Despite playing in a career high 13 games for the Sun Devils last season, seemingly going unscathed and void of injury, Corey Adams once again found himself on the mend with a leg injury and missing time in the spring, unable to make the kind of first impression he hoped for in front of new coach Todd Graham.
It wasn't the start he hoped for, but it also wasn't enough to keep the man with a warrior-like mentality down.
"I came in a couple weeks late for spring camp because I popped my calf," Adams recalled Saturday at media day. "But it feels great now. It's awesome. I'm back to 100% and ready to go. I'll be back doing full contact tomorrow, basically. Once we put those shells on it's a whole different ball game."
Adams' recovery and new, leaned-out physique can be most attributed to not only his commitment to prove and better himself, but also due to the new conditioning program he team has been put through this summer under Coach Griswold.
"I haven't been slowed down at all (since spring camp) and we've been going 100% every day," he said. "These new strength and conditioning trainers, Gris, I mean, he's an animal. The amount of things we've been doing is crazy, just working on our explosiveness. The conditioning has been insane and I think we're in the best shape we've been in (as a team) since I've been here."
Along with a structured weight lifting routine, the team has been working on their cardio conditioning, which the staff hopes will reduce nagging, minor injuries that can have devastating effects on a team as the season begins to take its toll.
"The more typical runs is like straight away stuff but he'll factor in different times for us (linemen)," Adams explained. "Then there are some days, like our Grinder Fridays, there will be agility drills for like big scale type guys and we'll be pushing sleds with the coaches on top of them. There would also be other times when we'd come together and do the same stuff as everyone else, but coach likes to keep things specific and I think it's been really good."
Despite missing action early, Adams has had plenty of time to get to know his new coaching staff, in particular Coach Graham and defensive line coach Paul Randolph. The two men have worked diligently this offseason in oder to change the mentality of a football team that collapsed upon itself last year, costing itself a chance at the kind of success that has alluded the program in recent years and that Sun Devil fans have been clamoring for.
"My relationship with Coach Graham and Coach Randolph is extremely healthy," said Adams. "Those are the two main guys I need to really worry about when they're straining us, but yeah, I think it's really healthy. They don't disrespect you at all, but when it's time to work, they put you to work. We've got to go out there and give 100% and if you do what they need you to do, then it's all gravy.
"With these new coaches we're building that relationship and definitely that bond is beginning to grow," he added. "It's different in certain ways, but I would definitely say in terms of building our character and working on stuff we're getting better.
Another change for Adams this fall had been getting familiar with the new, revamped Sun Devil defense. Schematically the team has been adding new formations to their attack, incorporating more 3-4 and 3-3-5 looks to go along with their base 4-3 defense. As a player who has spent most of his playing career on the interior of the defensive line, the change in style has taken some getting used to for Adams, but he's confident that he'll be up for the task.
"I'm really used to the three technique and nose stuff," he said. "Like yesterday I was watching film of practice and was like 'wow, I'm playing end like a nose guard.' It was kind of embarrassing.
"But again, you learn as you go and it was the first time I had done it and I think the coaches understand that. I got back to my comfort zone today at nose and had a great day.I'm just going to watch film and see what I need to work on and adjust."
Adams credits Randolph for his patience and willingness to teach the linemen the details they'll need to know in order to be successful in the new schemes and with their assignments.
"For the most part he's been concerned with getting guys adjusted to these new schemes," Adams commented. "Like I said, yesterday I was playing at the field end spot and it took me some time to adjust to the different task. I was at nose in the spring so it was a little different and I was learning as I went, but he'll definitely stop things and teach you everything you need to know.
"I think we're going to have to learn multiple positions, at least for the three man and four man schemes. With the different guys that we've got, wherever I fit in is where I'll be.
With fall camp officially underway, Adams feels optimistic about what his final year has in store. As a senior, he'll be one of the leaders on defense, and certainly on the defensive line. It's a role he feels comfortable with and is ready to embrace it. Despite the injuries, set backs and disappointments, Adams knows he has one more chance to achieve some of the goals he set for himself when he arrived on campus four years ago.
Loaded with motivation and a strong desire to succeed, Adams insists he's ready to go to work.
"For me personally, I have an idea of what people say (about me) but I don't pay too much attention to that," he said. "I just feel that it's been unfortunate; it's been travesty after travesty, surgery after surgery I've had to go through. But at the same time, I've always gotten back up and it has shaped me into the player that I am today."
"And honestly, as bad as it's been, I wouldn't really ask for it any other way because it's shaped the character and mind set I have today. But I just want to stay healthy and be able to play the kind of ball I know I can play for an entire season and hopefully when it's all said and done, Sun Devil football will be back on the map."