ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

Jaden Rashada’s transfer from ASU has opened the door for QB Sam Leavitt

Apr 20, 2024, 5:00 PM | Updated: Apr 21, 2024, 12:13 am

TEMPE — Kenny Dillingham has his head down with tunnel vision after returning starting quarterback Jaden Rashada and No. 1 wide receiver Elijhah Badger announced their decisions to enter the transfer portal on Thursday.

“I wish them nothing but the best,” Dillingham said Saturday. “I know they were out all spring for us (with injuries), and they were both working their way back into the fold. Both really good young men.”

Losing your starting quarterback and potential No. 1 wide receiver to the transfer portal can make or break a program’s season. The positive spin on it for Dillingham is that the team has avoided the “one foot in, one foot out” mentality.

That mentality is exactly what Dillingham isn’t looking for in his players.

Rashada would have been competing with transfer Sam Leavitt to win the starting job. Dillingham has stressed that competitive quarterback battle since Leavitt announced his move from Michigan State after last season.

There has been no sugarcoating from Dillingham.

“There’s gonna be people around the country right now who bring you in and tell you how good you are, tell you how important you are to the team, how you need to stay here and make practice easier, and maybe do something nice for you to take you to dinner,” Dillingham said. “Screw that, compete. I want to challenge you. We’re gonna push you. If you’re gonna be here, you’re gonna push yourself. You’re ready to be challenged.”

With Jaden Rashada gone, Sam Leavitt has pushed to become Arizona State starting QB

The quarterback door has been swung open for both Leavitt and Trenton Bourguet.

Dillingham said that if the season started today, then Leavitt would be the guy. But ASU is looking at adding quarterback depth through the portal.

Leavitt responded with one of his best practices of spring ball on Saturday.

“It’s a testament to the work I put in,” Leavitt said. “It doesn’t mean too much. It’s spring right now. We’re gonna bring in another guy. I’m excited about getting to compete with a lot of competition, and I just gotta keep going with the team and keep getting better.”

Leavitt and first-year offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo have already built a close bond through the four weeks of spring practice. Arroyo and his offensive scheme were two points of interest in Leavitt’s recruiting process.

Arroyo was the offensive coordinator at Oregon while Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was with the Ducks.

Arroyo mentored Herbert and helped him reach the NFL, and now Leavitt is looking to make his own path to the NFL.

“His offense is quarterback-friendly,” Leavitt said. “That’s the reason I came here: I get to control the offense. Every check I make, you know, protections, route combinations, stuff like that. Justin Herbert went on to win Rookie of the Year in the NFL so it’s a testament to him with the offense that he produces.”

Rashada’s transfer hasn’t seemed to affect the team’s confidence as a whole. Leavitt said that he experienced many different emotions as he reacted to the news.

“There’s a lot of different viewpoints around the team. I don’t know if I had any particular feelings about it,” Leavitt said.

Bourguet said that he wishes nothing but the best for Rashada and especially for Badger. He and Bourguet were both some of the longest-tenured players on the Sun Devils.

“I texted him yesterday, wishing him nothing but the best. Obviously, it’s tough to see a teammate (leave) like that,” Bourguet said. “I’ve been here for six years, and I think this was gonna be his last year. You make so many memories outside of the game … those are going to be the memories that I miss the most.”

Losing Badger doesn’t help out the offense either. He accounted for 1653 total yards and 11 total touchdowns over the past two seasons. However, both Jordyn Tyson and Xavier Guillory are expected to compete for the No. 1 role.

Tyson has already developed a close relationship with Leavitt. Leavitt couldn’t miss Tyson at Saturday’s practice, throwing multiple deep balls into the redshirt sophomore’s grasp during the team scrimmage.

“Jordyn is a great player. I’ve been able to find them down the field and been able to build a connection with him over camp,” Leavitt said. “He’s a hell of a player, and I’m able to go out there and build connections with all these guys.

“He’s just gonna take more reps. X (Guillory) isn’t out there right now, but he’s gonna be one of those guys, too. Troy (Omeire), Jake (Smith), everybody, so it’s constantly working with them and getting better.”

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Jaden Rashada’s transfer from ASU has opened the door for QB Sam Leavitt