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Evaluating the Arizona State quarterback battle

© Rob Shumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

All eyes are on the quarterback battle in Tempe between established junior Trenton Bourguet and flame-throwing freshman Jaden Rashada.

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Heading into fall camp, it appeared that Bourguet and Notre Dame sophomore transfer Drew Pyne were going to dual it out for the starting job, while Rashada had an outside shot if something were to happen.

Well, that something did happen. Pyne suffered a “minor hamstring tear” during the team’s scrimmage last Saturday at Camp T with no clear timetable for his return, according to coach Kenny Dillingham.

Entering fall camp, Bourguet had what appeared to be a slight lead over Pyne for the job after a good spring. However, Pyne made a significant case for himself the first couple weeks this fall before his injury.

Then, the QB battle suddenly shifted from Pyne vs. Bourguet to Bourguet vs. Rashada.

Rashada’s usage in the three practices back in Tempe since Pyne’s injury has drastically risen compared to how many reps he was getting beforehand. Watching him in practice, he has made the most of the opportunity, which the coaches have noticed as well.

Right now, the competition between Bourguet and Rashada is as close as ever, which is why Dillingham is hesitant to make a decision.

The Sun Devils have less than two weeks before their first game against Southern Utah, but Dillingham said the starting quarterback will be announced at least a week before the game (expect the announcement either after practice on Aug. 23 or on Aug. 24).

“I’m gonna go back and watch the tape,” Dillingham said, “and I’m gonna look at every team rep that all three of those quarterbacks have taken all fall camp, and I’m gonna watch it, every single one of them. And if I come out of that, and I say, ‘Man, there’s a clear player.’ Right, then we’re gonna name one. If I come out of that, and I’m like, ‘Man, I’m not quite 100%.’ Then, we’re going to wait a few more days and go from there. But hopefully we watch the tape of all fall camp, (and see) which guys have scored touchdowns, which guys have created explosive plays, which guys haven’t had turnover worthy plays, and we can put all that together and see which guy’s going to be our quarterback.”

With only four scheduled practices remaining before then, let’s take a look at the argument for both QBs. (Pyne still could have a shot if his injury is not serious, but I’m not going to dive into him here)

Note: I usually provide QB updates after every Sun Devil practice in premium articles. This story gives a glimpse of what they provide. SIGN UP HERE to unlock our premium content!

Wednesday’s Scrimmage Stats (Unofficially Logged)

Two-point conversion drill (passing only, 11-on-11)

  • Bourguet 3/6 (all three TDs)
  • Rashada 0/3

Full 11-on-11 scrimmage

  • Bourguet: 6/15, 1 TD, 1 INT (four drives total)
  • Rashada: 6/17, 2 TDs (six drives total, includes one he re-did after a 3-and-out)
  • Jacob Conover (third string): 5/15, 2 TDs (three drives total)

Other notes

  • Outside his one interception, Bourguet threw a few other passes that could have been intercepted. Macen Williams picked off Bourguet on his third series in. It was a very bad throw by Bourguet off his back foot to the middle of the field on a second down from around midfield.
  • Rashada made some evident freshman mistakes that are to be expected. On the second drive he was in, Rashada threw 50+ yard TD to Elijhah Badger, which was the play of the day. His other TD was also from beyond midfield, as he threw a check down pass to George Hart III, who took it all the way to the house.

See more in-depth coverage of scrimmage here:

Observations, takeaways and predictions after ASU’s final fall scrimmage

The Case for Trenton Bourguet

The main argument for Bourguet being the starter (if it ends up being not clear-cut): Bourguet has live in-game experience and was one of the most accurate quarterbacks across all of college football last year. He will thrive in Dillingham’s QB-friendly system, and it wouldn’t make much sense to bench him after a strong end to last season.

The first impression for many, including myself, after Pyne’s injury was that Bourguet locked up the job, especially if the injury was really serious.

After being a backup his whole Sun Devil career (since 2019), the Marana product replaced Emory Jones as the starter halfway through the year last season.

Bourguet threw for 1490 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games played last season. He was one of two Pac-12 QBs to complete over 70% of their passes last year, joining Oregon QB Bo Nix, who played under Dillingham as his offensive coordinator.

His 71.4 completion percentage was third in the FBS (min. 200 attempts), as was his 81.5 adjusted completion percentage (which accounts for drops), according to his ASU bio.

Following this strong end to last season, Bourguet had a really good spring and made a good first impression on Dillingham.

These were my notes from his impressive spring game performance in April:

“Bourguet threw two touchdowns in the spring game and was the best quarterback out of both teams, as ASU continues its QB battle between Bourguet, Drew Pyne and Jaden Rashada. He was poised in the pocket and looked comfortable in Dillingham’s new offense. He also appeared confident as a leader for his team, taking control of the flow of the game many times.”

Bourguet has not been as accurate as he is known for in fall camp, especially this past week. However, Dillingham did implement some new cadences on Monday that might have messed with Bourguet a little bit.

This being said, Bourguet has displayed what he has already shown in game action, and that is the ability to make good reads from inside or outside the pocket. He also naturally has more chemistry with his targets because he has past game experience with most of them and more experience this fall.

