TEMPE – He was told before the season that his odds of starting this season were low. He was told if he wanted a starting job, Arizona State wasn’t the right choice.
Sometimes, all it takes is one opportunity for a young player to flourish. For freshman quarterback Jaden Rashada, the wait to become the face of the ASU offense isn’t a future goal any longer.
The Jaden Rashada era is officially underway.
Coach Kenny Dillingham announced Wednesday at practice that Rashada would be the starting quarterback for ASU’s first game of the season against Southern Utah on Aug. 31.
“Jaden’s going to start Week One, and we’ll go from there,” Dillingham said.
The 6-foot-4 freshman follows in the footsteps of his father, former Sun Devils defensive back Harlen Rashada (1992-94), and holds the reins for a football team that has endured a complete overhaul since the addition of Dillingham.
Rashada believes his situational fit with coaches and players has led to a smooth transition into this starting role.
“I’m surrounded by great teammates, and they’ve done a great job of, you know, bringing me in and making me feel part of the team and I’m super comfortable … just playing out here playing with my guys,” he said.
The four-star prospect became the highest recruit to sign with the Sun Devils since 2020. But accolades were not needed to gain the respect and trust of the players and coaching staff.
Even when it seemed like players such as Drew Pyne or Trenton Bourget had the starting spot in hand, the work never stopped for Rashada.
“I think he leads through effort. What I mean by that is, it’s going to be hard for him to lead through knowledge, right?,” Dillingham said. “Because he’s a freshman, he’s going to learn it’s going to be hard for him to lead through respect … but what can you do to show leadership? Work ethic, terror level, showing up every day, putting in extra.
“Because everybody watches and they go, ‘OK, this dude cares. I can follow him. This guy can lead me because it matters.’ That’s where I see J.”
As far as intangibles go, at his height and weight, he has the ability to see and execute plays comfortably and on the fly. In addition to his ideal frame, offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin believes he has the skills to elevate the offense.
“When you can take advantage of the whole field, both width and length, it just opens you up,” Baldwin said. “And it softens up a defense, and they can’t assume you’re never going to throw from the hash all the way to the sideline, or never going to assume that you’re not going to throw deep down the middle late, you know? And that’s just what it does. That opens up a lot of things that way. So that excites me.”
The decision to elevate Rashada to starter more than a week before the first regular game was by design, with the goal of giving him plenty of time to fully garner the schemes and play styles of his teammates.
At his first practice since the decision, the coaching staff put an emphasis on challenging Rashada with certain play calls and strategies to start building the pressure. At the start of practice Wednesday, there were some signs of nerves and reality setting in, but as it unfolded, the obvious confidence and talent revealed itself.
“Today, you saw a little bit of wool on the starter. That’s just the reality, like, oh, a lot of pressure now. That’s why we did it so early,” said Dillingham, who was the offensive coordinator with the Oregon Ducks last season.
“We felt like that was the direction it was going. He needs to feel this for 10 days of it being his team … he needs to feel that even though it’s a practice, there’s still some pressure on it. So I felt you know, early in practice, there was a little bit of pressure, and then he calmed down. So it was good for him.”
For now, all the sights and bright lights will be shining down on Rashada as the season inches closer, but clearly, no lights are too bright for the 19-year-old out of Pittsburg, California.
“You know, nothing fazes me,” he said “I just think everything happens for a reason. … The journey to get here was crazy. But you know, it makes sense every day why I’m here. This is big, but something I always dreamed of as a kid, but there’s a lot of work to do. There’s a lot to accomplish.
“And I believe we’re taking the right steps.”