ASU football to attack 2023’s ‘clean slate’ with versatility

Jul 27, 2023, 6:00 AM | Updated: 7:41 am

Wide receiver Elijhah Badger #2 of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs with the ball after a catch in...

Wide receiver Elijhah Badger #2 of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs with the ball after a catch in the first quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on October 22, 2022 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

TEMPE — Arizona State football is looking at the 2023 season as a “clean slate” with an almost entirely new staff and players taking the field.

The team has yet to decide on a starting quarterback, added 28 transfers in the portal and has a coaching staff with two returning faces, running backs coach Shaun Aguano and head sports performance coach Joe Connolly.

Aguano, the interim head coach in 2022 after Herm Edwards was fired, stole hearts around the Valley despite the team finishing with the worst record in ASU’s history at 3-9. He was retained on Kenny Dillingham’s staff which features several former Phoenix-area high school coaches.

“You take (this season) as a clean slate and do not look at the past,” Aguano said on Wednesday.

“There are some holdovers that experienced that, but we need to make sure that we are enhanced with the roster that we have now. There are a lot of new guys, new faces that are excited about the program. I think we just move on from that because they are excited about Arizona State.”

With the team gaining and losing many players in the transfer portal, the team could look unfamiliar for many fans.

Between the four quarterbacks vying for the starting position (Trenton Bourguet, Drew Pyne, Jaden Rashada and Jacob Conover), only Bourguet was on ASU’s roster a year ago.

The offense projects five new starters not including the quarterback at left guard, center right tackle, running back and wideout opposite of starter Elijhah Badger.

So what will this team’s offensive identity look like?

“We are very versatile and very multiple,” new offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin said.

“We definitely will have elements of pro style with up-tempo spread. The reality is we are very versatile. We are going to do whatever it takes to move the ball each game. During all my years with the same playbook, you have to pare it down with what is going to fit that group that year. It is not always the same.”

Tight end Jalin Conyers stuck around for at least one more year in the Valley and already plays a prominent role in that “clean slate.”

New tight ends coach and former Scottsdale Saguaro head coach Jason Mohns called it a luxury to have a player who is not only one of the best on the field in college but also one of the best leaders in the country.

“To have our stud in the tight end room, also a leader of the team, also be a great kid and a great person has been great,” Mohns said.

“When your best players are your hardest workers and your best program guys, you’re going to have a good team, and Jalin fits that mold. He loves ASU, is bought into Coach Dillingham’s vision and is walking it every day. Everyone else follows that guy’s lead.”

Almost every one of the Sun Devil coaches on Wednesday mentioned how many different ways this year’s team can beat the opposition.

Versatility, physicality and speed were used most throughout the day.

“We are going to be violent. We are always going to be the hammer, never the nail,” wide receivers coach Ra’Shaad Samples added.

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