November 27, 2022
TEMPE — Arizona State University is ushering in a new era of Sun Devil Football, naming alumnus Kenny Dillingham as the 26th head coach of the program, as announced by Vice President of University Athletics Ray Anderson and University President Dr. Michael Crow. The hire is pending approval by the Arizona Board of Regents.
“We are proud to announce Kenny Dillingham as our new head football coach. He brings the energy, knowledge and appreciation of our state and university that is valued by all of us,” Anderson said. “His knowledge of the current college football landscape, learned by coaching across the nation, is needed and wanted at ASU. He will care at the highest level about our state, our alumni, our former players and every single group that is important to help us win. We look forward to working with him and all Sun Devils in making his staff successful and helping our program reach our goals.”
“Kenny Dillingham knows what it takes to be an elite program, and he has enjoyed success each time he joined a program,” added President Crow, “His offenses are dynamic, and he understands recruiting, the importance of NIL, and the need to connect with Sun Devils past and present. We are committed to athletic success, and Sun Devil Football is an important part of the success of the university. We are excited to welcome Kenny home.”
A Valley native raised in Scottsdale and a 2013 graduate of Arizona State (Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies/Business and Communication), Dillingham returns home heralded as one of the bright and most innovative offensive minds in college football and one of the most promising young coordinators in the FBS. It marks the first time in Sun Devil Football’s modern era that a graduate has been named the head coach.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be named the head coach at Arizona State University. This is a special place to myself and my wife who is also a graduate. I truly believe the team we will build here is one that the state of Arizona and all Sun Devils can rally behind and be proud of as it will take everyone in the valley to help this program achieve the level of success it is due. I am excited to get to work and promise no one will work harder than the staff we will put together.”
Dillingham returns to Tempe after building his resume with a track record of impressive tenures at Memphis, Auburn, Florida State and most recently as the offensive coordinator at the University of Oregon. At Oregon, he is a nominee for the 2022 Broyles Award, presented annually to the top assistant coach in college football.
Dillingham was an offensive assistant for the Sun Devils in 2014 and ’15 where, even then, he was regarded around the program as an offensive wunderkind that would have a long and notable career in the coaching ranks at the highest level of college football.
Dillingham has been instrumental in developing numerous dynamic and explosive offenses with a track record of success in developing elite quarterbacks. Dillingham also built a reputation as a relentless recruiter with incredible energy, detail orientation and persistence.
A coordinator making the transition to first-time head coach, Dillingham need look no further than the coaching tree that has produced him for experience, having twice worked under coaches that successfully made the same transition. Dillingham began his Division I coaching career under coordinator-turned-first-time head coach Mike Norvell at Memphis (currently at Florida State). While at Memphis, Dillingham also spent two seasons enjoying a glimpse of the meteoric rise of Dan Lanning as Lanning would go on to be the defensive coordinator for the 2021 national champion, Georgia, prior to accepting the head coaching position at Oregon, where Dillingham was one of his first hires. Both Florida State and Oregon rank in the Top-25 in the 2022 College Football Playoff rankings.
Since assuming the title of offensive coordinator for the first time in 2018 at Memphis, Dillingham’s offenses have produced at the highest level across four conferences, with his offense finishing fourth in the FBS in yards per game in 2018 (523.1) and finishing the current regular season with Oregon fourth in the FBS at 507.8 yards per game. His team’s scoring offenses have been highlighted with tallies of 42.9 points per game at Memphis in 2018 (7th in FBS), 33.3 points per game in the SEC at Auburn in 2019 (28th in FBS) and 39.7 yards per game after the regular season this year at Oregon (8th in the FBS).
Under Dillingham’s guidance, Oregon quarterback Bo Nix heard his name in Heisman Trophy conversations across the season. The duo rekindled an electric dynamic that started when Dillingham was the offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2019, guiding Nix – the first true freshman to start at quarterback in modern Auburn history – to SEC Freshman of the Year accolades.
The pair didn’t miss a step this season reunited after Nix’s transfer with the senior ranking second in the nation in completion percentage (71.5), eighth in the nation in passing efficiency (167.0), 13th in passing touchdowns (27), 12th in total passing yards (3,389) and 16th in passing yards per game (282.4), third in points responsible for (254) and third in points responsible for per game (21.2). That comes while also being 11th in the FBS in rushing touchdowns (14) and eighth in total offense (324.4).
