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ASU Football: Spring Ball preview

Spring practices start Tuesday

Zac BonDurant

TEMPE - Kenny Dillingham, his new staff, and the Arizona State football team will step on the field for their first organized practices of the spring Tuesday morning.

While spring football is often a skeleton of its fall counterpart, there is a lot of information to learn in regards to coaching-style, new faces and general culture change, especially with the turnover seen in Tempe the last four months.

Storylines will emerge as the season continues, but here are some of the focal points House of Sparky is watching as the Sun Devils strap-on the pads.

Building a foundation

Even with how fast everything moved this offseason, Dillingham and his staff want to establish the basics before they dive into anything too intricate this spring. In a press conference Monday, he said that one of the top priorities for his players is to become familiar with the structure and verbiage of their new playbooks.

“We want to teach them the language,” Dillingham said. “So that we can actually teach them football.

“We try to put words and things together to help them learn it faster. The faster they are able to learn it, the faster they are able to rep it correctly, which means there will be more detail we will be able to coach.”

It’s also no secret that the new head coach is actively trying to establish a loose and high-energy environment in the locker room. He will stop at a player’s locker and give them some extra love. He spends a fair amount of time in the quarterbacks room. He is a master chess player. A deck of cards is a common sidearm of Dillingham’s — for magic purposes.

“He’s always on 10,” safety Jordan Clark said. “He’s always turned-up.”

New vs. Old

There are just under 30 new players carrying college experience that transferred to Tempe this offseason. Dillingham also admitted that it will be tough to gauge the depth chart in the spring. However, he cannot contain his excitement for inherited players like Jalin Conyers and Elijhah Badger.

On the defensive side, Clark shouted-out his defensive back companion and friend Chris Edmonds, as well as defensive lineman Anthonie Cooper as returners who will have an immediate impact. Edmonds returned the compliment.

Clark gave us the most insight into some of the players to watch this spring. In terms of incoming talent, he says that Oklahoma-transfer Clayton Smith has made an impression in his short time in Tempe. Smith was a consensus top-50 prospect in the 2021 class by recruiting services. He was Rivals’s no. 2 edge prospect in the class. Clark also mentioned that Idaho State-transfer Xavier Guillory has starting potential.

“He’s special,” Clark said. “I’m not gonna say too much. I’m going to let him show y’all but he’s going to be special.

The offensive line will definitely be a focal point given three starters departed after last season. Projected-2022 starter Joey Ramos returns after suffering a season-ending ankle injury early last year, while six inbound transfers will join the team for spring ball. At the same time, platoon players from last year like Ben Bray and Danny Valenzuela could find themselves in the mix.

These are just a few transfers and position groups we will be watching.

Why did the young HC go to the bank?

How fun is it to dissect a quarterback battle for the second year in-a-row? At this time last year, Emory Jones not yet a Sun Devil, and Paul Tyson was the fan-favorite to win the starting job.

Time flies.

The implied battle for 2023 will take place between returning starter Trenton Bourguet, transfers Drew Pyne and Jacob Conover, and incoming freshman Jaden Rashada.

Dillingham is in no rush to name a starter, but he said he would during spring practices if a quarterback were to drastically separate himself. However, he sees the competition holding steady at three-to-four players by the end of April.

What are his ideal qualities in the starter? Dillingham said he is looking for a smart quarterback who is accurate and doesn’t take sacks.

“Usually people blame sacks on the (offensive) line, here we blame sacks on the quarterback,” he said. “Every play that we have, other than a few shots, you’re going to have an outlet to get the ball out in under two-and-a-half seconds. If the three-technique (defensive tackle) beats the crap out of our guard, you better know where you are going with the ball.”

Per Dillingham, if multiple passers show exceptional ability in these fields, the one who can make off-schedule and ad-libbed plays will win the job.


Spring practices will take place every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Follow @HouseOfSparky on Twitter for live updates, and check back here on the site for practice reports through April.