TEMPE – Arizona State football coach Kenny Dillingham didn’t want to talk much about Colorado coach Deion Sanders at Dillingham’s weekly Monday media availability, insisting that he is focused on his own team as the Sun Devils prepare to host Colorado Saturday at Mountain America Stadium.
But while Dillingham avoided the “Coach Prime” hype, he didn’t hesitate to hype another Sanders – Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the coach’s son. Dillingham knows plenty about the younger Sanders, whom he recruited.
“Seeing him put it together here in college, it doesn’t shock me,” Dillingham said. “He is an older version of what that 17-year-old was.”
Dillingham said nothing seems to faze the 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior and NFL prospect.
“(It) is very hard to get him uncomfortable,” Dillingham said. “He is always comfortable, and even if you hit him, he gets up.”
Dillingham noted how the culture at Colorado is clearly different under Deion, who has changed the conversation about Boulder’s football program in less than a year after the Buffaloes finished last season 1-11.
“They are more talented, for sure,” Dillingham said. “Their defensive line is good, their skill positions are fast. They play really hard. They are fundamentally sound.”
Dillingham has good reason to concentrate on his own team as the 1-4 Sun Devils are still seeking their first Pac-12 Conference victory of the season. The first-year head coach said there is plenty to work on after ASU fell to 0-2 in the conference with a 24-21 loss to Cal last week.
“The most important things are owning the football and then winning situational football,” he said, adding, “and you look at third downs, you look at red-zone scoring and you look at the turnovers, and that’s the game.”
The Sun Devils have been decimated by injuries this season, particularly on the offensive line and, now, at linebacker. Dillingham said backup players are going to need to step up in order to beat Colorado.
“This is a prolific offense we face this week,” he said. “They challenge you on the edge and in space, so we’ve got to be ready to play a game in space, and linebackers are a big key to that.”
Another key Dillingham addressed was his team’s need for more explosiveness, on defense and offense. ASU’s defense has only forced one turnover in its first five games of the season.
Dillingham said that he was pleased with his defense, however, he wants his team to win the turnover battle, something that his team hasn’t done all season.
Offensively, rushing hasn’t been as explosive as he wants to be, especially since he is “a run game guy.”
Dillingham explained that ASU running backs have made it up in the pass game, but running the ball is something that needs to be more effective if they are to be more successful.
In last Saturday’s game against the University of California, Cameron Skattebo, a running back, led his team in receiving yards with 98 yards, with only rushing 59 yards in 24 attempts.
Creativity is what the team needs. “I’ve got to be more creative offensively, and I got to find ways to create those, and get our guys in explosive situations,” Dillingham said.
Dillingham could look toward receiver Elijah Badger to get the creativity he needs this week.
“He (has) a lot of talent, and he is really good with the ball in his hands,” Dillingham said. “I have to find ways to get the ball in his hands more,” saying that is key because of post catch ability.