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Kenny Dillingham continues to recruit, rebuild football program

Kenny Dillingham went to work this offseason, garnering potentially a Top-50 recruiting class in the nation while picking up some key transfers

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ASU football head coach Kenny Dillingham laughs after a penalty call at Rose Bowl Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Pasadena.

Ahead of his first season at the helm of ASU football, head coach Kenny Dillingham was never more devoted to turning around his alma mater. The program was in the trenches as recruiting violations around COVID-19 restrictions from 2020-21 sparked a three-year NCAA investigation and a hefty loss of recruits.

But he was a Valley-raised kid who lived and breathed maroon and gold; he knew what he was getting himself into when he accepted the coaching position at ASU.

“You look at this place, and there’s a lot of special moments; we want to create a lot more special moments,” Dillingham said in his introductory press conference on Nov. 22, 2022. “We need everything this Valley has … all in because I'm all in.”

Now, his first season is in the books. Needless to say, he has quite a mess to fix. 

Once upon a time ago, the Sun Devils had a respectable football program with legendary seasons under the late Frank Kush and a Rose Bowl win in 1987. The program has fed the NFL a lot of players, such as Pro Football Hall of Famers Mike Haynes, Charley Taylor and Curley Culp, along with active players such as wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (49ers), running back Rachaad White (Buccaneers) and defensive back Jack Jones (Raiders). 

However, these last two seasons for the Sun Devils were notably forgettable, as the program’s consecutive 3-9 seasons is the worst stretch in nearly eight decades. 

Following the end of 2023, numerous Sun Devil players hit the transfer portal. Notable players in tight end Jaylin Conyers (Texas Tech), cornerback Jordan Clark (Notre Dame), and co-sack leader B.J. Green (Washington) all hit the road. 

Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for Dillingham to fill these holes, signing one of the largest recruiting classes in the country with 22 transfers already committed.

Dillingham stated that the team’s biggest issue was facing size and that matchups against bigger opponents caused the team to falter. He also noted that the team prioritizes age groups, as a roster rounded out with younger players can help prepare the program three-to-four years later.

“We take priority in age groups — how are we balancing our roster with ages?” Dillingham said. “We’re going to take guys that can help build this thing, so two, three years out … we are firing on all cylinders.”

Dillingham emphasized that this transfer haul wouldn’t be possible without the much-improved NIL effort from boosters and contributors, an effort he relentlessly pursued since the start of November after former athletic director Ray Anderson departed.

READ MORE: Kenny Dillingham said ASU is 'turning a corner' on NIL. Here's why

Quarterback Trenton Bourguet did his part with the "TeamTB16 Challenge," which called for 16 businesses to contribute $10,000 that he would match.

Yet, there’s still work to be done.

Dillingham’s determination is expressed through his boundless energy. He’s gone beyond limitations to get whatever and whoever the team needs. This includes pursuing fundraising opportunities for the Sun Angel Collective, hopping on red-eye flights, and traveling state-to-state in 48-hour time frames to garner as many recruits as possible. But building culture is his first and foremost objective.

“Good people that love football,” Dillingham said. “In terms of football, we wanted to get bigger and longer, and I think we addressed a good amount of those needs.”

When all is said and done, it’s projected that Arizona State could potentially have a Top-50 recruiting class nationwide. Jason Brown, a four-star running back from Seattle, Washington, headlines the group. The Sun Devils’ recruiting class is currently ranked 53rd in the country by 247sports. They’ve also kept busy on the transfer front. 

Standout cornerback Cole Martin transferred over from Oregon a few days after the new year started. He played in all 14 games as a true freshman for the Ducks, totaling 21 tackles and one interception on the season. Former USC wide receiver Raleek Brown joins the Sun Devils after two seasons with the Trojans. 

Kamari Wilson, who was the number one two safety in the nation coming out of high school a year ago, transferred to ASU from the University of Florida.

These recruits give the team plenty of options to work with ahead of the 2024 campaign, and in what has lately seemed like rock bottom for the Sun Devils, this group of fresh faces might only be the start for Kenny Dillingham and this new era of Sun Devil football.

Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Walker Smith and Caera Learmonth.

Reach the reporter at and follow @ASchmidtSports on Twitter.

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Aaron SchmidtSports Reporter

Aaron Schmidt is a sports reporter who covers ASU Baseball and ASU Women’s Golf for The State Press. He previously covered Higley High School football for AZPreps365.

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