Kenny Dillingham instills ‘just compete’ philosophy on Day 1 of ASU spring ball

Mar 14, 2023, 9:00 PM | Updated: 11:09 pm

Kenny Dillingham. (Twitter Photo/@ASUFootball)...

Kenny Dillingham. (Twitter Photo/@ASUFootball)

(Twitter Photo/@ASUFootball)

TEMPE — The first day of spring ball for the Arizona State Sun Devils took place on Tuesday, with new head coach Kenny Dillingham instilling a vastly different vibe than previous regimes.

From the 32-year-old head coach operating as an MC at times to the non-stop, high-tempo practice, the energy in the air was palpable for a group of players who have clearly bought into Dillingham’s philosophy.

“Just compete. If you noticed, we have music playing that tells us to do different sorts of competition because that’s really what it’s about,” Dillingham said. “We want to compete. We want to have an intensity about ourselves and our goal today was just own the ball.

“That means you have to tackle well … give effort to tackle well and take care of the football and I think that’s two things that we actually did do today.”

But perhaps the most energy-inducing portions of practice featured one-on-one competitions between both skill positions and linemen, with the head coach only allowing those who won their respective one-on-one to talk trash.

“I kind of pick it basically based off of who has competed earlier in the day,” Dillingham said.

“So, I just kind of get a feel for who’s in competition with each other earlier in practice and say, ‘OK if you guys are talking a little crap and competing earlier, let’s do it in front of everybody,’ because talk is cheap.”

Running backs coach Shaun Aguano made similar changes on the practice field from a tempo perspective during his stint as interim head coach after Herm Edwards was fired only three games into last season.

But now with Dillingham at the helm, the youngest head coach in the Power 5 conferences not only can relate to college athletes generationally, but he also leads by example by doing everything himself that he asks of his players.

“That’s just kind of who I am, so I do believe players feed off of (it) and their culture is based off of the coaches,” he said. “The coaches are the leaders. If you expect something out of your player, if you expect them to be in team-issued gear, you as a coach better be in team-issued gear.

“If you expect them to be 10 minutes early, you better be 10 minutes early. So, I just think that more players are looking up to coaches and if you want them to hit a standard, you have to live that standard as coach.”

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