they've set everything up, later on in life when football is all said and done, and you enter a professional career, the things that they teach us here will go a long ways towards you being successful if you follow the guidelines they've laid out here."

As others have pointed out in this young offseason, one of the more instrumental changes that has effected this Sun Devil team has been the strength and conditioning program they've been under since the conclusion of last year. New Strength and Conditioning Coach Shawn Griswold has developed new routines for the players to follow to keep them lean and prepared for the months ahead.

While Carr and other teammates may have cringed at the first site of the new routine, its results are already being felt.

"Coach Griz, I just feel like he's different," Carr expressed. "He puts more emphasis on your core strength. He's got us doing a lot of explosive lifts and stuff like frontward squats. I've never done so many frontward squats in my life! I did frontward squats in high school and coming into college I never wanted to see frontward squats ever again. And not until now, going into my senior with Coach Griz, had I done them."

"But he's got us also doing a lot of power cleans and power snatches," he added. "He's just more about the explosive, Olympic-style type of lifting. And it's awesome! I feel like I'm getting stronger. I've never been able to put up 225 (bench press) since I've been in college and I put up 285 just a week ago. Now I can bench 225 up to eight times."

The change in philosophy has also carried over to the football field as well. Last year the Sun Devils ranked 88th in the nation in yards per game, giving up an average of 418 per game. Down the stretch of the season they were torched on the road in losses to UCLA and Washington State, and blown out at home by California.

New defensive backs coach Chris Ball has indicated that there will be changes to the defensive approach of the secondary this season. Not even a full week into camp, and Carr can tell there's already a difference the way he and his secondary teammates are playing.

"Well what they force us to do is kind of try to hide our schemes, so basically we do a lot of moving around," he commented. "Last year we played more inside, and this year we're playing with our heads up and inside but at the snap of the ball we can be outside also. Now, sometimes as a corner we'll be blitzing, where last year there weren't many blitzes called. "

"I feel like now we always have help underneath and as far as we go and the more we keep learning, our ability to break down offenses will become better. Our coverage game and our tackling schemes, stopping the run and stopping the pass, will be great."

Last year, the Sun Devils were exposed as being thin in the secondary, having already lost all-conference performer Omar Bolden in the offseason due to injury, the Sun Devils would lose a handful of other contributors to their secondary as well. Now though, despite still being a bit inexperienced as a group, Carr believes the Sun Devils have the talent to be two-deep at corner and safety.

"The depth that we've got behind us is just as great as the ones," Carr said. "I just feel like they're less knowledgeable about the game because they're younger than us, but once the gain more knowledge about the game, I feel like if one of us were to go down, they could come and fit right in. They're all great athletes and they're focused. They're not out clowning every weekend or everyday.

"When they're in the meeting room, they're focused. They got their eyes on the coaches and they're ready to learn."

While it'll be his responsibility to help those players get up to speed and well-versed in the Sun Devil defensive schemes, Carr says he plans on using the next few weeks to himself work out a few kinks as well before the fall rolls around, insisting that he has fully recovered from a shoulder injury that kept him out in 2010.

"The shoulder feels great," he stated. "It hasn't failed me yet. "I'm trying to become a playmaker. I'm trying to get my press down, my backpedaling down, my footwork and my tackling skills. I'm also trying to play the deep ball better too."

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