The 2023 Arizona State football season is on the horizon with plenty of exciting talent and coaching to be on the lookout for this fall. With 10 weeks until kickoff, the Sun Devils are looking for improvements from a 2022 season filled with turmoil. Talent was a need that new head coach Kenny Dilingham has brought to the Valley for ASU, and with new opportunities for the young coach to establish culture, it will be putting together the talent that will be Dillingham’s tasked with in his first year.
The following four players could have great impact for the maroon and gold and help make improvements to a program that is building:
The New Canaan, Conn., native Drew Pyne offers experience to the Sun Devil quarterback cohort with three years spent at Notre Dame before transferring to ASU. Pyne didn’t see much of the field for the first two years of college before becoming the starting QB in his redshirt freshman year.
Under Pyne, the Fighting Irish went 8-2 in 10 of Pyne’s starts, including wins over ranked opponents BYU, Syracuse and a top-five win defeating Clemson in early November. While at Notre Dame, Pyne threw for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Pyne also plays with a big arm while standing in the packet. His down field ball accuracy and arm strength are two qualities that help the Sun Devils with the improving passing attack this year under a new staff and scheme. Pyne averaged 187 yards per game and can also stay alive with his feet when exiting the pocket.
Pyne ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns last season and will look to win a quarterback battle that has some significant competition. He brings a leadership quality to Tempe that will be valuable whether the pocket passer is in the starting role or not come the regular season.
Simmons is an Austin Peay transfer coming to Arizona State as a graduate defensive back. The redshirt senior eligible Simmons was a 2022 All-ASUN selection last year in what was a dominant year for the experienced player. Simmons played two years at Hutchinson Community College where he played alongside Sun Devil corner Ro Torrence.
In his career for the Governors, Simmons produced 63 tackles, one fumble recovery and three interceptions. Simmons’ highly productive seasons come with an average coverage grade of 78.5 which ranks Simmons in the top 40 among all FCS defensive backs.
Simmons has also played at multiple levels of college, a value that the Sun Devil coaching staff will appreciate as a veteran player offering some wisdom to the defensive back group. The competition that Simmons has faced in his career may not be the same level as power five conference play, however Simmons’ best games have come against premier talent. In two games against SEC opponents Ole Miss and Alabama, Simmons has 23 tackles, three pass breakups and both a forced fumble and recovery. Simmons will be an older leader for the Sun Devils secondary.
Yet another new face coming to Tempe in Dillingham’s first recruiting haul, Coleman adds depth to the revamped Sun Devil offensive front. The left tackle position will be filled by a veteran player as Coleman played 25 career games at Cal before transferring to ASU.
Coleman is a physical lineman that features elite hand strength. His technique on the left side as a pass protector led Coleman to two career Pac-12 Offensive Linemen Player of the Week awards.
In his sophomore season, Coleman was chosen at an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. Coleman also received Cal’s Bob Tessier award given to the most improved lineman in the season.
Coleman joins an ASU offensive line that helped Xazavian Valladay rush for 1,192 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2022. On occasion, Arizona State looked like an unstoppable force on the ground, steam rolling into the endzone multiple times a game. Dillingham will count on the experience from the 6-foot-4, 323-pound lineman to anchor down the much important left side of the offensive line at the guard or tackle position.
Clark is entering his fifth year at Arizona State, but his first under Dillingham. Clark has played 22 career games for ASU and has already risen to one of the best pass coverage and tackling defensive backs on the Sun Devil roster, but under a new defensive scheme Clark could see even more production. Clark is also the son of former 13-year NFL safety Ryan Clark.
Clark’s 2022 year featured 47 total tackles with 36 being solo, proving Clark’s ability to tackle in the open field. Clark’s combination of speed and technique is what makes the fifth year a standout for Clark. Two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown in 2022 gave Clark his best year yet after two years where he learned from older players and continued to improve.
Clark is coming off a career best six pass deflections, proving his tight coverage is continuing to show for the defensive back.
Clark’s 2023 season could be another stat-filled year barring injury. His health has been a huge asset to Clark not only personally but also for the team as Clark has played back to back 11 game seasons. Expect Clark to continue to produce for the Sun Devils even under a new defensive look.