The only game he missed was the team's Holiday Bowl contest, and that violation of team rules carried over to the 2008 campaign. Needless to say that Wooten, who prepped at Phoenix Maryvale High School, was anxious to strut his skills in front of the hometown crowd last Saturday and during the game against the Bulldogs he showed no signs of rust due to his layoff.
"It was fun to be back, but I know I have to make some improvements," said Wooten."I was hungry to do well, and I can't wait to correct my mistakes for the game against Cal. I need to be more physical, smarter and faster."
"As a defense we have to prepare better to swarm shifty running backs, because we're gonna face offenses like that in the Pac-10. We let the UNLV game slip, we lost to a good Georgia team and now we just have to play well in the Pac-10 to have a good season and we need every individual on this team to get it done."
No player enjoys being out of the game, no matter what the circumstances are. Yet, there's something to be said about a player gaining a beneficial perspective when not participating.
"Being on the sidelines definitely helped me because I'm a visual learner," Wooten explained. "Seeing the other linebackers go through the steps, the routines helped me a lot. I wish it (the suspension) never happened but it did benefit me a lot, I worked through it on the scout team and it will help me progress as a linebacker."
"After last year I felt that I had to be more a student of the game. In JUCO you can just run around and make plays, but at this level you have to execute your assignments. I'm seeing the game better, and it's more shuffle than running for me. If I work on my keys I can be faster and have even bigger hits"
Wooten practiced at a familiar spot tonight, starting linebacker. He didn't hide his desire to hold on to that role once ASU plays Cal, but he also acknowledged the bigger picture. "It is a fresh start for me and it's a fresh start for the whole defense, " he said. "We need everybody that participates to play at the LB spot and play well on every spot on the defense. It's a long season and we need a lot of warriors to get the job done."
Ever since the end of the regular season, times have obviously been challenging for Wooten. This is where being a hometown player really helped smooth the rough times he's experienced for nearly a year now. "I love my mom and my friends and they've been nothing but positive," Wooten commented. "They told me that when I come back to play I need to hit everything and play hard."
"I know every practice counts. At this level you can't just walk in and be the starter, you have to earn it. This is my last year and I have to make a statement if I want a chance to play at the next level."