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How ASU QBs view the quarterback competition

© Rob Shumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

In the midst of a quarterback competition that’s going right down to the wire, the ASU’s two top QBs, Trenton Bourguet and Jaden Rashada, and coach Kenny Dillingham shared some thoughts on it this weekend.

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My article on the quarterback battle before weekend practices:

Evaluating the Arizona State quarterback battle

Both Trenton Bourguet and Jaden Rashada had really good and accurate practices on Saturday and Sunday. From what I tracked, Bourguet completed his last 14 passes in a row in team drills (11-on-11s and 7-on-7s) on Saturday (had no incompletions after first team period). Rashada completed seven passes in a row during 7-on-7s this same day.

They both excelled on Sunday as well with both completing over 66% of their passes. Coach Kenny Dillingham still has a target date set of this Thursday (the 24th), a week before the team’s first game against Southern Utah, for when he plans to announce the starter.

See all their stats from this weekend here and my big takeaways:

Takeaways, breakdown of ASU football Saturday and Sunday practices

Everything Kenny Dillingham had to say yesterday

Following Wednesday’s scrimmage, Dillingham confirmed the starting quarterback would be announced a week before the team’s first game. He re-affirmed this on Sunday and shared more on where he’s at in deciding the starting quarterback job.

“I would say all things are on the table,” Dillingham said. “We’re still figuring out exactly what we want to do right now, and how we want to do it. I think those guys all have different skill sets. They all have their strengths, they all have their weaknesses. How can we maximize their skill set to put the best team on the field that can win? That’s our goal.”

He is not thinking about the future of the team (which would be Rashada), he is focused on now.

“Our goal in not for the future,” Dillingham said. “Our goal is not for next year, two years, that’s not fair to the seniors that put in the work. Our goal and my goal is to put the best product on the field to give these seniors the best chance to win football games right now. And whatever avenue that is, we’re going to cross and we’re going to try to do.”

After Drew Pyne suffered a “minor hamstring tear” at Camp T, Dillingham said it threw the team a curveball in terms of the quarterback battle the next practice. He maintained this statement yesterday.

“I definitely think it’s been shaken up a little bit,” he said, “just with Drew being dinged up a little bit and him getting healthy, when he gets healthy, and Jaden coming along and Trenton being Trenton. And so, I think it definitely throws a curveball.”

Dillingham’s previous quote from Monday: “(This is) a curveball, to say the least. So, I don’t know. That’s the best way (to put it). Before I kind of had a plan, I think that plan has potentially been derailed a little bit. So we will see how we progress and go from there.”

Had Dillingham made up his mind that Pyne would be the starter before his injury? These quotes sure sound like it.

Dillingham also illustrated on how practices have changed for the quarterbacks. Before they were thrown all sorts of plays, but it’s been narrowed down as the team transitions into game weeks.

Right now, they are holding two sets of game week preparations. They are currently in one that runs from this past Saturday to Wednesday and another from Thursday up to their first game.

“Our arsenal of plays in this system is over 1,500 to 2,000 variations in place,” Dillingham explained. “It’s like sentences. If you have 15 words, and you can put them in different orders, how many sentences can you create? That’s how our verbage is. So when we have 1000 plays we could run into practice and we challenge them and don’t tell them which ones we’re running that day to make their mind think, and then you limit that to where you carry 75 plays into a game plan, maybe 82 depending on how big your red zone short-yardage plan is, think about how much simpler that is for a quarterback to understand what’s going on.”

Dillingham added: “He’s not understanding what kind of what kind of ‘there’ are we learning? He knows their is t-h-e-i-r today. Right? It’s not one of the three variations. And I think stuff like that just helps trigger their mind and makes them play faster.”

Dillingham also commented on the difficulty of having to look at the whole body of work, not just who is hot, when making position battle decisions.

“I think that’s hard,” he said. “Because … playing the hot hand is a hot thing in sports, but I think you have to balance (it). It’s a risk assessment. If somebody is very explosive, but they turn ball over is that explosiveness actually negated? If somebody does not turn the ball over but isn’t explosive, okay, then we’re not going to play an explosive game on either side of the ball. Is that explosiveness negated again?”

