The dawn of a new season began in Tempe on Thursday morning as various players and coaches, including ASU football‘s three freshman quarterbacks.
On Thursday morning, there wasn’t a man within a hundred miles who was more excited to be back talking football with the media than Danny Gonzales. The newly promoted assistant head coach and current Sun Devils defensive coordinator entered the press room with his usual enthusiasm and big smile.
Gonzales, a master of lifting the energy levels of others, was the perfect kick starter to a morning filled with anxious young freshman, eager returning players and determined veteran coaches.
Without further-ado, here are a handful of takeaways from the media session.
ASU’s “Big Three” of freshman quarterbacks
Despite growing up in California, Joey Yellen was a huge fan of Peyton Manning. But, admittedly at first, only rooted for the quarterbacks football team, the Indianapolis Colts, growing up because he liked the color of their uniforms.
“My favorite color was blue,” said Yellen.
Ethan Long, the lowest rated recruit of the three quarterbacks, insisted to Division 1 schools, like Utah, that he wanted to play quarterback and not be a position-less athlete. And although he chose ASU, the Ivy League schools were tempting for Long.
“With an Ivy League degree, you’re pretty much set for life,” Long said.
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Unlike his fellow freshman, Jayden Daniels, the highest rated recruit of the three, stuck to textbook answers and showed a certain shyness in each response to a question. But, despite his apparent coy demeanor, the freshman has already made friends on the team in Geordon Porter and Brandon Aiyuk.
Yellen, Long and Daniels all have drastically different makeups. That point was made abundantly clear on Thursday morning, but the three quarterbacks have one thing in common; they all love playing quarterback and have been playing the position since early grade school.
Daniels has been a quarterback since he was eight years old. Long was in third grade when he started playing the position, and Yellen has been playing tackle football since he was in second grade while always wanting to be a quarterback during that time.
Differences aside, what makes the competition between these three quarterbacks unique is that they’re all true quarterbacks at heart and always have been since a young age. And now the three of them, plus Dillon Sterling-Cole, are fighting for the one spot on the field that they’ve all played at their whole entire lives.
What about Dillon Sterling-Cole?
As Manny Wilkins’ backup quarterback for the last two seasons, the one thing he took away from the former ASU starter was, to say the least, unexpected.
“The one thing I can take from Manny Wilkins is too slide and not hurdle,” Sterling-Cole said. “I ain’t got no hurdle in my arsenal.”
Being the only veteran in competition for the starting job under-center, Sterling Cole is in an odd role as a somewhat forgotten figure in the race for the starting job at quarterback. But, that reality doesn’t phase him.
“I just want to be the best teammate at the end of the day,” Sterling-Cole said. “The team building throughout this spring is what really is going to help us going into the fall and not really who the quarterback is going to be.”
What about the defense?
After fielding questions for 30 minutes, it was obvious that Gonzales had been preparing for the start of spring day practices since the final whistle of the Vegas Bowl.
ASU’s defensive coordinator answered an array of inquiries surrounding both his unit and his future as a coach.
On ASU’s freshman quarterbacks: “We’ll give them an opportunity, so those guys can be successful,” Gonzales said. “The difference in speed between high school and college football, especially Division 1, is… there’s no comparison.”
On the Sun Devils linebacker depth: “I don’t think Kyle Soelle gets as much credit as he deserves,” Gonzales said. “He doesn’t look as flashy, he’s not as athletic and he doesn’t look as big as those guys. But, he’s just as productive. And when you’re productive that’s what matters.
It’s assignment, effort, make plays. Those are the three criteria’s that you need to be (to become) a really successful football player.”
On his future as a potential head coach: “When you warrant stuff, people offer it to you,” Gonzales said. “The best part of being a head coach is that paycheck, there’s no doubt. Because you lose a lot of ability to do things because of all of other things that you have to deal with.
Everything that he gets through, that he has to deal with he’s like ‘hey, one of these days you’re going to have to deal with something (similar).’ And I think that’s invaluable experience.”