ASU’s Jayden Daniels excited about 2nd year under OC Zak Hill
After playing just four games last season, Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels is chomping at the bit to show how much improvement he has made.
Daniels has high expectations after being placed on the preseason watch lists for several awards, including the Maxwell Award for most outstanding player.
He will have to prove he belongs on those lists after playing in limited action a year ago.
“Improving body-wise, physically, mentally, taking my game to another level. I feel like I took that big step from last year to this year and today I felt like it showed,” Daniels said after the team’s first practice.
There is also the complication of mastering the nuances implemented by second-year offensive coordinator Zak Hill.
“I mean, you can see just the growth from last year to this year in the offense. It’s a little more comfortable to be able to go out there and check the plays and do other things,” Daniels said. “It just came through building that relationship with Coach Hill over the spring.”
Daniels said he and Hill talk daily.
“We talk to each other about what I can do better,” Daniels said.
“He’s going to call plays but at the end of the day, it’s up to me to make the plays right.”
Making plays right means finding the right pass catcher.
Over the past three seasons, ASU has had three wide receivers drafted into the NFL. Now they look to replace N’Keal Harry, Brandon Aiyuk and Frank Darby.
“I feel like Ricky Pearsall will have a big year. Johnny Wilson, I just feel like those guys are bound to have a breakout year just with their work ethic with the way they approached the offeseason,” Daniels said. “Johnny put on like 12 pounds.”
Other options that could be in the mix are redshirt freshmen LV Bunkley-Shelton, Chad Johnson Jr., son of former NFL star Chad Johnson, along with redshirt sophomore Andre Johnson.
However, this early into camp, Daniels is relying on his veteran guys while the younger group gets acclimated to the system and weather.
“I tell them ‘just stack those days’ and I feel like we will see some big plays from Bryan Thompson and Geordon Porter,” Daniels said.
The Sun Devils began practice at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. The temperature at 8:51 a.m. in Tempe was recorded at 97 degrees.
“It’s not easy going out there practicing in that heat,” Daniels said. “It’s just building each and every day.”
“It’s just about building that foundation and stacking these days.”
Daniels knows it can take a toll quickly on some of the young players.
“I know a couple of guys, it’s tired, it’s their first day, it’s hot, so they are trying to adjust to the heat, adjust to practice,” Daniels said. “For the young guys, it’s their first full camp so they don’t really know how it is just going through it each and every day, stacking days.”
The Sun Devils are building to their first game on Thursday, Sept. 2 against Southern Utah.