Maybe “putting a square peg in a round hole,” is cliche but it’s true. Put a flower in the right spot, and you’ll watch it blossom.
Ten games at the helm of Arizona State’s offense, it appears offensive coordinator Zak Hill has figured out where each Sun Devil piece fits into the puzzle. His unit, which includes some of the best raw talent that has been in Tempe, is finding its stride mid-season, and Hill has a lot to do with it.
“As far as the overall offense, guys are understanding what we are wanting to do. They’re filling in for their roles,” Hill said. “I think we’re coming together.”
Let’s take Curtis Hodges for example. Most fans will remember back to the Colorado loss in 2018. Arizona State tried to utilize Hodges’ 6-foot-8 frame on a fourth-down fade attempt to tie the game in the fourth quarter. It didn’t work.
Fast forward to Saturday’s 28-10 win over Stanford, Hodges recorded 76 yards, a new career-high for the graduate student. There wasn’t any jump balls. Instead, Hill used his athletic ability on screen passes and gave Jayden Daniels a big, reliable target in the middle of the field for third-down conversions.
“He wants to be really good. He has the physical tools. He’s a big long target that can run,” Hill said. “...His confidence is up. He knows he can make plays. We just find ways to get him the ball.”
Need further proof? Elijah Badger has two touchdowns on four career touches. His development has been delayed for multiple reasons. Nevertheless, the former unanimous four-star prospect has plenty of talent despite being raw at the position. So back-to-back weeks Hill draws up reverses to play Badger in a play-making position. And for the second week, Badger glided into the end zone.
Nose for the endzone. @Elijhahbadger2— Sun Devil Football (@ASUFootball) October 9, 2021
Second score of the season for the freshman. pic.twitter.com/9W5ZXBZg2n
The play that setup Badger’s score also included Hodges. Hill — who been wanting to use this concept he had seen from BYU during his time at Boise State — went back into his Mary Poppins bag of trick plays to leak Hodges down the sideline. As the double handoff, flea flicker occurred in the backfield, Hodges went wide open for a 32-yard gain.
Hill shocked some showing trickery against Southern Utah and UNLV. However, his playbook seems to have more and more pages hidden, which makes the offense a joy to watch.
Arizona State’s offense didn’t score a single point in the second half. The moans have already been heard through social media. However, Friday was more able the process than the result.
Hard to call it a poor or even mediocre performance after 255 rushing and 430 total yards against the Cardinal. Everyone wants more points. Hill clearly wanted more points even up three scores midway through the fourth quarter.
Following Stanford’s turnover on downs with 7:57, Hill dialed up the knockout blow. It was there too. Geordon Porter raced down the seam wide open, had Daniels put more power on his throw, it’d be added to his highlights from the UCLA win.
“We get them on a big fourth-down stop. I felt like this was a good time to take a shot on first down and maybe we can end it,” Hill said.
Hill didn’t need to go for that. He could’ve tried to run out the clock. But he stayed aggressive. And that’s good process as an offensive coordinator.
Arizona State’s second-half points probably look different if Cristian Zendejas converts a 35-yard field goal. If the Sun Devils pick up a fourth-and-1 early in the third quarter in the red zone. Neither happened, but good offenses aren’t complacent, and if Hill keeps up the process, the results will surely follow.