Arizona State first-year coach Kenny Dillingham has to prepare for Thursday’s season opener against Southern Utah in Tempe, Ariz., while trying to keep his players focused and ready for a season that will not end with a bowl appearance.
The Sun Devils announced Sunday morning that they will serve a self-imposed bowl ban this season in relation to the NCAA investigating the program for allegedly hosting high school recruits during the COVID-19 recruiting dead period in 2020 under previous coach Herm Edwards.
Dillingham, 33, and his staff brought in 51 new players, 31 of them transfers, ahead of this season.
He informed the team about the self-imposed bowl ban before Sunday’s practice.
“What I just told the team is, nobody cares about your circumstance,” Dillingham said. “In reality, most people in life would rather see other people fail so they don’t have to work hard than actually work hard enough to beat them. Everybody looks at this like, ‘Oh, great. Arizona State’s not going to be motivated anymore. That’s a win.'”
One of Arizona State’s newcomers is freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada, who originally signed with Florida but successfully got out of his letter of intent after claiming a name, image and likeness deal worth more than $13 million with the Gators fell through.
Rashada earned the starting role ahead of redshirt senior Trenton Bourguet and Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne. The latter suffered a hamstring injury during fall camp.
Rashada will face an experienced Southern Utah defense that was tied for seventh among all FCS schools in turnover margin per game last season.
Southern Utah sophomore linebacker Kohner Cullimore, who is from Gilbert, Ariz., led the Thunderbirds with 76 tackles last season.
“We think we’re really good in the front seven,” Southern Utah coach DeLane Fitzgerald said. “We think we’re a little undervalued in the front seven and people don’t think we’re very good. We think our defensive line and linebackers are as good as any in the FCS in the country.”
–Field Level Media