Opportunity Knocks for Brooks

CAMP TONTOZONA - James Brooks is from Flagstaff, Arizona. That one fact alone is the main reason that Arizona State University landed such a huge prospect on the defensive line. With recent injuries at his position, the Sun Devils are probably even happier to have Brooks in the fold as a potential player who could contribute this season.

"In-state and staying close to home was probably the major reasons I picked ASU," Brooks said on Monday morning after practice at camp Tontozona. Considering Brooks had offers from Oregon State, Colorado State and San Diego State, all Sun Devil fans should be thrilled to have number 34 play for the maroon and gold.

Brooks has a solid chance at not redshirting this year depending on his performance leading up to the season opener, as well as the health of his fellow defensive ends. Right now teammates Luis Vasquez, Eric Tanner and Tranell Morant are all injured creating opportunity for Brooks to showcase his skills and make a case for early playing time. "They all have been down with injuries, so when I gotta step up I gotta go in there and make my opportunity and play as hard as I can," Brooks said.

Brooks sees these injuries that are plaguing the ASU team as an incentive for his own game. "I just gotta work harder. If I'm working with the one's or two's I gotta go in and work ten times harder," Brooks said. Right now it is a team effort for the defensive ends and Brooks knows that when one player goes down, "other guys gotta step in there and do a great job."

Brooks knows what he has on the field to give to ASU. "I think my speed, coming off the edge. A lot of tackles are not that quick, so if I can use my speed and get to the quarterback that is a great advantage for me," he said. His speed was already on display in scrimmage where on one play he stopped short of sacking starting quarterback Rudy Carpenter.

The transition from high school to college ball has taught Brooks some things about the higher levels of the game, notably the intensity. "You get knocked around a little bit. But then you learn that you got to go knock around people also. So I think it's more of a mental thing. You need to go in there with the mentality that ‘I'm gonna do this' and you can't get pushed around and you gotta get yours," Brooks said.

Brooks' mentality is something that he knows he has to work on. Coming from Flagstaff, were he dominated a few positions, to ASU where he is just another face in the crowd, has taught Brooks that he needs to elevate his game. Different from high school ball, here in college "you gotta go into every play ten times harder than what you did the last play. You gotta go hard every time," Brooks said. "I know I gotta go out there and play one hundred percent every time."

The atmosphere at camp Tontozona has been good for Brooks in that respect. "Intense, that's the key word of the whole camp. It has to be intense. We come out here every day and we work hard and we're trying to get better every practice." Camp Tontozona's purpose is not just to improve on the player's skills as any ASU fan knows. It is also designed to get the players as much contact with each other as possible. "Me and the freshman class are pretty close already," Brooks said. "We went to summer school together, so we have been bonding pretty well. All the teammates, we are getting along pretty well," he said. "We are going hard, it's hot, we're at camp… everything is just going well..." Although there is competing going on at the field, it never boils over into the rooms at night Brooks said. "When we are up in the cabin we just have a good time and wait for the next day."

Brooks has had his share of freshman traditions at camp as well as bonding. He had to sing the fight song three times before he got it all right. Now he gets to laugh at the other freshmen who still haven't gotten their turns at belting out this tune.

Brooks knows it is not all fun and games for football camps though, and the coaches have been giving him pointers every day on what he needs to improve on. "I need to work on keeping my pad down. Like all the tall players, I like to pop up and see what's going on," Brooks said. "I need to get in there and stay low, keep my pad leverage down and stay hard." Although he has gotten a lot of attention at camp, Brooks said that he has no indication at all if he will redshirt or not.

Brooks agrees right away that he is a raw athlete that needs to be caged. "Coach tells me every day that ‘you are a raw athlete.' I just gotta get better you know, get my technique down. Once I can get my technique down I'm gonna be great," Brooks said. That drive makes Brooks think that he has something to prove to the team, ASU fans, and the world.

"This year, I'm just going out there and giving it my all. Redshirting or not I'm gonna go give it my all and then next year maybe play. I'm just going out there and practicing as hard as I can, do the best job that I can, and whatever happens, happens," Brooks said. While he is modest with reporters, there is a noticeable strong drive inside James Brooks that could make him a great asset to the ASU roster. It is also a drive that is aimed at critics who claim that the Sun Devils defense has many question marks.

"We want to play great game in and game out," Brooks stated. "(Defensive Coordinator) Coach Bray came in here with a new attitude, new intensity level so we just want to get after it. We had a lot of critics last year. We didn't play too great last year. I wasn't here, but the guys that came back said it wasn't a great showing. But we're coming out this year and making it ten times better."

Being treated these days to the Camp T's cuisine, the defensive end was asked if he could eat anything in the world right now, what would it be? Brooks gave the perfect answer. "A home cooked meal by my mom," he said. Thankfully James' mother, Renee Brooks, fed her son those home cooked meals in Arizona. Judging by his play and the thin depth at defensive end, the Sun Devil nations owes her a thank you.

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