Here is what Arizona State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said about the team’s return to practice after its COVID-19 outbreak three weeks ago and some of the challenges his unit will face against UCLA’s defense on Saturday. 

On reincorporating an offensive game plan and structure after not playing for three consecutive weeks:

“It’s tough to get into a groove, yeah. You’re not playing in football games and you’re in and out of, ‘Who’s in?’ We had a situation we were in, and so we’ve tried to make the best of it and you move forward. But you definitely don’t get into a flow or into a rhythm from a practice standpoint and that cohesiveness as an offense.”

On his takeaways from watching UCLA on film and its personnel that stands out:

“It’s a fast defense. They fly around, they do a good job. They’ve played four games in a row and you can see them getting better each week. They’ve played some good teams and some good offenses too, and so with their guys on the defensive side, you can tell that they’re not out of position very often. They play hard, they fly to the ball and they’ve got good team speed. And so it’s going to be a good challenge for us, they were a little bit different than they were last year on film. And so we’ve got to make some adjustments and be ready to execute from our end. And really, our focus right now is on us. They like to bring pressure, we got to be ready for that. Other than that, we got to go execute, got to go out there again and work that operation and kind of keep them off-balance as much as we can.”

On what the last three weeks have been like for him as a coach with the team’s COVID-19 outbreak and what it was like to get back to the facility and see his players again:

“Well, it’s been great getting back and trying to get back into that flow of practice and meetings and being intentional with our process. But it’s not easy. All these schools around the country have been affected some way or another, and everybody’s trying to handle the adversity and the emotions that go along with it. And from a players’ standpoint, from a coaches’ standpoint, from an administrative standpoint, everybody’s dealing with the day-to-day adjustments. And so we just got to be intentional with the day, and you never know what’s going to happen in the future and you can’t control that. So, ‘What do we got today? What’s our schedule? Let’s go do it.’ And with that, again, you got to control some of the emotions of the players and people around you and focus on what you can control. That’s the only thing we can do.”

On how he helped players on his side of the ball who had COVID-19:

“Obviously, we had some guys that had it and we’re moving on from that. We’re going to be full speed going into UCLA and just excited to get back on the field again. And I know the players are, too. They can’t wait to get out there and show what they’ve got. It’s our first home game in December, who would have thought? And so we’re just trying to take it one day at a time and leading up to game day. But I know from everybody’s standpoint, a Sun Devil family standpoint that we’re excited to get back out there and move past this period and try to focus on the positive.”

On reacclimating his players to operational speed and a desired level of conditioning upon their return to practice:

“It’s kind of like you’re starting over again and now, we’re jumping back into it. And I think it’s a little bit of that eye-opener for the kids and the players getting out there again, it’s all about training for the game. And so it’s about the practice habits and we’re not used to that right now. Getting into that process again and doing the online piece and you got the social stuff going on, you got so many things happening. And now, it’s focusing back in on football and getting rid of all the exterior things that are going on, trying to keep them guided on one point and that’s the game. We’re going to be at the game on Saturday, now what do we got to do to get to that spot? But there’s a lot of stuff going on and it’s not easy coming off of a break where guys weren’t practicing and aren’t in condition. So it’s physical, it’s mental and then you’re dealing with all the social aspects of everything and the adversity and it’s not an easy situation to be in as a player or a coach. Again, just got to focus in on what’s important and get rid of the stuff that’s not.”

If he expects to have a majority of the players who played against USC available against UCLA:

“We’re rolling. We’re back in it.”

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