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ASU football loses multiple players to transfer portal, focusing on future through adversity

Now that many ASU football players have hit the transfer portal, the race for a starting quarterback and to fill other positions continues


ASU redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Leavitt (10) during spring football practice at the Bill Kajikawa practice fields on Saturday, April 20, 2024 in Tempe.

The transfer portal has not been friendly to the Sun Devils, but with one week left of spring practice, the team is moving forward.

They've lost two four-star prospects and four others since the portal opened. The two four-stars who left were redshirt freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada and junior wide receiver Elijhah Badger

After Rashada and Badger hit the portal, head coach Kenny Dillingham was not panicking. He said the team was planning this kind of situation. 

"Yeah it really changes nothing," Dillingham said. "We were probably going to bring in a quarterback regardless, and we were going to bring in a wideout regardless."

Rashada appeared in three games as a redshirt freshman and had 485 offensive yards. He had been struggling with an injury through spring football but had just started to practice before entering the portal.

Now with the potential starter gone, the battle for the starting position is a little less clear. Sam Leavitt, a redshirt freshman who transferred from Michigan State University and ASU veteran and redshirt senior Trenton Bourguet could compete for the role. There is the potential of another transfer coming in as long as the portal is open. Navi Bruzon, Arizona's Gatorade Player of the Year at Liberty High School in Peoria, will also be joining the team as a quarterback.

Dillingham said as of now Leavitt would be the player who gets the first snap, but the season doesn't start till August so things could change.

Both Leavitt and Bourguet spoke on the situation with a similar mindset: The first snap of the official 2024 season is nowhere near, so grind and compete every day, and be ready for when their number is called.

To put himself in the best position for when that time comes, Leavitt said there are a couple of things he wants to do between now and then.

"Physically and mentally getting better every single day," he said. "Building relationships with teammates because with the transfer portal now you never know who is going go in or out, so just building that culture so nobody wants to leave, I mean it's a great place to be."

At MSU, Leavitt appeared in four games with 139 offensive yards and two touchdowns. In high school, he was ranked the No. 1 player in the class of 2023 in the state of Oregon by On3. 

Bourguet is in his sixth season at ASU with a total of nearly 3100 passing yards and 13 passing touchdowns. His best season was in 2022 when he had nearly 1500 offensive yards and 11 touchdowns. 

Bourguet said he wishes Rashada the best, but he is focused on himself. He heard that Dillingham would start Leavitt if they had a game now, and he said he wasn't worried about It. He is going to do things day by day, and just be ready when his name is called.

Soon after Rashada broke the news, Badger also made his announcement. Badger led the team in receiving yards for the past two seasons, but last season four other wide receivers were in triple-digit receiving numbers. 

The receiving core will still be in good hands with redshirt seniors Xavier Guillory and Troy Omeire and graduate student Melquan Stovall. Bourguet said even with strong wide receivers, Badger will be missed as more than a player. 

"I texted him (Badger) yesterday and just wishing him nothing but the best," Bourguet said. "It stinks because you make so many memories outside of the game ... I just wish him nothing but the best."

The team brought in two transfers in February. Jacob Rich Kongaika, a junior defensive lineman from UA, and Jalen Klemm, a freshman offensive lineman from Washington.

Other players who joined the portal included junior defensive back Ed Woods, senior tight end Bryce Pierre, freshman offensive lineman Griffin Schureman and sophomore defensive back RJ Regan.

When it comes to Woods, the announcement came as a surprise to both Dillingham and defensive backs coach Bryan Carrington.

"It was news to us," Carrington said. "But we understand the nature and climate of this industry nowadays with where college sports is headed. I'm not gonna sit here and point out the boogeyman, but this is the reality of where college football is today.”

Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Alysa Horton and Caera Learmonth.

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