Arizona State offensive coordinator Rob Likens and defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales answered all the media’s questions before football’s return back to action in February.
The quarterback battle
The topic of Tempe of course is who will be Manny Wilkins’ replacement. The one returner, redshirt junior Dillion Sterling-Cole will compete with the three freshmen, Jayden Daniels, Joey Yellen and Ethan Long, who are all on campus this spring.
How does Likens start to prepare for an offensive game plan without knowing his starter?
“What you want to do is put things together that you know you’re going to run no matter who the quarterback was in a game. You kind of go backwards in thinking that through and trying to get your base stuff in,” Likens said. “I think you have plenty of time in fall camp to start curtailing your offense toward specific things towards different quarterbacks’ ability. We are going to get our basic drop back passes in this spring, our basic quick-game in, our basic run plays.”
Likens mentioned how Sterling-Cole will have an advantage heading into the competition, but as time goes on that advantage will dwindle down. He also spoke about how Sterling-Cole has embraced the leadership role and has kept fantastic communication with Likens the past few months.
The offensive coordinator also mentioned the story of the first day all four quarterbacks were together:
“You could’ve cut the tension in the room with a knife. It was hilarious,” he said. “I was like guys, look, this doesn’t have to be the United State, Russian Cold War up in here. You’re allowed to talk to each other.”
Likens took the quarterbacks out to eat and the ice was finally broken. In Likens’ words, “it’s been good since then.”
College Football Playoff?
“Arizona State is a destination job. Arizona State can compete for the CFP on an annual basis once the culture is set and we continue to recruit the right kids,” Gonzales said. “We’re going to get the best ones that we get out of Arizona, we’re going to get the ones we want out of Arizona and we’re not taking the ones that anyone tells us we’re not taking the ones that are supposed to be good paper. We’re going to take the best players.”
Yes, many might not take Gonzales, who was promoted to assistant head coach, seriously, but he meant his words.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know you shouldn’t say things and lay out expectations that are unattainable. I will never say something that I don’t think that we attain as long as I’m here,” he said.
Gonzales credited all the coaches with the recruiting they’ve done since he’s come to Arizona State. Linebacker coach Antonio Pierce has been at the forefront of that recruiting, especially taking position in key areas across California. As Gonzales said in his press conference, the program wants to be Arizona and California based.
While Pierce gets a lot of the credit, Gonzales doesn’t want the other coaches to be forgotten about, most importantly not forgetting the job director of player personal Al Luginbill. A group led by Luginbill that Gonzales called “the best thing I’ve ever been around.”
Over the offseason, running backs coach John Simon left for the passing game coordinator and assistant coach of the wide receivers at Memphis. Defensive line coach Shaun Nua took the same job at Michigan.
For Simon’s replacement, ASU didn’t go far. The Sun Devils hired now-former Chandler High School head coach Shaun Aguano to be their new runnings back coach. Aguano talked about his time as part of ASU’s coaching staff since joining in earlier January.
“It’s been a learning experience, but it’s been incredible. Been on the road with most of the coaches and coach Edwards. Just working with him the last couple of weeks has been incredible and I’m excited to start the season,” Aguano said.
The man that started a dynasty at Chandler also got quite the review from Likens. When the offensive coordinator was asked what made him the was most excited to work with Aguano he responded with:
“The type of man that he is,” Likens said. “I think that it’s very important that your staff is cohesive because it trickles down to your players. When I first met Shaun, you know when I first got here and went over there and met him, he seemed like just one of those guys that you just kind of know instantly his character. There’s no hidden agendas, there’s nothing behind anything, you know what he says is the truth. Very similar to Herm, everything he says that’s what you’re getting and he’s going to fit perfectly with this staff.”
Nua’s replacement was a little further away in Fresno State’s Jamar Cain. According to Gonzales, a University of New Mexico graduate, the only problem he has with Cain is he went to New Mexico State.
“He’s done a phenomenal job in his career. If you go back, and study where he’s been and what he’s done it’s a very similar path from where I came from,” said Gonzales on Cain. “We’ve got a list of people that we are comfortable working with, that we know their work effort, we know where they’re going to come from, how they’re going to do things and how they’re going to hold with us.
“I’ve said it a million times, when you trust and like the people you work for, you have a lot more opportunity to be successful and the job is better. Jamar he’s got two young kids, 12 and 10, that are going to be here, his wife is wonderful. They’re going to fit right into our family and seeing all the kids run around our building the way — it’s a great day and he’ll do a great job.”