Incoming Sun Devils eager to ‘change narrative’ of ASU

Jan 19, 2024, 6:55 PM | Updated: Jan 20, 2024, 11:43 am

TEMPE — Year 1 under Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Kenny Dillingham was about filling the roster and setting a new standard for the program.

As he put it Friday, 2023 was a lot about just “putting food on the table.”

This time around, though, Dillingham has the chance to make sure his plate has all the proper food groups and portions he’s looking for as ASU looks to improve upon a 3-9 mark from a season ago.

ASU’s incoming transfers and freshmen are hoping they can be the food groups necessary to leave Sun Devils fans full on good football in Year 2.

“I’m definitely excited to change the narrative around here,” freshman cornerback Chris Johnson Jr. said Friday. “They’ve been on and off for years now.

“To be able to be like, ‘Wow, 2024 class came in, transfers came in and just flipped the whole script.’ I’m ready to hear that narrative real soon.”

Cole Martin’s homecoming

The Sun Devils missed out on recruiting Martin in 2023 after the Basha High School alum chose Oregon over ASU and multiple others.

That didn’t stop Dillingham from giving it another go this offseason when the cornerback decided to enter his name in the transfer portal.

Now, after a season in the Pacific Northwest where he recorded 21 tackles, an interception and a pass defensed, Martin is back in the desert ready to contribute to both his hometown team and his family.

“There were a lot of reasons why I decided to come back,” the sophomore said. “At the end of the day, being close to my family just as much as being in a program with coach Dillingham and their trend on the way up is something you don’t really want to miss out on.

“Being able to be a part of that, being able to be closeknit and ready to grow with the players that are already here just as much as the players that are coming in, it’s going to be awesome.”

Sam Leavitt’s ‘soaking it all in’

Much like Martin, Leavitt felt a change of scenery was necessary this offseason for his continued growth as a football player following a redshirt year at Michigan State.

Among the biggest selling points for Leavitt, who like many of his teammates has aspirations of taking his game to the NFL level, was the coaching staff led by new offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo and Dillingham.

“Regardless of where you go, you’re going to have competition, so for me, the coaching staff and who’s going to develop me to get to the NFL,” Leavitt said Friday. “Being around coach Arroyo and coach Dillingham and seeing the people that they’ve taken to the NFL. Justin Herbert winning Rookie of the Year, you see how it all pays off.”

Leavitt sounds like he’s more than ready to take over the reins of the offense. The QB also understands he’s going to have to earn that right this spring as he gets set to compete with incumbent signal caller Jaden Rashada for the starting role.

“All year (I competed at MSU). I’m not scared of nothing, obviously, or else I wouldn’t be here. I’m just ready to get to work.”

“Just come in every day and try to do more than the next person, but it’s not really about that for me,” he added. “It’s about trying to do than everybody in the nation, because at the end of the day, you’re not just competing with the people in front of you. It’s who’s doing stuff on the other side of the nation. Every day just coming to work and trying to outwork everybody.”


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