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ASU Football: Four to Flourish

Two returners and two transfers who could make big impact in 2023

ASU Athletics

The 2022 season was a brutal one for the Sun Devils. There’s little need to rehash the details.

With a new year comes new hope, however, this season is only amplified with the addition of Kenny Dillingham and dozens of new faces from the transfer portal.

In this Four to Flourish, there are two returners from last season and two new faces who hope to lead the Devils to a more successful season.

Trenton Bourguet

Let’s start with a bit of a projection, as Bourguet must earn the starting job before the Sun Devils kick-off against Southern Utah on Aug. 31.

The competition is stiff, as former Notre Dame starting quarterback Drew Pyne transferred to ASU, as did former BYU quarterback Jacob Conover. Four-star recruit Jaden Rashada also projects to be in the mix.

At times last season, even while dealing with a lingering foot injury, Bourguet looked more than capable of leading the Devil's offense.

He eclipsed 300 yards three times, including a win over Colorado where he threw for 435 yards and three touchdowns.

While Colorado isn’t the strongest opponent, he also threw three touchdowns in a win over Washington, one that eventually kept the Huskies out of the Pac-12 title game and potentially cost them a chance at the College Football Playoff.

The overall numbers, while not jaw-dropping, were noteworthy for just six games: 71.7 percent completion percentage, 1,490 yards, and 11 touchdowns.

With the competition driving him to top his performance from last season and Dillingham leading the offense, his noteworthy performances from last season could be closer to the norm in 2023.

Giovanni Sanders

Since a junior college season where Sanders amassed over 800 yards and scored eight touchdowns, he has worked to earn the chance to break out at the Division I level.

While Elijhah Badger returns and projects as the offensive unit’s top receiver, Sanders is in a position to build off a successful 2022 where he tallied 40 catches and 500 yards.

His best games came against nationally ranked Oklahoma State, where he led the team with 94 yards. Then, against Arizona in the Territorial Cup, he caught eight passes for 120 yards and his first touchdown.

Earlier this offseason, Sanders said that he feels he can make those kinds of performances his new normal.

“Going into the offseason with that momentum,” he said. “It gives me the knowledge, okay, I could go for 100-plus yards and a touchdown for a game. I literally just did it. It just gives me confidence that I could just do it again.”

While the week one starting quarterback is yet to be determined, he noted that he is confident that the competition will only push everyone to be better.

If Sanders and Badger can cement themselves as a dynamic one-two punch, whoever wins the job will have two receiving threats to rely on.

Xavion Alford

A transfer from USC, Alford was a key rotation player in the Trojans secondary in 2021, tallying 27 solo tackles, grabbing three picks and deflecting three more passes in 10 games.

After a strong spring, Alford could step into a starting role in the secondary.

With Brian Ward as ASU’s defensive coordinator, Alford will likely take on a versatile role, one that includes supporting in the run game.

Alford was expected to take a leap forward in Los Angeles last season, but a medical procedure and a lingering leg injury kept him off the field.

The back half of his 2021 season was where he made his mark at USC, as he averaged nearly 35 snaps per game over his final six games.

In ASU’s 31-16 win over USC, Alford picked off Jayden Daniels twice, including an impressive diving grab right at the pitchfork logo.

With a new team and a strong motivation to return to the field strong, Alford will look to cement his place in the back end of the defense.

Cameron Skattebo

Skattebo set regional rushing records as a prep athlete at Rio Linda (Cali.), but was unranked coming out of high school, and Sacramento State was the only program to offer him a full scholarship.

The decision to go to Sac State paid off for him and the program. In 2022, Skattebo rushed for 1,372 yards and seven touchdowns while also catching 31 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns.

He returned an onside kick for a touchdown, one where rumbled through multiple defenders, and threw for a touchdown in a postseason game.

In that FCS quarterfinal against the University of Incarnate Word, Skattebo ran for 101 yards and scored twice, and added 76 yards on six catches through the air in a 66-63 loss.

His stellar season was enough to earn the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year award.

Needing to replace the production of Xazavian Valladay and Daniyel Ngata, Skattebo’s dual-threat ability profiles as a fit in the ASU offense.

While he will certainly be facing his toughest competition yet, Skattebo has the opportunity to emerge as the lead back for Dillingham this fall.