Latu responding to the challenges

After practice on Tuesday, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham voiced his displeasure with the defensive-line's effort and conditioning. He wanted his comments to be read by the players, he wanted them to be heard. The defensive linemen, specifically redshirt junior tackle Mo Latu, took it to heart and had what Graham called one of their best practices of the spring on Thursday.

"I came out with a purpose," Latu said. "He talked to us last practice about how it was time for all of us to step up and take the big role. I took it in my hands to go out there and blow up everybody. If the whistle was blown, the whistle was blown, but I was making sure I got my point across."

While it's not new for Latu to show flashes of dominance on the field, he's never really been able to do it on a consistent basis. Perhaps it's because of his injury history, mainly a nagging knee problem that severely limited his time on both the practice and playing fields. That issue caused an increase in weight for Latu, something that needs to change going forward according to Graham.

"Obviously we are an attack front, if we weren't then there would be a lot of things he could do (weighing 350-plus pounds)," Graham said. "You can't, at that weight, be able to rush the passer, move and do the stunts that we require of our defense."

Latu showed up to spring camp around 385 pounds. But as the spring has progressed, Latu – finally feeling 100 percent on his knee – has dropped to 370 pounds with the help of after practice conditioning.

He's been jogging on the treadmill and hiking up the StairMaster in the team's weight room in order to achieve the goal of 330 pounds by the time fall rolls around.

"I have got to keep pushing myself, dropping this weight and continue to keep punching through everything," Latu said. "Just keep busting my butt at practice, weight rooms, extra cardio and just keeping working on it.

"I have a little method of singing songs while I'm doing it. A little island music to make me think I'm in paradise for a little bit while I'm on the treadmill the whole time."

The reduced weight already has Latu feeling more agile on his feet, and he's able to explode off the ball easier at the snap.

"I can't even imagine how 330-335 will feel," he said.

Latu was impressive in the team's "W Drill" segment on Thursday, which is a modified Oklahoma drill where there are three levels of blockers and defenders for a runner to get by to score. He was shedding blocks from offensive linemen as the first level of defense and taking down the ball carrier right away.

For a guy like Latu, who plays at the one-technique a majority of the time in Graham's defense (lined up in the A gap) often faces double teams up front, the Oklahoma drill is a welcome sight.

"That's the best part about the Oklahoma drill," Latu said, "I don't get many chances to just take on one guy so I take advantage of it to the fullest."

Latu's performance at practice was a welcome sight for Graham. Especially since the offensive line has dominated the line of scrimmage in spring ball.

The defensive line has to replace Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, Gannon Conway and Davon Coleman this year so there's plenty of uncertainty in that area. They need a leader, and if Thursday was any indication of the season to come, Latu could be the guy.

"That's one of the biggest things that coach Graham emphasized to me after last season," Latu said. "He told me it's my turn to step up and become one of the leaders and take upon the D-line and start moving forward with them."

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