Maryland 2024 EDGE Obinna Onwuka continues USC football visit
Colorado’s overwhelming program transformation has stolen much of the off-season Pac-12 spotlight.
However, first-year Arizona State head coach Kenny Dillingham did more than his share of the overhaul at Tempe. Dillingham arrived via Oregon but is a Sun Devil graduate with many ties to his home state. After the Herm Edwards fallout, Arizona state needed a major program reset, and that’s the mindset Dillingham attacked the offseason with. One of the main pillars of his plan was a heavy focus on local talent. Arizona has developed into a strong footprint in football. It’s not on par with the big three (California, Texas, and Florida), but the Grand Canyon State is clearly on the up.
With the December transfer window closed, this is a relative pause in the process, so we’ll look at USC’s final lineup of Pac-12 opponents plus Notre Dame. After Breakdown of Stanford’s roster Upheaval, we’re moving on to the state of Arizona. Dillingham has put a new twist on the idea of pursuing homegrown talent.
who is gone
Fifteen players on offense for the Sun Devils. A transfer portal addition, which we’ll discuss shortly, prompted the loss of two quarterbacks. Of all these players only ben scott started Arizona State’s last game of the 2022 season. LaDarius Henderson and Emory Jones joined Scott as a starter in the season opener. That’s not to say the other losses aren’t significant.
As a 247 Alejandro Zuniga reported“Accordingly Focus on professional footballHenderson permitted two sacks and 13 pressings in 593 pass-blocking snaps over the past two seasons. In 2021, he was the 11th-highest offense guard overall in the Pac-12 (71.3) during the regular season, per ASU. He was named team captain in 2022 but missed the closing stages of the season after breaking a bone in his hand.”
Ngata was the primary backup to run back to Xazavian Valladay. Ngata gained 272 yards on 54 carries (5.0 yards per carry) and scored a touchdown. He also added nine catches for 53 yards.
Here’s a look at the Sun Devils’ defensive exits:
Thirteen defenders (including two specialists) will represent Arizona State. Only joe moore started in the season finale. Taylor, Norman-Lott and Moore started in the season opener. Soelle’s brother was Arizona State’s lead tackler.
In his two seasons with the Sun Devils, Moore had 24 tackles, 3.5 sacks and six tackles to a loss in 13 games. Moore originally signed to Washington when he entered the portal, but the Missouri native transferred to a state school in the Tigers.
Taylor had 16 total tackles, 10 solo tackles and one pass defended. He was also the Sun Devils’ starting kick returner and had 261 kick return yards last season.
Per 247 Patrick Brown“The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Norman Lott totaled 14 tackles, three tackles, and two sacks in nine games at Arizona State in 2022 and had 30 tackles, 3.5 tackles, and two sacks in 11 games in 2021.”
Connor Solle was primarily a backup and special teams performer. USC will of course benefit from the departure of player Czaplicki.
who is new
Thirteen defenders out, 15 for the head coach so far Kenny Dillingham. Former Trojan Alford was one of two USC players who passed Czaplicki on I-10 in the other direction. Don’t be surprised to see the former four-star Class of 2020 player at the helm of Arizona State safety this fall.
The cornerback Ford was a third-team FCS All-American at Austin Peay after a 2022 season in which he had three interceptions and 16 pass breakups. Per 247 Chris Karpman“He was second in FCS nationally in passes defended per game and also had 37 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.” Teammate Simmons also joined him to Tucson.
Shewell returns to his home state after two seasons in Albuquerque. He saw action in nine games and started three before missing the last three with an injury. He recorded nine tackles this season with 2.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, an interception, a QB rush and a pass breakup. The same goes for Romney, who went to high school at state powerhouse Chandler. Romney was part of BYU’s 2020 undersigned class, but after an LDS mission, he arrives in Tempe with four seasons left.
Montag was converted to the line of defense waiting to…visited Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro. Apparently, Dillingham arrived with the notion that it wasn’t too late to lock up state talent from previous recruiting grades. Same goes for Samuel Benjamin, defense attorney for Ironwood Ridge (Tucson).
Former Washington State cougar Brown came with ties to coaches who had defected from Pullman to work for Dillingham.
Clayton Smith was the 38th overall in the 2021 class, arriving via Oklahoma. He played four games for the Sooners in 2022.
Jackson appeared in 11 games at Kansas State and is another state native returning home to the Sun Devils. Mallory made 16 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and a half sack in 2022. Dorbah is said to be in the ASU EDGE rotation after migrating from Austin.
Former Notre Dame quarterback Pyne was one of two signal callers to leave South Bend after the Fighting Irish made it clear they wanted to ramp up with outside talent, who turned out to be Wake Forests Sam Hartman. Pyne finds even in competition with incumbent Sun Devil Trenton Bourget.
Pyne has an intriguing target in the lightning-fast wide receiver Xavier Guillory. Guillory 52 passes for 785 yards and four touchdowns last season in Idaho State and earned second-team All-Big Sky honors. In two seasons, he had 91 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns. 247 Chris Karpman reported that the Sun Devils Guillory clocked a time of 22.82 MPH via GPS tracker at a recent practice session. The Sun Devils also bring two wideouts with USC connectors. JakeSmith Transferred to USC from Texas but never suited for the Trojans but the Arizona local product is trying to rekindle his football career at home. Melquan Stovall is from the state of Colorado, having started his career in Nevada, but he is a high school product from Southern California, and his older brother, Melquise Stovall, was once a USC commit.
Hailing from new Stanford coach Troy Taylor’s old haunts of Sacramento State, Skattebo looks poised to play in ASU’s Two-Deep. head coach Kenny Dillingham said of last year’s Big Sky Player of the Year: “This guy is a bad butt guy. Fill in what you think I meant to say but this guy just keeps being competitive every day. If you light the fire under Skat to compete, he will fight to the death.”
Walden is another son of Grand Canyon State. He finished his prep career four-star ranking No. 85 overall for the 2021 class. He played for Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro before signing with the Ducks. Walden decided to follow Dillingham home.
Dillingham has so far brought a total of 28 players via the transfer portal. It’s an amazing roster change that aligns with the new world order for first-year coaches. Deion Sander has taken it to a new extreme. Lincoln Riley certainly used to start his new regime at USC. Dillingham was willing to go far and wide for talent. He has also made a clear priority of targeting expatriates domestically. Like the Trojans, Arizona State kicks off its new era of football on a one-year cycle. There’s far less certainty at quarterback and offensive line compared to what USC built in its first season under Riley. However, it’s clear that a change has arrived in Tempe in the form of ASU grad (and Arizona native) Dillingham.