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Breakdown and analysis of Jaden Rashada being named ASU’s Week 1 starter

© Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

True freshman Jaden Rashada has been named Arizona State’s starting quarterback for the team’s season opener on Aug. 31 against Southern Utah.

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Rashada will be the second ever true freshman to start a season opener for the Sun Devils after Jayden Daniels became the first in 2019.

BREAKING: Jaden Rashada named starting QB for ASU’s season opener

Rashada very quickly went from a very outside chance of being the QB after spring practice and the first couple weeks of fall camp to now being the Week 1 starter.

First-year coach Kenny Dillingham will now start the development of his QB of the future right away, choosing Rashada over the team’s returning starter, Trenton Bourguet, and last year’s starter at Notre Dame, Drew Pyne, who was injured at Camp T.

Even though Rashada’s the QB of the future, Dillingham said that he wants a quarterback that can win now.

“Our goal in not for the future,” Dillingham said Sunday. “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.”

The Sun Devils did not practice today, so we will hear from Kenny Dillingham tomorrow on the QB situation.

An in-depth analysis and breakdown of Rashada’s ascension and what this means for ASU’s team this year and moving forward:

Drew Pyne’s injury at Camp T

Two Saturdays ago, Aug. 12, the Arizona State football team held its first public scrimmage up north at Camp Tontozona (Camp T) since 2019.

The plan going in, according to coach Kenny Dillingham, was to play primarily the second and third team players to get them live game reps.

Fans finally were going to see all of the talent that then third-string QB Jaden Rashada possessed, which the media had seen plenty of in camp.

During the scrimmage, Pyne slipped and injured his hamstring running out of bounds, opening an even bigger opportunity for Rashada. Dillingham described Pyne’s injury as a “minor hamstring tear.”

Rashada made the most of his increased reps. His performance was highlighted by touchdowns just beyond midfield on back-to-back plays to WR Shawn Charles. The first one was called back due to penalty, but Rashada went right back to Charles on the next play, showing off his ultra-impressive arm strength.

“I thought he grew,” Dillingham said of Rashada after the scrimmage. “From the beginning of the scrimmage to the end of the scrimmage, there was a drastic improvement in his game, just got more comfortable. And that’s why we got him a lot of reps is because the only way to get good at football is to play football.”

Jaden Rashada’s performance in the last week

Many thought that Rashada would be behind both Bourguet and Pyne, whoever ended up getting the job, on the depth chart this season and likely to redshirt.

Rashada had hardly played with the first team and did not show that he was fully better than his two counterparts.

This past week, he took major strides forward when playing with the first team.

His arm strength and mobility are his best attributes and better than any other quarterback on the roster.

Since the Sun Devils restarted practice in Tempe on Monday, I have been logging all of the progression from the QBs this past week (five practices total). Here’s how my takeaways from this past week have progressed.

After only one day of receiving primary first-team reps in fall camp before last week, Rashada saw the bulk of them last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Monday, he received eight first-team reps to Bourguet’s three.

On Tuesday, the two quarterbacks alternated reps, as we were accustomed to seeing Pyne and Bourguet do before Pyne’s injury.

What I wrote on Tuesday after the first two practices:

“The two QBs have been pretty average. Yesterday, both had a bad day, but they did make some good throws on the run. This was probably attributed to not being able to get in a rhythm because of all of the penalties and new cadences.

Today, Bourguet had a better day than Rashada. Rashada had a very rough 7-on-7 period where he threw three interceptions and missed on several throws, overthrowing a lot of his receivers.

You can clearly tell the potential that Rashada has by his arm strength and mobility, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

In-depth analysis and observations of last two ASU practices

The next practice (Wednesday), the team had its last scrimmage of camp. Rashada finished the scrimmage going 6/17 (35%) with two touchdowns. The two quarterbacks alternated with the first and second teams once again.

Rashada threw a 50+ yard TD to Elijhah Badger on second drive he was in (was the play of the day).

On Rashada’s second-to-last drive of the day, he had a wide receiver wide open deep and threw a nice ball. However, Keontez Bradley made a nice play and came out of nowhere to break up the pass at the last second. Rashada made up for it on the next drive, as he checked the ball down to RB George Hart III on a third-and-short from near midfield and Hart took it all the way to the house for six.

Dillingham was highly pleased with the freshman’s performance. 

“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.”

After his scrimmage performance, Rashada was in serious contention for the starting QB job.

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

On Friday, I took a deep dive into the battle. (The team did not practice Thursday and Friday)

What I wrote Friday:

“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.”

Evaluating the Arizona State quarterback battle

Well, Rashada did just that, improving his accuracy significantly.

From what I tracked, Rashada completed 64% of his passes (34/53) in Saturday and Sunday’s team drills.

On Saturday, he had a stretch of seven completions in a row in 7-on-7s.

On Sunday, he threw a deep ball about 40-50 yards down the left sideline to Elijhah Badger, who made a spectacular one-handed grab on a go route. If it was in a game, he probably would’ve ran all the way to end zone (would’ve been an 80+ yard TD). This was one of the best plays from all of camp in team drills. 

“Rashada looked much better on his second and third reads. He looked more comfortable in the pocket and understood all the plays thrown his way,” I noted.

Takeaways, breakdown of ASU football Saturday and Sunday practices

Dillingham commented on Rashada once again Sunday.

“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.”

His big weekend of practices capped off his impressive development.

Dillingham 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.”

How ASU QBs view the quarterback competition

So, Rashada’s entire camp performance, even though he only had one prior day of getting first-team reps, not just this past week, contributed to him being named the starter.

Could Pyne be the starter when he’s healthy?

Kenny Dillingham had an interesting comment about the quarterback situation after Monday’s practice, the first time the team took the field since Camp T.

“(Pyne’s injury is) a curveball, to say the least,” Dillingham said Monday. “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.”

He said something similar about the quarterback competition on Sunday.

“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.”

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

This bares the question of if Pyne could be the starter once he returns. We will figure out more tomorrow.

What this shows to other recruits

A true freshman coming in and getting the keys to the team after beating out two other established Power 5 quarterbacks has to show something to recruits about Dillingham. 

If anything, this move will make recruits more willing to come to ASU and play for a coach who believes that freshmen can get meaningful playing time.

No one has seen Dillingham as a head coach, so every move he makes shows something new about him.

Starting Rashada is perhaps his boldest and most telling move yet, as he showcases that he can have confidence in a true freshman quarterback to put his team in the best possible situation to win.

As mentioned before, he wants to win now, so he feels that Rashada has already shown enough and even more than a quarterback in Bourguet who completed over 70% of his passes in the games he played last season.

The Sun Devils, who were picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, have an over/under win total of 4.5 games this season that remains unchanged after the announcement. Rashada is thrown into the fire of extremely talented Pac-12 quarterbacks right away.

ASU will see the best of the best in the Pac-12 this year, as the Sun Devils have four games on their schedule against top-15 teams in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. 

ASU football to face four preseason AP Top 25 teams

Stay tuned for what Dillingham has to say tomorrow about this big decision.

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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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