ASU interim head coach Shaun Aguano: ‘I’m not a conservative guy’

Sep 23, 2022, 2:31 PM | Updated: 3:23 pm
Arizona State interim head coach Shaun Aguano during his first practice on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022,...
Arizona State interim head coach Shaun Aguano during his first practice on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in Tempe, Ariz. (Arizona Sports Photo/Jake Anderson)
(Arizona Sports Photo/Jake Anderson)

Arizona State interim head coach Shaun Aguano isn’t just a new voice in the room — he brings a new philosophy. A philosophy that takes more risks on both sides of the ball but in a disciplined manner.

Former head coach Herm Edwards, who parted ways Sunday, leaned heavily on the running game, emphasizing time of possession and limiting turnovers. As a result, the offense struggled to consistently generate chunk plays, despite having several NFL starters at skill positions.

Aguano didn’t go into great detail in his first interview on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Thursday but did shed light on what he expects from the offense moving forward.

“I’m not a conservative guy,” Aguano said. “I’m an aggressive guy, but making sure that it is calculated risks.”

This season, the Sun Devils have gained more than 20 yards in a play just 15 times — tied for 61st in the nation. While transfer quarterback Emory Jones’ familiarity with the offense and his receivers may be a contributor this year, ASU tied for 71st in the nation in 2021, 106th in 2020 and 90th in 2019.

“One of my main goals is for our [players] — they’re talented enough — to just go out and have fun and play like they’re playing on a playground,” Aguano said. “As long as we’re making a mistake full speed, I can live with that.”

Jones has made 74 pass attempts through Arizona State’s first three games. Only 19 teams have attempted fewer passes in FBS this season. Aguano identified that as a problem, especially the past few weeks, and expressed his desire for more urgency.

“I think you’ll see a different type of urgency coming,” Aguano told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Friday. “I understand that is a huge problem that we’ve had in the last couple of games, so I’m making sure that we pick that up.

“I’d like to see us attack a lot more and take those deep shots and then convert those deep shots.”

Third downs have also been a problem for the Sun Devils offense. Out of 131 FBS teams, ASU ranks 120th in third-down conversion rate (28.6%).

“That’s been an emphasis all week,” Aguano said. “From a ‘Why?’ standpoint for our kids, understanding the plays that we are running and what the conversion rate that we are looking for, and hopefully they all go and complete those.”

Regardless of Arizona State’s response to the coaching change on the field, Aguano’s future position isn’t set in stone.

“I know what needs to be done for me to be a candidate at the end of the season,” Aguano said. “I understand where my situation is.

“People say, ‘Well, it’s a hard situation because you’re facing three very formidable opponents (No. 13 Utah, No. 7 USC, No. 18 Washington).’ … To me, that’s a great challenge.”

Even with the challenge in front of him, Aguano gave the team the day off after they received the news about Edwards. They had a team meeting Sunday, the players had Monday off and they were back to work Tuesday.

“I gave them 24 hours to grieve — everybody went home,” Aguano said. “The kids came back on Tuesday and we started to roll.”

In practice, an emphasis was on attention to detail. Aguano wanted to set expectations and implement skills he learned as a teacher at Chandler High School, where he also won four state titles as the football coach.

Part of that is letting the players have fun.

“[I want to make sure] that our kids are having fun and I’m inspiring them,” Aguano said. “I thought our last three practices were inspiring. I thought our kids were running all over the place.

“The pace of practice is different. I’ve been a teacher my whole life. I understand listening to kids is important, different teaching styles are important. I want to make sure I implement that in my coaching style.”

The new era of ASU football begins with a Saturday home game against No. 13 Utah at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM / 98.7 FM HD-2.

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