ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

Arizona State football brings high energy to open spring practice Saturday

Mar 30, 2024, 5:13 PM | Updated: Apr 1, 2024, 7:26 am

Kenny Dillingham...

Head coach Kenny Dillingham of the Arizona State Sun Devils calls in a play during the second half of their game against the Utah Utes at Rice Eccles Stadium on November 4, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

TEMPE — Energy was high at the Bill Kajikawa practice fields as Arizona State football welcomed fans for the end of the first week of spring practice on Saturday.

ASU head coach Kenny Dillingham has emphasized high intensity and competitiveness throughout the week, and he hoped that opening up practice would help motivate the players even more as they put on pads for the first time this spring.

“I think I see some improvement (from Tuesday to now) and then I see some things drop off,” Dillingham said. “But when pads get on, people lose their minds a little bit because you’re so ready to practice … so the juices are flowing. That’s why we brought people out here.

“All we’re trying to do is distract our guys and create adversity for them to actually just focus on their job and repeat.”

Dillingham also extended an open invitation to all former ASU players to come to any practice. Former standout on the defensive line Will Sutton was in attendance on Saturday.

Dillingham told reporters he plans to open other practices to the public throughout the spring.

How are the ASU quarterbacks handling spring practice?

Sophomore quarterback Sam Leavitt tweaked his hip early during the Saturday practice, but Dillingham said he’s “fine.” ASU was still cautious, holding the Michigan State transfer out for the rest of the day.

Leavitt’s size stands out listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds with a well-built frame and the wheels to be a threat in the open field.

The Sun Devils are practicing without the other sophomore quarterback expected to compete for the starting job, Jaden Rashada. Instead, he was out there for mental reps while recovering from a reported thumb injury.

 

Dillingham said he’s asking a lot from his quarterbacks but they’re taking it in stride.

“They’re executing well. We’re putting a lot (of the offense) in. We have three times the amount in this spring than we had last spring,” Dillingham said. “So we’re trying to put a lot on them mentally right now on the guys so we can get it all in then hopefully in the back end of the spring, we can clean things up.”

Navi Bruzon, a freshman quarterback walking on from Liberty High in Peoria, has impressed early with his ability to turn nothing into something.

“I don’t look at Navi and say ‘Oh, that’s a walk-on,’ I look at Navi and say ‘That’s a two-time Gatorade state player of the year,'” Dillingham said. “And you can see the savviness, he makes plays moving out of the pocket, scrambling.

“I told him he’s gonna get a ‘Welcome to football’ hit eventually playing like that, but his awareness, you can tell why he was so successful and why he led his team to a state championship last year.”

Bruzon threw for 3,287 yards and 32 touchdowns and rushed for another 972 yards and 21 touchdowns en route to the top seed in the Open Division followed by the state title win for Liberty this past year.

Which ASU linebackers have impressed in spring practice?

“We were talking a lot about disrupting the ball and the different ways you could do that and it’s not just takeaways,” Dillingham said. “I think we had four deflections in team period today, like that is gigantic. When you talk about third downs and you can bat two balls down out of 15 third-down plays, I mean that can be the difference between winning and losing football games.”

In addition to the batted balls, maybe the biggest defensive highlight of the day came from transfer linebacker Keyshaun Elliott (New Mexico State), who came up with an interception coming across the middle of the field.

Dillingham has noted how Elliott — and some other transfer linebackers, such as Jordan Crook (Arkansas) and Zyrus Fiaseu (San Diego State) — are showing that they’re “very smart football players.”

“I’m very pleased with their intelligence to pick up the scheme,” Dillingham said. “All those guys that we signed are just savvy football players, and it shows up in those team settings, especially when it’s real football (with pads on).”

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