New-look Sun Devil football will lean on established leaders in 2023

Jul 25, 2023, 3:42 PM

Arizona State tight end Jalin Conyers (12) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Arizona in ...

Arizona State tight end Jalin Conyers (12) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Arizona in the second half during an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils are inching toward the 2023 season with an overhaul of the staff and roster, but a few familiar faces remain.

Head coach Kenny Dillingham has yet to name a starting quarterback between Trenton Bourguet, Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne, highly-touted freshman Jaden Rashada and BYU transfer Jacob Conover.

Bourguet proved his worth under center last season, throwing for almost 1,500 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games played.

Despite a majority of the team being made up of new players, Bourguet was one of the few returning faces on the offense, alongside tight end Jalin Conyers and wide receiver Elijhah Badger.

“Growing up, I went to a smaller high school in Tucson (Marana) and obviously the bigger school down there was Salpointe with (current Atlanta Falcons RB) Bijan Robinson. My dad always told me growing up, ‘It’s not where you go but what you do when you are there,” Bourguet said Tuesday.

“For me in this age of the game, everyone wants to go to these bigger schools and chase whatever. If there is competition they are going to leave. I have never been someone to run from competition. I embrace it because it will make you better. Not only in football but in life.”

In his time at ASU, Bourguet in no stranger to change. He’s seen about a dozen different signal callers roll through the quarterback room for the Sun Devils. Now, he’s a favorite to start as a senior.

While that’s an unknown at this point, what’s more certain is that whoever starts at quarterback in Week 1 against Southern Utah will have established targets to throw the ball to.

Badger accounted for 889 yards receiving with seven touchdowns in 12 games played, while Conyers had 422 yards and hauled in five scores on the year.

Conyers was one of the surprise players to stay in Tempe this offseason. He was recognized as one of the best at his position in college football after being named to the John Mackey Award watch list for the best TE in the country. He was ranked No. 8 in Pro Football Focus’ top 10 returning TEs in 2023.

Additionally, he has built a rapport with Bourguet — as one of the quarterback’s roommates.

“For me, it is just about becoming more detailed with what I need to do on the field and obviously keeping it smart off the field,” Conyers said.

“With the weapons we have with the QB room, receiving core, RB and TE room, the possibilities are endless. I think we can be a team that puts up anywhere from 30, 40, 50 points a game. It will come down to how we execute, but I think we will be dangerous.”

The TE said that no matter who wins out on the quarterback battle, he wants it to be someone who will be the best leader for the team full of new faces.

Despite Conyers’ success, Badger may be the best weapon ASU has in its arsenal this season.

He was left off the preseason All-Pac-12 media poll but thinks his play will have him on that list by the end of the year.

“It doesn’t matter — not something I am really worried about. They know, the people on my team know. It’s about numbers at the end of the day,” Badger said.

“I want to be in the top five for ASU receiving yards (in a single season).”

Madden madness with the roommate QB

As roommates, Conyers and Bourguet said their games of Madden can get intense — so intense that Conyers refuses to play against the quarterback anymore.

“I don’t think I have beat him one time recently,” Conyers said.

“It is so frustrating because you’re playing against a quarterback. It already has the plays on the screen, so he already knows what could be coming. It’s like he is cheating. I won’t play him anymore.”

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