Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham’s offense is about athletes in space

Feb 7, 2023, 9:31 AM
(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)...
(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)
(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

Kenny Dillingham brings a ton of enthusiasm and a wealth of offensive football knowledge to the Arizona State sideline as a first-year head coach.

Now, his football team around him is starting to take shape, and it is Dillingham himself who is taking the reins on molding what that team will look like.

“We are going to play hard,” Dillingham told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Monday. “We’re going to put athletes in space and it’s that simple. I think the game is about do you play harder than your opponent? Do you understand the game? Do you have a plan before the snap? Are you more physical than your opponent? And do you win one-on-ones?”

The Sun Devils return a few playmakers who have shown the ability to do the things that Dillingham is asking.

Wide receiver Elijhah Badger and tight end Jalin Conyers are two returning starters who found success last season, combining for 108 receptions, 1,288 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“It’s a system built for playmakers. It’s a system built to put athletes in space,” Dillingham said.

There will be many new playmakers alongside those two, including two running backs in transfers Cameron Skattebo (Sacramento State) and DeCarlos Brooks (Cal, Chandler High School), who are set to replace Xazavian Valladay.

The Sun Devils also welcome six new wide receiver prospects including Jake Smith, Troy Omeire, Melquan Stovall and Korbin Hendrix.

Notwithstanding are questions at quarterback, which is set to feature a battle that will include incoming freshman Jaden Rashada, a four-star recruit who formerly committed to Florida before flipping to the Sun Devils.

“Big, athletic kid. Super, super strong arm, if not the strongest arm in the class,” Dillingham said.

In evaluating the new quarterback, Dillingham mentioned a lot of the qualities sought after in an evolving college football landscape.

“Can make off-platform throws, can get the ball out quick when needed in the RPO world, has the ability to shorten his release when needed,” he said.

“This is a kid who has all the tools necessary to be an elite player.”

Dillingham said he saw Rashada throw the ball 65-70 yards as a 17-year-old.

He will have a challenge competing for snaps against incumbent starter Trenton Bourguet, Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne and BYU transfer Jacob Conover.

Dillingham said he made it clear to Rashada that there would be no guarantees.

“I told him from the first day I talked to him, my job is to make you the best version of yourself on the field, off the field, in life. I want to help you succeed. I’m going to do everything I can to help you succeed but I can’t guarantee you anything,” Dillingham said.

The Sun Devils take the field on April 15 for the annual spring game set to take place following the completion of Pat’s Run earlier that day.

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Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham’s offense is about athletes in space