TEMPE - The first noticeable difference about spring practice for Arizona State football made itself apparent before media members were allowed in for viewing.
A booming voice over the loudspeakers barking orders and motivation echoed throughout the intersection of Rural Road and Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe. Kenny Dillingham must’ve tasked a quality control specialist with pacing practice. Smart idea.
The gates opened to reveal Dillingham sporting dark sweatpants, a white hoodie and ball cap, and a microphone in hand. It was the head coach’s voice that was controlling practice. In over two hours of practice, he never put the microphone down.
“My vocal cords get gassed pretty quick,” Dillingham said.
Spring football is only the skin-and-bones version of football practice, and the first day is only a small sample of the final product. Dillingham is also opting to split his team into two separate intrasquad teams in order to maximize reps, so two-deep depth chart predictions will be guesses, at best.
Even so, there are players, coaches and moments that stand out among the rest.
Attention to detail
It had improved under interim head coach Shaun Aguano in the tail-end of last season, but practices in the Herm Edwards era had a tendency of becoming monotone and lethargic, which resulted in infractions on the practice field that leaked into games.
From the jump, it was clear Dillingham hates laziness.
After a team break to start practice, players broke out into drills by position group. Dillingham made the whole team return for another break twice because players were not sprinting to their drills.
Later during one-on-one drills, he stopped practice to announce his smack-talk etiquette.
“I don’t want to hear you talk shit if you lose the rep...I don’t want to hear ‘I gotchu next time,”’ he said.
In his press conference Monday, Dillingham said that anytime a player jumps offsides or false starts, he will run to the goal post and back.
Will this translate to a better on-field product? Time will tell. It is definitely worth noting.
If you haven’t seen it on Twitter today, Idaho State wide receiver transfer Xavier Guillory caught everybody’s attention. There had been some buzz around Guillory from his new teammates, and his first day lived up to the hype. First, he won is one-one-one rep against cornerback Isaiah Johnson on a long go-route.
Guillory getting separation. pic.twitter.com/3V6Xot8CeH— Kevin Redfern (@KevinMRedfern13) March 14, 2023
During position drills, his change of direction and agility stood out. He was sure-handed during a tough-looking tunnel distraction drill with the other receivers. Then he won another one-on-one on a deep post in front of the whole practice.
“I put in a lot of work to be here,” Guillory said. “But it’s a production-oriented business, and I gotta go out there and produce.”
Tight end Jalin Conyers continues to be the heartbeat of practice. Conyers generated some buzz during a competitive rep against safety Jordan Clark in which Conyers came down with the catch.
Clark and cornerback Ro Torrence were the stickiest defensive backs during one-on-ones, which is not surprising. Because the players were not in full pads, it is tough to get a great look at the matchups in the trenches on the line of scrimmage. If two defensive front-seven players stood out the most during agility drills, there names were Clayton Smith and Gharin Stansbury, now wearing No. 49.
Both Smith and Stansbury are long, massive talents coming off the edge of the line of scrimmage. Stansbury has been a practice standout for the last two years, but his game experience is limited. Smith (Oklahoma) is the highest-ranked transfer in ASU’s 2023 class.
It has received numerous previous mentions, but the one-on-one segments of practice are high-energy and competitive. There’s a WWE-style intro sound played over the speakers. Practice stops and players huddle around the matchup. There is hooting and hollering.
“I always like to go in sooner rather than later so it’s not a mind game,” center Ben Bray said. “I get in my stance, say a little prayer and go.”
“It’s competition, man,” Guillory said. “It’s been two months of training with the DB’s every day, talking back-and-forth with each other, but now today, we actually got to compete a little bit and show the coaches what we can do.”
ASU will reach the full-pads segment of spring practices next week.