Kenny Dillingham talks Jaden Rashada injury, revamped roster ahead of spring ball

Mar 22, 2024, 2:49 PM

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham reacts during the second half of the team's NCAA college footb...

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham reacts during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

(AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

TEMPE — Arizona State football coach Kenny Dillingham will hold his players to a higher standard than in his first year at the helm starting with spring ball, which kicks off Tuesday.

“Everybody knows we want to go out there and compete every day,” Dillingham said. “That’s just who we are. It’s who I am. That’s who this team’s always going to be. … There’s only one way you do things, and that’s all in. And that’ll be from now until forever.”

Quarterback Jaden Rashada will reportedly miss spring ball after having surgery on his thumb, which he injured in a non-football-related incident.

“Hopefully, by the end of spring ball, he’s taken some seven-on-seven reps and some non-team reps, dipping his toe in the water,” Dillingham said.

With Rashada out, the only two active quarterbacks on the roster this spring are redshirt senior Trenton Bourguet and former Michigan State quarterback Sam Leavitt, who announced his transfer from the Spartans in December.

It will also be the first season for ASU’s new offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. The head coach at UNLV from 2020 to 2022, Arroyo was named ASU’s offensive coordinator shortly before Leavitt’s transfer.

Dillingham says he and Arroyo will have about a “60-40, 70-30” split when running the offense. Multiple signs will be changed from last year, and different verbiage will be used throughout the offensive system.

Injuries, especially along the line, were a big problem for the Sun Devils last season. However, Dillingham believes ASU will have a surplus in spring after adding four offensive linemen in the transfer portal this offseason.

Dillingham says the dreaded injury bug was one of the biggest problems for the defense, even preventing the Sun Devils from practicing to their fullest capabilities after two weeks of the season.

“In year one when we were banged up like we were, you can’t do a lot, and that’s not a good situation,” Dillingham said. “When teams can run the ball but you don’t have enough depth or enough system knowledge to be able to change up looks like you want to, that’s a horrible combination.”

ASU brought in 23 transfers this offseason, 13 of which play defense. Defensive back Cole Martin (Oregon), defensive lineman Jacob Kongaika (Arizona), and defensive lineman Jeffrey Clark (Louisville) are among those looking to stand out next season.

Martin, a 4-star recruit out of Basha High School in Chandler, transferred after one season with the Ducks. As a true freshman in 2023, he appeared in every game and finished with 21 tackles, two passes defensed and an interception.

Dillingham said Leavitt and Martin both bring “a lot of juice.”

Dillingham also talked about NIL and the unprecedented improvement he’s seen in its support in Tempe. However, even with the improvement, there is still a lot more that can be done.

“The progress we’ve seen is unbelievable to be honest. From the last game of the season to today, I can’t even put in words how much growth we’ve had …” Dillingham said. “Now the difference is everybody’s growing. That’s the challenge … So we have to move at a faster pace than everybody else because we started behind the race. … But we are definitely (headed) in the right direction.”

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