Dillingham expanded on this thought:

“The question with people that are explosive (is): can you run call aggressive calls and have a low risk factor? What people give you the best balance of aggressiveness, but not careless? So I think that’s really what we’re looking for when we put together a game plan, like we did this week: who can take the information from the meeting rooms, go to the field, apply it, get us into the right play within the game plan on a Wednesday practice, get the ball to where it should be on a Wednesday practice. Can that same player then create explosive plays? And what is that balance of explosive plays equal wins to turnovers equal losses? And it’s the sweet spot, can you find that sweet spot? That’s where we’re looking for.”

Rashada was once again brought up in a question, and Dillingham complimented his freshman quarterback.

“He hasn’t turned the ball over very much in fall camp,” Dillingham said. “To be honest, he’s done a pretty solid job with that. I think one of the big things for him is the awareness in the pocket. The game’s a lot faster, the pass rush is faster. They catch you from behind a lot faster. Normally, he’s athletic, he can skate out of the pocket and float at 80% and he’s out-running people. Right, now you have a (junior EDGE) B.J. Green chasing you down, you better run. Like Forrest Gump: ‘Run Forrest run,’ like you better get on your horse and go.”

Dillingham added: “So I think stuff like that are the plays that you don’t necessarily see, that happen to all the quarterbacks that you have to coach and make sure they’re aware of: What is a turnover-worthy play? It’s not just interceptions. It’s sack fumbles. It’s conflict climbs. It’s how you evade and scramble. Do you hitch up and run? Do you feel the presence in the pocket? Those are the things that are honestly harder to coach. Some people can’t see this guy, peripheral vision isn’t there. Some people can see that guy, and those are things we got to see on tape and make an assessment.”

Trenton Bourguet’s thoughts on the quarterback competition

Bourguet gave his take on the quarterback competition on Saturday.

“I think it’s going good,” Bourguet said. “I think Jaden is doing a great job and (third-string) Jacob (Conover) has done a lot a lot of good work the last couple days, obviously Drew’s injured. But, at the end of the day, we’re just going to compete and the best guy is gonna get the job. At the end of the day, we’re all Sun Devils, so we just want to win.”

Bourguet feels like the greatest progression he’s made in the last year is learning the new offense.

“I would just say, definitely, understanding coach Dillingham’s scheme and (offensive coordinator) coach (Beau) Baldwin,” Bourguet said. “Obviously it’s a whole different scheme. I’ve had four coordinators and a bunch of different quarterbacks in the room but just understanding you know, the offense does not always got to throw the deep ball, but get it to our playmakers in space and really understanding the run game. I think understanding the run game scheme like that is definitely what separates the great quarterbacks from the good ones. I thought Bo (Nix) did a great job last year at Oregon of understanding, ‘This look, it doesn’t look good for this one, but checking it to something else.’ It was super simple, but it ended up being a 60-yard touchdown run. So, if we can get to that level here, I think it’d be very, very awesome.”

Last season, Bourguet and Nix were the only two Pac-12 quarterbacks to complete over 70% of their passes. Nix was under the direction of Dillingham, who was Oregon’s offensive coordinator.

Bourguet detailed what he has learned from Dillingham.

“For me, it’s really just taking what the defense gives,” Bourguet said. “(Dillingham) kind of breaks down film in a way that I’ve never seen before. He really makes the game simple. And especially with coach Baldwin as well, to have two geniuses in the QB room like that. I mean, it’s just awesome to get so much information at once and really take what the defense gives you.”

Bourguet detailed Dillingham’s unique film studies.

“He doesn’t really look at certain coverages,” he said. “It’s all about numbers, it’s all about space and understanding there’s numbers to this side of the boundary, or to this side of the field. And when you really break it down like that, it’s crazy because I mean everybody runs the same things. You can have so many different variations, but at the end of the day, it’s all about people and creating space as an offense … So I think he does a great job of just making everything seem so simple.”

He broke it down more specifically.

“It’s not a lot of not a lot of verbage,” Bourguet said, “but just understanding, ‘Okay, there’s five people over here, there’s four people over here, what do you want to run? (There’s) six, or three …’ So I think that’s one thing that’s definitely opened my eyes as a quarterback, and obviously, as a future coach. But like I said, it’s just starting to make more sense, starting to be able to realize it and see it on the field a lot quicker than we did in spring.”

Pyne’s injury opened the doors for Rashada to get a lot more first-team reps and challenge Bourguet for the starting job.

Bourguet has liked what he’s seen from his competitor and understands they both just want to win.

