Arizona State quarterbacks show their skills at 3rd spring practice
Arizona State held its third spring football practice on Saturday since officially beginning the Kenny Dillingham era.
The program's five quarterbacks were on display learning the new offensive system.
“Everybody’s kind of new here because the staff is new, so nobody has a competitive advantage via the scheme," Dillingham said. "But I like having these guys come in and I’m open in dialogue. I want to here, ‘How’d you read it?’ Everybody runs the same plays: flat, corner, drive, cross, dig. Everyone runs it. How do you read it, how do you coach it, what are your feet tied with it?”
The Sun Devils' spring practice QB1 is senior Trenton Bourguet, who took over the starting role from Emory Jones partway through last season.
Others in ASU's QB room include redshirt sophomores Drew Pyne and Jacob Conover, who respectively transferred from Notre Dame and BYU this offseason, true freshman Jaden Rashada, and returning redshirt freshman Bennett Meredith.
“We’re spreading the ball around, throwing the ball quick and deep, so I’m super excited where we’re going," Meredith said. "Obviously, the first couple days it takes some time to get used to, but as you can see today we look pretty smooth.”
ASU had two QBs, LSU's Jayden Daniels and Jones, enter the transfer portal over the past two years. Dillingham returned home from Oregon after last season to develop ASU's quarterbacks and passing game.
Dillingham's a former Scottsdale Chaparral standout QB, whose college coaching résumé extends from being a former offensive coordinator and QB coach at Memphis, on to blue bloods Auburn, Florida State and Oregon. He explained his QB review from the first few days of practice.
“We gotta learn that second-and-10 is our friend. Right now, these are base downs. We implemented third-and-short today, and we had a turnover on a first down. You should never turn the ball over on a first down, right? Because second-and-10 is your friend," Dillingham said.
"If you throw the ball twice, and you’re horrible at quarterback, and you have a 50% completion percentage, for an average of seven and a ½ yards, and we throw on first and second down, and you don’t turn over first down, that’s third-and-2 and a ½ ...
“If you don’t have turnovers and you don’t have negatives, you can be one of the best and most efficient passing teams in the country.”
Quarterbacks coach Beau Baldwin spoke about each of their passers.
Rashada's talent could possibly make him QB1
Rashada might be a strong candidate as a starter.
As a 6-foot-4, 185-pound former four-star recruit, he's a tall speedster who can accurately throw the long ball, and his athleticism gives him the ability to scramble out the pocket well.
“Jaden’s just got a lot of tools. And on top of that, he cares about all the mental side of it. He cares about his fundamentals,” Baldwin said. “He’s a guy with a lot of physical tools and talent that can probably get away from having some success, even if he wasn’t pushing the envelope mentally. But he’s hungry to push the envelope on the things he needs to work on, not just rely on the fact that he has a lot of tools in the toolbox as a QB.”
Rashada said ASU's returning QBs have been very helpful in his adjustment to the college level.
Could ASU's offense ride Pyne?
Pyne played in 11 games and started in 10 last season at Notre Dame. He had a 64.6% completion rate, and threw for 2021 yards, 22 touchdowns, six INTs, and was 8-2 as a starter.
“He’s obviously got talent. He’s started and won a lot of football games," Baldwin said. "But you also see he’s got that ability when the lights turn on. In other words, when it gets to be a team session, he connects with his guys, he rallies with his guys. I think his game gets better when he gets into team situations, too. …
“Some guys are what I call ‘driving range quarterbacks,’ and some quarterbacks are better when they get out and actually play a round of golf. He’s that guy that gets out and gets better when it’s real and when the lights are on.”
Bourguet and Meredith's experience, leadership
Bourguet came to ASU as a walk-on out of Tucson Marana High School, started in five games last season and appeared in seven total.
He had a 71.4% completion percentage, threw for 1490 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Baldwin said there are some similarities between his and Pyne’s attributes.
“The group will gravitate to him. They know he’s been in the fire. He’s earned trust with a lot of these guys," Baldwin said about Bourguet. "I’ve watched the film, he’s taken shots in games, he’s gotten back up, he continues to fight. He’s a competitive young man, and they all are. You see that with Trenton show through, and he has more of a relationship with a lot of these guys.”
Meredith discussed the practice format having two different QB groups for 7-on-7 and other drills.
"We’re pushing each other to be better. Having two groups allows everybody to get reps. There’s not a lot of people just standing around, so it allows everybody to get an opportunity to show the coaches what they can do. At the end of the day, coaches gonna put who they want out there on the field on Saturdays.”
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Conover on his ASU QB mission
Conover is a former Chandler High School standout QB who announced in December that he was returning home to play to ASU.
Following his two-year LDS mission and after he led Chandler to the 6A state title in 2018 as a senior, Conover played in just five games through three seasons at BYU. He went 5-for-11 for 45 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
“He’s extremely mature. He’s a pro in how he approaches he prep going into a practice. He’s the one who will text me at night because there’s something on the script and he’ll ask a question," Baldwin said.
"He’s always trying to be one step ahead and prepping, so when he goes out on the field he doesn’t have any questions learning or any question marks for him. You see that maturity above his years as far as being a redshirt sophomore.”
Conover said sometimes a change is necessary.
"I think these coaches have made it in a way to learn at the same pace," he said. "We’re all learning together and I think this is more of a offense that was a Chandler High School, where it was very QB-friendly, QB-controlling and that we’re a high energy, fast-paced offense.”