It was revealed before fall camp that Bourguet actually played through a foot injury all of last season and in the spring, but he is now fully recovered. This even more made it seem like he would eventually be named the starter, but his play hasn’t taken any drastic leaps this fall.

Bourguet will have to start picking up his play and not just expect that he will get the starting job by the time next Thursday rolls around.

To be the clear-cut starter: Bouguet needs to prove that he has much better chemistry with all of the pass catchers than the other QBs. He needs to show that he knows the game of football better than anyone else on this team and can translate that onto the field. He does not need to be perfect, but just prove that he can continue to do everything that he excelled at last year and that he learned from some of his mistakes.

The Case for Jaden Rashada

The main argument for Rashada (if it ends up being not clear-cut): Rashada is the team’s QB of the future, so it wouldn’t hurt to give him playing time right away if he proves that he is capable. His talent is off the charts, but it’s a matter of putting it on the field.

What was likely to be a redshirt season for Rashada may not be anymore. After only one day of receiving primary first-team reps in fall camp before this week, Rashada saw the bulk of them the first three days this week.

“He’s just gotten better and better and better every day,” Dillingham said after Wednesday’s scrimmage. “When he’s on the field explosive plays happen. Now is there a learning curve with him? Yeah, he didn’t really get many reps in spring ball, because he showed up the day before. (When) he started, he didn’t earn the right to be with the ones or twos to start full camp. So he started with the threes, but over a period of time, he’s grown and gotten better and better and better. And he’s earned the reps to be with the ones, he’s earned the reps to be with the twos.

Dillingham continued: “It’s a matter of watching the tape and seeing: Are his positives and explosives, do they outweigh the young moments that you’re going to have as a young quarterback? And can us as a staff control those young moments enough to where we can showcase his talents, which is you saw throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field. There was almost another one that would have been a 75-80 yard walk off, (but) the DB tipped it. So those plays are obviously different when he’s in the game.”

As the highest-rated recruit and lone four-star in the Sun Devil’s 2023 high school class, Rashada, a 6-foot-4 dual-threat QB from Northern California, came to ASU with a lot of expectations.

After having an infamous NIL deal go wrong with Florida, Rashada could have gone anywhere, but he flipped his commitment from the Gators to Arizona State, following in the footsteps of his father, Harlen Rashada. Harlen played defensive back for the Sun Devils from 1992-94.

Jaden’s brother, Roman Rashada, a defensive back who didn’t appear in any games for Ole Miss last season, also recently transferred to Arizona State. Jaden spoke on the impact of having two Sun Devil family members, saying it was a “blessing.”

Jaden started his last two high school seasons and threw for 5,816 yards, 80 touchdowns and completed 60% of his passes. He also had 592 yards and nine touchdowns rushing.

As Dillingham mentioned, he practiced with the team in the spring after enrolling in the school early, so he has developed some chemistry with the Sun Devils, just not necessarily with the first team.

Now, to this week.

After Rashada got eight first-team reps in team drills on Monday as compared to Bourguet’s three, some questioned if the increased production was to get him up to speed to be the backup or if he had a real shot. Now, it is evident by Dillingham’s quote that Rashada is in real contention.

Right now, his big play ability and mobility are his biggest strengths. Both of his touchdowns on Wednesday came from near midfield after he had a 40-yard bomb to Shawn Charles for a touchdown in the Camp T scrimmage on Saturday.

In terms of accuracy, Bourguet has shown that he is better at finding his wide receivers and connecting with them. Rashada has missed some throws that should be completed, but overall has responded very well to the pressure that has suddenly been put on him.

Rashada’s arm strength and mobility are two glaring advantages he has compared to Bourguet.

His talent shines through whenever you watch him, as many fans got to see on Saturday at Camp T, it’s just a matter of if it all can come together when he’s in a game situation.

To be the clear-cut starter: Rashada needs to make as little mistakes as possible these next four days. He has proven that he is capable of playing with the first team, and he cannot take any steps backwards. He needs to show that being a dual-threat QB will strongly benefit the team in Dillingham’s offense, especially with his arm strength. His accuracy will be a big thing to watch. 

Where It Stands Now

Everyone will be watching the QBs the next few days. It’s not a bad thing to have so many starting-caliber quarterbacks, as Dillingham pointed out.

“I feel confident putting all three of those guys on the field,” Dillingham said. “Now we just got to determine after we watch film which one of the three gives us the best chance to win football games. That’s not saying the other two cannot win football games. It’s just saying that this guy, in my opinion gives us the best chance to win football games.”

Each QB brings something different to the table, as well as a different dynamic to what the offense can do with them under center.

My opinion: If the competition remains pretty much 50/50 after the next four practices which it very well could be, Dillingham needs to show loyalty to Bourguet and name him the starter. He can keep him on a tight leash and have Rashada play some reps especially in the Southern Utah game.

ASU freshman CB and national champion inline speed skater Keith Abney impresses in fall camp

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Brendan Mau is a college sports insider and general assignment reporter for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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