“I think he’s a great athlete,” Bourguet said of Rashada. “I’ve seen him over the years in the 7-on-7 circuit. I think he has a very strong arm, and I think the game is finally starting to slow down for him. And he’s able to make those long throws, and he’s able to make some moves with his legs. But it’s awesome to see he’s finally getting comfortable. And I think at the end of day, we’re just pushing each other, he’s asking me questions, and vice versa … We’re all Sun Devils, and we all want to win at the end of the day.”

Rashada’s role has evolved since the Pyne injury, going from getting very limited first-team reps to almost all of them the first few days this week (however, Bourguet got most of the first-team reps this weekend).

“We all have a different role on this team,” Bourguet said. “He came here in the spring right out of high school and kind of was thrown into the fire. But at Camp T and obviously, the last couple of weeks, he’s finally, you can see, he’s starting to anticipate those throws, making some deep ball throws. He’s really anticipating and in the meeting room, he’s asking questions. He’s texting people, stuff like that. So we’re kind of all on the same page, even with Jacob and Drew, even though Drew is out, he’s still back there writing notes. So, we’re all locked in and super excited to get the season started.”

With under two weeks let until the first game, Bourguet detailed what he wants to work on the most.

“Just continue to do what I’m doing,” Bourguet said. “Obviously there’s always room for improvement, but we’re staying consistent, taking what the defense gives me, not getting too high, not getting too low. For me, I’m not really listening to the outside noise or there’s two weeks away. For me, it’s just every day is the same. I’m trying to get better, trying to be the best Trenton Bourguet I can be every day. At the end of the day, it’s up to coach Dillingham to name a starter.”

How Jaden Rashada feels about the quarterback battle

Rashada is getting national attention for how well he has performed lately in challenging Bourguet for the starting job.

However, he still feels like he is learning and growing every day, especially with increased first-team reps.

“I’m still growing every day,” Rashada said. “I feel like I progress, honestly like, night and day just in terms, knowing the offense and knowing looks. I feel like I progress pretty well, but I’m nowhere where I want to be, I just want to keep going every day. That’s all I can ask for.”

Despite the outside noise of the competition for the starting QB job, Rashada doesn’t view it as such.

“I’m not really looking (at) anything as a competition,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m just trying to grow every day and be the best version of myself and be the best teammate I can be.”

With the first game right around the corner, Rashada is excited.

“Everybody’s ready to go play a game, definitely,” he said. “Once you start, going against each other for this long, everybody’s not bored of it, but just like, antsy to go play the opponent. So, I can’t wait for Week One versus Southern Utah.”

Rashada has grown to appreciate the teammates around him

“I feel pretty confident in everybody all around, as a unit,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of men and a great group of athletes, and we’re pretty talented. It’s up to us to play hard and do what we do.”

Since his arrival at ASU, Rashada says he has learned “everything” from coach Dillingham.

“I came in here not knowing much about football,” he said, “just because (in) high school everybody comes from different circumstances, from different high schools. But honestly, he’s taught me a whole lot, and I’m glad I’m here.”

Rashada had originally signed his national letter of intent (NLI) with Florida after they reportedly offered him millions of dollars in an NIL package, but could not keep their end of the promise. Rashada ended up getting out of his NLI and joining Dillingham and ASU.

Many things played a role in Rashada’s decision, like his pre-established relationship with Dillingham that dtated back to his time at Florida State and Oregon, as well as joining his dad, Harlen Rashada’s, alma mater at ASU.

Dillingham being an established quarterback guru was another a large factor in Rashada’s decision to come to ASU.

“It’s a big reason why I ended up here,” Rashada said. “So it’s pretty valuable, and I’m just blessed to be in the position I’m in with great coaching and great teammates around me. But it’s definitely helped me a lot having coach Dilly.”

Rashada discussed his development of learning to absorb information.

“(It’s) like night and day,” he said. “I mean, I’m aware of everything that’s going on now. Before, I was just kind of still figuring it out. But honestly, I’m more aware, and I’m still learning every day. I’d be lying if I said I knew everything, but I’m learning every day. And that’s all I can ask for.”

Bourguet has taught the young quarterback a lot.

“I picked up a lot from him,” Rashada said. “Just how he sees the game, how he processes things, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve learned a lot from everybody in that room.”

Since spending more time with the first team, Rashada feels the chemistry he has with that team continuing to get better.

“I’ve seen it develop a lot since I’ve been getting more reps with the ones,” he said. “Although, everybody’s still growing that chemistry. We’ll be growing that chemistry till the season ends. So (we’re) just building brick by brick and trying to get better every day.”

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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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