Latu has a positive outlook

The 2013 season has been somewhat of a roller coaster for redshirt sophomore Mo Latu. At the beginning of the year, it looked like Latu would be the force inside that the Arizona State defense would need to derail the run-heavy teams in their four game gauntlet, but a knee injury prevented him from doing so and he has really yet to fully recover until now.

"This season for me, there were a lot of ups and downs," Latu said. "There was a lot of recovery from my injury and getting better from that standpoint. But other than that it has just been trying to get back into shape and everything still. But I'm just going to continue to work hard and prove myself to these coaches and everybody else."

Latu showed up to fall camp overweight and it has been a constant struggle for the coaching staff to get him back into shape considering a lingering knee injury that's prevented him from practicing and conditioning.

Yet, Latu still played sporadically throughout the year, most notably in the Sept. 21st tilt against Stanford in Palo Alto. In his first taste of extensive action on the defensive front, Latu recorded just one tackle against the Cardinal, but was an immoveable force when given the opportunity.

"That experience was kind of overwhelming at first," Latu said of the Stanford game. "I was nervous, but after the first hit, I wanted more. I finished off that game pretty well."

After that game, however, Latu saw very little playing time. Coach Todd Graham explained at the time that his conditioning wasn't where it needed to be for him to be out on the field against faster moving offenses in the conference.

The only time he'd see the field would be late in games when the Sun Devils were up a considerable amount of points and they'd send out the second team offense. Latu would even fill in where they needed him along the offensive line, his former position.

Being a local player from Perry High School in Chandler, there are high expectations around the valley from Latu's friends and family for him to see the field and produce like he did at the high school level. It's been tough on Latu to not be able to do that.

"It's kind of a mixture of both," Latu said of the positive and negative influences of being a player from the valley. "There's always the positive side of being able to go back home and talk it out with everybody. But then there's the other part where a lot of attention is on me to be able to get more playing time."

It hasn't all been bad for Latu this year. One of the bright spots for Latu is the relationship he's developed with Alani and Viliami Latu, the freshmen twins from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Believe it or not, while the three share the same last name, they are actually not related at all. But with the relationship that they show off the field, it's hard to believe that they actually aren't family.

"We always tell everybody that we are related," Latu said jokingly. "‘Oh yeah that's my first cousin,' or ‘that's my brother.' It usually prolongs the conversation. People ask, ‘Are you guys brothers or cousins?' When we say no, that's when the people start to ask how it's possible that we are not related because we have the same last name. That's why we have just started to say we are family.

"It's been a blessing to have those two around. I treat them just like my brothers. They're great kids, hard working kids. Ami and A.J., they love contact and never shy away from it, and that's my kind of Latu's."

Lately in bowl practice, Latu has looked like he's in better shape and has carried that over to his play in team drills. He's been receiving praise from defensive line coach Jackie Shipp and the rest of the staff for his improved play along the line of scrimmage with the second team D-line.

"I'm doing a lot better than I was before," Latu explained. "I'm a lot healthier. I've just been rehabbing and getting with coach Griswold and the rest of our strength coaches and having them accommodate my workout to my knee and help me strengthen it has been great."

Fortifying and rehabbing the knee are the first steps in the process for Latu to get back into legitimate playing shape. After that comes the conditioning to get himself to a weight that he can sustain a high level of play without tiring easily. Latu mentioned that his prime playing weight is between 330 and 335. At that weight, he'd still be able to move people around, but he'd be quicker as well.

Will Sutton, Gannon Conway and Davon Coleman are all seniors this year and won't be back for the 2014 season. And depending on Carl Bradford's decision to remain a Sun Devil or leave for the NFL, there's a chance that all four of the defensive line starters will need to be replaced.

While Jaxon Hood and Marcus Hardison are two of the obvious replacements for the vacant spots, there's a chance that if healthy Latu will be relied upon quite a bit in 2014 to control the line of scrimmage and be a dominant force inside.

"Coach Graham has kept preaching to me being one of the main returners that he's expecting me to do a lot of good things this offseason," Latu said, "and prepare myself for spring and the summer workouts into next season. I just have to continue to stay healthy and remain on the right path."

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