Arizona State’s Kenny Dillingham prepares for protege quarterback Bo Nix, Oregon

Nov 16, 2023, 1:52 PM | Updated: 2:12 pm

Bo Nix #10 of the Oregon Ducks prepares to hand off the ball in the second half against the Washing...

Bo Nix #10 of the Oregon Ducks prepares to hand off the ball in the second half against the Washington State Cougars at Autzen Stadium on October 21, 2023 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Lydia Ely/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lydia Ely/Getty Images)

TEMPE — The relationship between a player and a coach is special. And to call Bo Nix one of Arizona State head football coach Kenny Dillingham’s prized pupils may be an understatement.

But special enough to follow a coach to two schools, including one that was more than a thousand miles away?

That’s how Dillingham sees his relationship with Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, who he recruited from Pinson, Alabama, when he was the offensive coordinator at Auburn, and then got him to transfer to the Pacific Northwest to Eugene, when he left to coach at Oregon.

“I mean I could go on and on, he does it all really well,” Dillingham said in his weekly press conference on Monday. “Super smart, knows where to go with the ball before the ball is even snapped. Has a really good plan. Quick release, good pocket movement, hard to sack in the pocket because he’s so athletic, has a really good feel for pump fakes, is one of the best guys I’ve been around just using the pump fake to his advantage to not get sacked.

“(He) knows how to flip protections at a high rate, so he very rarely becomes hot. If he doesn’t have to become hot, he gets out of bad play calls by checking to runs.”

Dillingham will have the opportunity to take on his former pupil on Saturday as Oregon travels to Mountain America Stadium to visit the Sun Devils.

Nix is having a Heisman Trophy-worthy season in 2023, throwing for 3,135 yards with a staggering 29 touchdown passes to two interceptions. He’s also run for five scores as he’s led No. 6 Oregon to a 9-1 record.

Dillingham spoke of Nix’s transition from a scrambling quarterback to signal-caller who has “one of the quickest catch-to-throw … timing in college football.”

“That’s a testament to his intelligence, his work ethic and who he is as a person,” Dillingham said.

Dan Lanning and Oregon

Dillingham spent 2022 as the offensive coordinator for the Ducks before being hired by the Sun Devils as their head coach.

He said he’s “lucky” to have been around Oregon head coach Dan Lanning and he’s learned “a lot.”

“I just learned the toughness that was instilled when they were at the Alabamas and the Georgias and the practice structures that they used. We used some of those practice structures still,” Dillingham said. “I learned working for a defensive-minded head coach how important install days are with formations and motions for a defense and how to get a defense prepared not just an offense prepared. So it was a lot of good learning experience for me for what defenses need in order to be top defenses in the country and how they need to prepare.”

The stout Oregon defense is allowing 17.1 points per game, 309.4 yards per game (good for second in the Pac-12) and has recorded 31 sacks.

It’s the Ducks high-flying offense, however, that has caught the nation’s attention.

“They’re probably the best Oregon offense since the Chip Kelly era, since the (Marcus) Mariota era,” Dillingham said.

“I think what makes (the offense) scary is they’re good up front. You have good wideouts. You have a good running back and you have an elite quarterback. I don’t know where the flaw lies,” he added. “If you look at their offense and you look at their starters, there’s probably eight guys that’ll play on Sundays. There’s potentially three to four guys who can be first- or second-round picks who are currently playing and if you have four first- or second-round picks on one offense at the same time and one of those guys is a quarterback, woah.”

But is a team that puts up 46-plus points, 338.7 passing yards and 202.3 rushing yards per week “unstoppable”?

“Hopefully they’re not unstoppable on Saturday,” Dillingham retorted.

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