Injury-stricken ASU football welcomes Caleb Williams, USC

Sep 18, 2023, 2:46 PM

ASU QB Jacob Conover, Fresno State at Arizona State September 18, 2023 (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Spor...

ASU QB Jacob Conover, Fresno State at Arizona State September 18, 2023 (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — Injuries have been prevalent for an ASU football team that was predicted to finish toward the bottom of the Pac-12 before the season began.

The team sits at 1-2 after non-conference play and welcomes likely No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams and No. 5 USC to town to start a stretch of playing seven currently ranked teams in eight games.

The problems start under center. Week 1 starting QB freshman Jaden Rashada will be out the next four to six weeks with an undisclosed injury and could redshirt this season.

Following him, both Trenton Bourguet (lower left leg) and Drew Pyne (muscular injury) both exited Saturday’s 29-0 loss to Fresno State and did not return, leaving fourth-stringer Jacob Conover to fend off the wolves in a game that was all but over at that point.

Head coach Kenny Dillingham said the medical results on the two injured QBs could have been worse, but their statuses are still unknown.

“We still don’t know on those two exactly where they stand,” Dillingham said Monday.

“The results were better than they could have been but we have to wait and see how they go out this week. I think Jacob did a nice job coming in after getting no reps. … I got a lot of faith in Jacob if he takes the field.”

On the other side of the ball, Williams will enter Mountain America Stadium as one of the hottest players in the country.

Across three games, he has amassed 875 passing yards on 55-of-70 passing (78.6%) for 12 touchdowns and no interceptions while also rushing for 66 yards on 12 carries for a score.

This is all while the talented quarterback has watched from the sidelines in the fourth quarter multiple times due to the Trojans outscoring their opponents 178-52.

“He’s great at everything. He’s smart, elusive, calm, he can throw from different arm angles, make the big throw, knows when to get out of plays and knows when to get into plays,” Dillingham said. “Him and coach Lincoln Riley are on the same page as they have been together for three years. Not many flaws in his game, one of the best quarterbacks in the country and for sure since I have been coaching college football. He does it all and is a great, great challenge for our guys.

“… We joked about it today, that we may have to use Hunter (Herrera), who is on the scout team, on our offense. We talked about putting someone else like (wideout) Jake Smith out there at QB. Well that’s good cause he can move around like Caleb, but, Caleb can sling that thing too, ‘Jake, can you throw it?'”

ASU’s future growth

Dillingham acknowledged that this is a results-driven business, but that things were not just going to change overnight in Tempe.

One of the worst seasons in school history in 2022 under a completely different coaching staff has been followed by a 1-2 record and a team that has failed to score an offensive point in the last six quarters of football.

“I used the term with the team today, bamboo,” Dillingham said.

“It takes four, five years to grow bamboo. You water it like a crazy person for four, five years, not understanding that by year five it starts to grow. It grows 90 feet in six weeks. Not everyone understands the growth you are making because the results don’t reflect it. But eventually, if you continue to water and do the cultural things that are necessary, one day it is going to spurt and grow like wildfire.”

Dillingham admitted he took some heat for this saying during his time at Florida State when the team under head coach Mike Norvell started off 0-4 and the fan base was not happy. The team finished the year 5-3, won nine games the next season and are currently one of the best teams in the country.

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