Arizona State’s QB battle heats up after 1st week of spring ball with Jaden Rashada

Mar 18, 2023, 6:51 PM

Jaden Rashada, Arizona State quarterback...

Arizona State true freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada gives the "forks up" after a spring ball practice in Tempe, Ariz., on March 18, 2023. (Jake Anderson/Arizona Sports).

(Jake Anderson/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — For the second consecutive spring, the Arizona State Sun Devils are in the midst of a quarterback competition.

Although new head coach Kenny Dillingham announced in December that Trenton Bourguet would be the starter entering spring ball, it’s very apparent that this QB battle could last until fall camp.

That’s because there are a whopping six signal callers on the roster, half of which are returners, while two are transfers and one is an incoming true freshman in five-star dual-threat prospect Jaden Rashada.

Redshirt freshmen Bennett Meredith and Max Clark are returning for their second seasons in Tempe, with redshirt sophomores Drew Pyne and Jacob Conover transferring from Notre Dame and BYU, respectively.

Dillingham and new offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin have been very open about the competition since taking over the ASU football program, and the duo isn’t tipping their hand as to who they might be leaning toward.

In just the first week of spring ball (three practices), pass catchers like tight ends Jalin Conyers and Messiah Swinson, as well as wide receivers Elijhah Badger, Javen Jacobs and Gio Sanders have all been split up and receiving reps from all six QBs.

Put simply, this coaching staff isn’t giving away anything that might indicate who the first-stringers are just yet.

“Everybody’s kind of new here because the staff is new, so nobody has a competitive advantage via the scheme,” Dillingham said Saturday. “But I like having these guys come in and I’m open in dialogue. I want to hear, ‘How did you read it?’

“Everyone runs the same plays. Everybody runs flat, corner, drive, cross, dig. Everyone runs it. How do you read it? How do you coach it? What are your feet tied with it? So I enjoy hearing how other people are coaching things because everybody learns different.”

And while the depth chart is still months out from being completed, there is no escaping the eye test when it comes to accuracy, arm strength and decision-making, albeit Saturday was the first day quarterbacks were wearing shoulder pads.

The winner one week into spring ball? Rashada.

The true freshman hasn’t been perfect, but the majority of his passes have been crisp, on target and on time, with a zip on short and intermediate balls that have caught some receivers by surprise as it goes through their hands. That will alleviate itself out once the plethora of pass catchers get more familiar with Rashada.

And just like Bourguet, he has a moxie and confidence about himself that does all the talking on the field while also having humility off of it.

“Just being grateful to be here, finally focused on football and school, so I’m not really looking at it as pressure,” Rashada said Saturday.

“Just sitting back learning everything, watching, not in a rush to put out something that’s not a clean rep,” he added. “I’m just trying to learn the (scheme). It’s nothing impossible. I’ve just been enjoying the process. It won’t come overnight. Just staying patient and grateful to be here.”

Let me be clear, it’s way, way too early to even predict who will win this race. But for a five-star prospect that Dillingham has been recruiting since he was Oregon’s offensive coordinator, it’s evident that Rashada has the highest ceiling of anybody in his position group.

And while Rashada will most likely be given the keys as the face of the program eventually, he is still a raw talent who is fresh out of high school, while the likes of Bourguet and Pyne already have legitimate game experience at the collegiate level. Plus, guys don’t transfer unless they think they have the ability to be the starter come Week 1.

So with exactly four weeks to go until the spring game on April 15 at Sun Devil Stadium after Pat’s Run, all six quarterbacks will have ample opportunity to prove themselves both on the field and in the film room. And at this rate, any one of them could win the competition — a word that has been Dillingham’s mantra in his early tenure since taking over his alma mater in November.

“Little things win, passion wins,” he said. “Today in the team meeting was like do you love this? Do you wake up every day and do you love it?

“If not, leave. Because we want people who love it and come here every day with a passion about themselves to compete. And if you don’t wake up every day and you don’t love it, you’re doing the wrong thing.”

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