Arizona State Sun Devils

Kenny Dillingham Knows ‘A Culture of Toughness’ is Key To Winning in Big 12

LAS VEGAS — Arizona State head coach Kenny Dillingham sounds like he’s been preparing for his first Big 12 football game for more than a year.

He’s been priming his players on what it takes to win in this conference, and it comes down to one word. He believe it is what consistently wins in college football — toughness.


“We need to continue to establish a culture of toughness — I think that’s the number one thing,” Dillingham said. “If you watch this league and you look at the teams that have continually won in this league is teams that are tough. So we’ve been training and teaching our kids how to respond to adversity, the good and the bad, and those are the things that we’ve been harping on the last year.”

He admitted that he doesn’t have a win total in mind for the Sun Devils’ first season in the Big 12 and that he’s focused on smaller improvements that could lead to winning more games.

“This is a very cliche answer but success in our program is being the very best you can be all the time,” he said. “We wanna get better, we wanna grow every single day. There’s not a win total, there’s not a goal like that. It’s just be the very best we can be every day.”

Arizona State is one of four Pac-12 schools moving to the Big 12 officially in August. Arizona, Colorado and Utah will also join. Arizona State had been a member of the Pac-12 since 1978.

The Sun Devils went 3-9 and 2-7 in Pac-12 play a year ago under Dillingham, who was in his first year with Arizona State.  

Year two for Dillingham is about trying to figure out the quarterback situation. Last year’s starter, Jaden Rashada, transferred to Georgia. In his place Arizona State is anticipating starting Sam Leavitt, a redshirt freshman and Michigan State transfer that Dillingham said made huge strides in spring football.


While ASU rebuilds its offensive line, running back Cam Skattebo is back, along with wide receivers Troy Omeire and Melquan Stovall, but USC transfer running back Raleek Brown could make a huge impact.

Clayton Smith and Prince Dorbah will anchor the pass rush, as the pair combined for 10 sacks. Only three full-time starters are back, one of which is safety Shamari Simmons, who had 73 tackles. The Sun Devils were bullish in the transfer portal going into its first Big 12 season.

The Sun Devils host two games to start the season against Wyoming on Aug. 31 and Mississippi State on Sept. 7. Arizona State then travels to Texas State on Sept. 12.

Arizona State travels to Texas Tech to open Big 12 play on Sept. 21. After that, it hosts Kansas on Oct. 5 and Utah on Oct. 11. That is followed by a road trip to Cincinnati on Oct. 19.

Arizona plays five straight games to end the season, starting at Oklahoma State on Nov. 2. Then the Sun Devils host UCF on Nov. 9, travel to Kansas State on Nov. 16, host BYU on Nov. 23 and then travel to Arizona on Nov. 30 to play for the Territorial Cup.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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