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ASU OC Zak Hill: Offense is ‘going to be built around’ QB Jayden Daniels

Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill looks on as Quarterback Brett Rypien warms up prior to the start of the Boise State Broncos spring game on April 9, 2016 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Although Arizona State still has one last game in the season, the Sun Devils have started preparing for the 2020 campaign.

ASU will have two new coordinators after the program parted ways with former offensive coordinator Rob Likens on Dec. 1, and defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales accepted the head coaching job at New Mexico on Tuesday.

To replace Likens, head coach Herm Edwards installed new offensive coordinator Zak Hill, who had served the same position at Boise State since 2016.

Hill was introduced at a press conference Thursday.

“Coach Edwards has been phenomenal in the process and very straight forward,” Hill said. “With the transition, getting down here — I wanted to get down here as soon as possible to do this and be able to see everybody and jump right into things as soon as possible.

“Coach Edwards was really great in the whole transition and in the process. … What a great guy to be able to coach for. I’m definitely honored to be down here at Arizona State and to be a part of this. I’m looking forward to the future.”

It quickly became clear on Thursday what Hill is looking forward to most as he begins to familiarize himself with the football program: coaching freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels.

And why wouldn’t it be?

Daniels was named a true freshman All-American by ESPN and an honorable mention for the Pac-12 Conference’s Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.

Through 11 games this season, the freshman quarterback has thrown for 2,748 yards, 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions with a  62.3 completion percentage. He rushed for 319 yards and three scores as well.

“Jayden is a special quarterback, and the offense is definitely going to be built around him,” Hill said. “He’s one of those guys that you don’t see too often.

“You have to be accurate, you have to be tough, you have to be a leader. Jayden is all of those things. The escapability is also a big factor, which he has, and the ability to make plays when things break down. It’s tough to teach, so you’re trying to find that in the recruits you recruit.”

So exactly what type of recruits will ASU be recruiting on the offensive side of the ball under Hill? Will the Sun Devils of new look like the Boise State of old?

Hill’s Broncos offense did rank 14th in the country in scoring in 2019 with an average of 36.8 points scored per game, while the Sun Devils mustered the nation’s No. 94 scoring offense at 25.2 points per contest.

“With the recruiting piece in the future, using different types of bodies and some tight ends and things like that and incorporating that into the offense can be more toward that Boise State style,” Hill said.

“But I’m definitely prepared to do whatever we need to do in the offense with the personnel groups that we have. I feel like the offense is adjustable to certain personnels and we can use different bodies in different ways.”

And as with any coaching change in college football comes the transition period, the time it takes for the new coach’s recruits to emulate the type of program being instilled. With a new offensive coordinator will come a new system, playbook and language that all players — new and returning — will have to learn.

So how does Hill intend on using the playmakers that he will be inheriting in his early years as ASU’s offensive play-caller?

“I’m very excited to be able to work with [Daniels] and the offensive guys. I know there are a lot of weapons down here,” Hill said. “And offensively, that’s intriguing — to be able to come into a place where there are those weapons. Just going to try to find ways to get guys in space and get our playmakers the ball.

“Coach Edwards does a phenomenal job in recruiting and has a great vision for the program and I think that was a big piece of why I came down here, too — was his vision and how he approaches everything on a daily basis. I felt very comfortable taking this role.”

Hill will not be coaching in the Sun Devils’ upcoming Sun Bowl matchup with the Florida State Seminoles on Dec. 31 in El Paso.


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