Quarterback Jaden Rashada’s athleticism, work ethic poised to propel ASU’s offense

Aug 24, 2023, 4:12 PM | Updated: 4:35 pm

Arizona State starting quarterback Jaden Rashada and coach Kenny Dillingham...

Jaden Rashada goes through his first practice on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023, as starting QB for the Arizona State Sun Devils and head coach Kenny Dillingham in Tempe, Arizona. (Jeremy Schnell / Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell / Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — The Arizona State Sun Devils are just a week away from kicking off their season against Southern Utah and beginning the Kenny Dillingham and Jaden Rashada era.

Rashada has shown rapid progression at quarterback from the beginning of fall camp, winning the battle with Trenton Bourguet and the injured Drew Pyne for the stating job.

The freshman’s innate ability in and out of the pocket has stood out, especially during Thursday’s practice. Rashada had multiple deep ball connections down the middle to tight end Jalin Conyers as well as wide receiver Andre Johnson.

The pass to Johnson was pure athleticism and talent as the QB rolled to his left and threw a deep pass 35-plus yards to connect for a touchdown, enough to see why Dillingham believes in the youngster with no experience in the college game.

“He is just an athlete. He is good at making off-balance throws and making plays with his legs,” Conyers said.

“That is one thing he brings to the table, just being a different quarterback and being able to make plays that are not necessarily planned. Jaden is one of those guys you do not need to have the perfect play because he will make an impact regardless. Not a lot of people can make that type of throw as a true freshman, it is crazy.”

Although Rashada is inexperienced, his prep work, athletic ability and untapped potential are what gave him the edge over the experienced Bourguet.

Dillingham did not commit to the freshman past Week 1 but said he has been nothing but pleased with his progression this week running with the starters.

“I thought he practiced better than I originally thought,” Dillingham said.

“The game slowed down a little bit. Obviously it is the catastrophics, we have to eliminate the catastrophics. We could have eight great plays in a row, two catastrophics and none of it matters.”

The head coach said the team is showing much more physicality while playing smart. One week out from the regular season, the emphasis is on urging his players to find the fine line between extreme physicality and intelligent football.

The term “ball security” has been one shouted throughout camp — but was an emphasis on Thursday — as one of the controllable aspects of the game the team can control.

Dillingham said now that the starting quarterback is decided, the roster will have limited shuffling before the first game.

Although, the head coach expects the Sun Devils to be a deep team that will see rotations (outside of quarterback) especially in the first game.

Backup quarterback job

Dillingham had previously said that when Drew Pyne went down with a hamstring injury at Camp Tontozona that it “threw a wrench” in his plans to name the starter.

While it is still unknown how long he will be out, both Pyne and Bourguet have lent a helping hand to Rashada as he takes over the reins of Sun Devil football.

“They are older guys that have been around teams for a long time,” Conyers said.

“Whether they have the job or don’t, they are going to be the exact same person on and off the field. … (Bourguet) is going to keep working his tail off and when his time comes his time comes. But now he is going to lead by example. He has done a really good job of taking it, no one wants to hear they are not the starting guy but they are both handling it very well.”

Defensive spotlight

Much of the talk has been around the offense with the quarterback competition and many of ASU’s most well-known players being on that side of the ball.

Defensive back Jordan Clark said that this current defense is the most aggressive during his tenure. Last year’s defense forced 11 interceptions, five forced fumbles and 17 sacks.

“Chaos. We are a defense that prides ourself in playing physical and fast,” Clark said.

“… This is the most aggressive defense I have ever played in. Ultimately it is about how we approach practice and the way we approach playing, we want to run fast and hit hard, that is the standard. We would rather mess up going 100 miles per hour than tiptoeing doing something right.”

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