Sun Devil Notebook – Adding Staff, A WR Transfer Offer & A Pac-12 Coaching Comp for Dillingham

We are less than a week into the Kenny Dillingham era at ASU, and moves are being made. On Wednesday afternoon, the program announced Charlie Ragle will join the staff as assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and defensive assistant. He joins Vince Amey as defensive line coach, Shaun Aguano as running backs coach and Joe Connolly has been retained as strength coach.

It seems as though they are already hitting the ground running.

Guillory Receives an Offer

Ragle is a coaching legend here in the state. He oversaw the Chaparral dynasty about 15 years ago before joining the University of Arizona staff. From there, he was on Justin Wilcox’s staff at Cal and took over the Idaho State program as head coach last year, where Amey was his defensive ends coach. 

The Bengals posted a 1-10 record, but wide receiver Xavier Guillory was a bright spot. The 6-foot-2 wide receiver led the team with 785 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He entered the transfer portal on Nov. 28 and quickly received and offer from ASU as Ragle and Amey were joining the staff.

The Sun Devils aren’t the only Pac-12 program to offer Guillory in the short time he’s been in the portal. Utah, Washington State and Colorado have also made offers, but the Sun Devils could have the inside track on him thanks to these coaching connections.

Also a reminder – the transfer portal officially opens on Dec. 5 for FBS players. Because Idaho State is in the FCS, programs can communicate with Guillory right now.

Quick Glance at the D-Line

So much of the focus for this new staff will be retaining players on the current roster as they weigh their options. There are a lot of factors that come into this decision, but building those relationships – a word Dillingham used time and again in his intro press conference – will be key.

Don’t believe me?

Look at what former defensive line coach Robert Rodriguez accomplished last offseason. 

Star sophomore Omarr Norman-Lott put his name in the transfer portal last offseason but retracted it, citing Rodriguez’s coaching as the main reason. Nesta Jade Silvera – a grad transfer from Miami – spoke highly of Rodriguez throughout the season. I don’t know if there was a position group that thought higher of their coach than the defensive lineman did of Rodriguez.

Vince Amey is very highly regarded in the state. He played on ASU’s 1996 Rose Bowl team. He has coached at multiple high schools in the state – including with Dillingham and Ragle at Chaparral, as well as the University of Arizona and the Arena Football League. He owns Red Dot Productions, which trains offensive and defensive lineman. 

He now oversees a very deep and talented group along the defensive line. If most of them stay in Tempe, Amey has a really good core to work with including Michael Matus, who was out for the season with a knee injury and has yet to discuss his future plans.

Seeing a Pac-12 Comp For Dillingham

The more I think about Kenny Dillingham’s hire, the more I see a parallel with another Pac-12 coach, at least in terms of their path to a head coaching position. That comp is Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith. 

After playing at Oregon State, Smith started his college coaching career at his alma mater as a grad assistant. He went on to be quarterback coach at Idaho, offensive coordinator at Montana for a season before linking up with Chris Petersen at Boise State and then Washington as offensive coordinator. He was hired by Oregon State ahead of the 2018 season at the 38 years old. This was a 14-year run to get Smith back to Oregon State as head coach.

Dillingham started his coaching career at Chaparral High School before graduating high school and spent six years on the coaching staff there. He became a grad assistant at Arizona State (his alma mater) in 2014. He joined Mike Norvell’s staff in Memphis as a grad assistant in 2016 and worked his way up to offensive coordinator in 2018. He was named offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2019 before rejoining Norvell at Florida State and oversaw the offense. He spent last season in Oregon with Dan Lanning as the offensive coordinator and play caller for the No. 4 offense in terms of yards per game before returning to Tempe to be the youngest coach in the Power 5 at 32 years old.

Started their career at alma mater – check
Coaching under the same head coach at multiple stops – check
Refining offenses in multiple conferences – check
Returning home to lead their Pac-12 program – check
Being a head coach of a Pac-12 program before age 40 – check

It’s not a perfect match. Smith spent 14 years in the college ranks before getting his first head coaching opportunity. Dillingham is in year 15 of his coaching career but year eight of his college career. He also spent a season at Auburn in between stints with Dillingham, where Smith hooked up with Petersen and didn’t look back. 

But there are plenty of similarities to see a link, and Sun Devil fans should be happy if the Devils are on that course. Smith is the conference coach of the year in my opinion and has brought consistency to a program that was at the bottom of the Pac-12. If Dillingham can bring that to a program in a bigger city and market with better resources, ASU could be in a really good place in the coming years.

Buckle up, everyone. Signing day is three weeks away and the transfer portal will really kick off on Dec. 5. Look for the Arizona State staff to fill out pretty quickly at some positions and for a lot of movement as this new staff takes shape.