Latu embraces position change

It has come full circle for Mo Latu. The local Gilbert Perry standout was ranked as the No. 2 center nationally, but started his Arizona State career on the defensive line. He moved to the an offensive line and appeared in 12 of 13 games in 2012, but recently in spring practice he's transitioned back to the defensive front and is elated with that role change.

Arizona State Head coach Todd Graham informed Latu prior to the second to last week of spring practice that he'd be making the switch from offensive to defensive line.

"We kind of felt like he was struggling because our offense is so complex," Graham said of Latu. "Some people are just gauged more to play defense. He's really looked good and we are going to need that help inside."

When Graham went up to defensive line coach Jackie Shipp and told him to insert Latu as a backup nose tackle behind sophomore standout Jaxon Hood, Latu was anything but disappointed about moving to the other side of the ball.

"I was really excited," Latu said. "I came to ASU to play defensive tackle and I moved over to offense and now I'm back on defense so I'm really happy about it."

Latu stated that the role change wasn't overly surprising to him because last season the coaches were mulling over the switch during Camp Tontozona. The 6-3 338 lbs. Mo Latu noted that transitioning from the offensive side to now playing defense hasn't been too much of a challenge.

"It's just getting down the whole entire technique and just getting out on pass rush and stuff like that," Latu commented.

As far as any similarities between the two positions, Latu claimed that the bull rush technique on defense is almost identical to run blocking on the offensive line, as you still have to stay lower than the man across from you.

"That's what the coaches have been working me on, staying low," Latu noted.

Latu has now worked with two of the new Sun Devil assistant coaches this spring, offensive line coach Chris Thomsen and the aforementioned Shipp. He said that learning under both has been more exciting than difficult. "It's brand new," Latu stated, "but it just makes me even more interested in everything."

In the offseason, Latu struggled with a sinus infection and eventually had to get surgery. He mentioned that he missed about two and a half weeks of team workouts, recovering from the procedure.

"It was really challenging, especially trying to get back," Latu recalled. "I couldn't even bench 225 (lbs.) to save my life but I got it back up and everything is back to where it's at. It was a challenge that the heavenly father gave to me but I'm overcoming it each and every day."

Now back at full strength, Latu is admittedly happy to return to defensive tackle, the spot where he's relatively comfortable. Yet, he's not the only one who's upbeat about him being back in the white jersey in practices.

"Coming in, I knew some of the defensive linemen already and they were really excited once they found out I was back on defense," Latu said. "It felt like I was back in the days."

Latu was an exceptional in-state high school football player; however after being limited in his production during his first two years at ASU, the lineman admitted feeling the pressure of having to perform in front of the people he grew up with.

"I had a couple of teammates just looking at me expecting me to do better because they see me play out here," Latu said.

Graham thinks if Latu can shed some weight this summer, he will be able to play defense effectively in the 2013 season and contribute to the Sun Devil's success. It's a scenario that appeals not only to him but also to members of his staff.

"This is the first time I've seen coach Shipp smile this spring," Graham quipped. "He said, ‘coach I like that guy.'"

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