ESPN gives Arizona State football B+ grade for hiring of head coach Kenny Dillingham

Dec 10, 2022, 5:38 PM | Updated: 5:48 pm

ESPN has given Arizona State’s decision to hire Kenny Dillingham as its new head football coach a B+ grade in its analysis of recent coaching hires in NCAA football.

“Dillingham will inject energy into the program and fan base,” Adam Rittenberg wrote in the ESPN+ article published this week.

“He looks at ASU as a dream job and understands the environment he’s entering. But young coaches often struggle under the best of circumstances, and Arizona State’s situation is far from ideal right now. Dillingham’s staff and support hires will be incredibly important, especially during what could be a rocky first few seasons.”

ASU announced Dillingham, 32, as head coach on Nov. 27, two days after it ended the 2022 season with a loss to Arizona and a 3-9 record. The nine defeats are the most for ASU in a single season.

Rittenberg also wrote that Dillingham, who graduated from ASU in 2012,  is a good fit for the Sun Devils.

“After the Herm Edwards experiment failed, Arizona State needed a coach who understands its advantages and challenges, but someone who also brings perspective from other programs,” Rittenberg wrote. “Dillingham checks the boxes as an alum who has worked in the SEC, ACC and now the Pac-12 as an offensive coordinator.

“He’s incredibly well-connected in the state recruiting scene, where Arizona State hasn’t done nearly as well as it could, especially with quarterbacks. Dillingham will hire a staff with similar roots and connections, and ASU soon should keep more of the best prospects at home. His age and lack of head-coaching experience are understandable concerns, but he’s a “young old guy” in a sense, given how many prominent places he has coached.”

Paolo Uggetti wrote that Dillingham’s biggest challenge will be making ASU relevant again and that begins with the offense.

“It could not have been pleasant for Sun Devils fans to watch Jayden Daniels not only bolt to LSU this offseason but look like a fringe Heisman contender at one point,” Uggetti wrote.

“The talent cupboard in Tempe is nearly bare, and while their in-state rivals have leaped to the top 50 in recruiting rankings for next season, ASU is closer to No. 100. From what we’ve seen out of a Dillingham-led offense (in part, at Auburn and most recently, at Oregon) it should be easy for him to sell talented players on playing in Tempe, but it will take some time.”

Tom VanHaaren notes that at just 32 years old, time is on Dillingham’s side.

“This doesn’t need to be a quick fix given how Dillingham feels about the program and how much work needs to be done,” VanHaaren wrote. “He can take his time, make smart decisions with balancing high school prospects and the portal and try to build a foundation.

“He’ll need to prioritize developing high school recruits, while using the portal as a band-aid rather than a long-term solution. I think he can do that, given he has coached at Oregon, Florida State, Auburn, Memphis and Arizona State all within the last eight years.”

Other hires graded in the article include Deion Sanders at Colorado (A-), Trent Dilfer at UAB (C+) and Matt Rhule at Nebraska (A-).

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