The team has allowed the fewest sacks in the FBS this season (4.0) while ranking in the Top-10 in the FBS in first downs per game (26.8), red zone touchdowns (46), plays over 10 yards (217) and total yards per play (6.94) while posting Top-25 tallies in rushing yards per game (216.3) and passing yards per game (291.4).
The 2022 Oregon offense excelled in every advanced metric this season, ranking 10th in the FBS in Expected Points Added per game (12.79), second in EPA per play (.314), first in EPA per rush (.306) and eighth in EPA per pass (.322). The team is tops in the nation in stringing together long scoring drives, averaging 4.14 points per drive when starting inside their own 20-yard line.
After two seasons as an offensive assistant at ASU (2014-15), Dillingham’s career began to blossom after he followed former Sun Devil offensive coordinator Mike Norvell to the latter’s first head coaching role at Memphis, serving as a graduate assistant in 2016 before being elevated to the quarterbacks and tight ends coach in 2017 and ultimately being named offensive coordinator in 2018.
In 2018, Dillingham coordinated a Memphis offense that broke program records with 7,324 yards of total offense and 3,919 rushing yards. The rushing attack was the fourth-best in the nation, averaging 279.9 yards per game, and its 48 touchdowns on the ground was the second-highest total in the country. He helped produce the first season in Memphis history with two 1,000-yard rushers, led by Doak Walker Award finalist and unanimous All-American Darrell Henderson, who ranked second in the country with 1,909 yards, 22 touchdowns and an average of 8.92 yards per carry.
The Tigers ranked fourth in the country with an average of 523.1 yards per game and 7.12 yards per play in 2018. They were also seventh nationally with 42.9 points per game. Quarterback Brady White directed the record-setting offense and passed for 3,296 yards with 25 touchdowns after transferring from Arizona State.
The 2017 team scored 45.5 points per game, the second-highest average in the country, and ranked fourth in the NCAA with 523.1 yards per game and 7.35 yards per play. With Dillingham coaching quarterbacks and tight ends, the team was sixth in the nation in passing efficiency (160.15) and its passing offense totaled 335.0 yards per game to rank seventh. Quarterback Riley Ferguson ranked third in the country with 4,257 passing yards and 38 passing touchdowns en route to earning first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors. Tight End Joey Magnifico caught 21 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns to earn second-team All-AAC honors in his first season as a starter.
The 2017 season also saw Dillingham named as the No. 2 recruiter in the American Athletic Conference by 247Sports.
In his first year at Memphis, Dillingham worked with the quarterbacks as a graduate assistant. The 2016 Tigers ranked in the top-15 nationally in scoring offense, averaging 38.8 points per game, and in passing offense at 304.4 yards per game. Ferguson passed for 3,698 yards and 32 touchdowns, breaking the program record that he would break again in 2017.
Dillingham would later join Norvell as offensive coordinator at Florida State in 2020.
Dillingham spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Florida State, adjusting his scheme to fit multiple quarterbacks in both seasons as the Seminoles dealt with injuries at the position.
In 2021, FSU’s offense was among the most explosive in the nation, finishing 18th nationally in plays for 60-plus yards (6) and eighth with three touchdowns longer than 75 yards. The Seminoles were also one of the top teams in the nation in red zone scoring, converting their final 32 trips to the red zone into points, the second-longest streak in the nation during the 2021 season. Florida State scored 195 points (25 touchdowns, seven field goals) on 32 trips to the red zone in its final nine games.
Dillingham leaned on a strong running game that saw Florida State rank fourth in the ACC with 4.78 yards per rush. The Seminoles offensive line battled injuries that forced it to use the second-most starting offensive line combinations in the country (8) and still managed to produce six games with 200-or-more rushing yards.
During Dillingham’s first season in Tallahassee the Seminoles averaged 199.9 rushing yards per game, the program’s highest since 2016 and 20th nationally among teams that played at least nine games in 2020. Florida State averaged 5.11 yards per rush, its most in a season since 2015. Florida State topped 400 yards of total offense in five of the last seven games, including more than 500 yards of total offense twice, and produced FSU’s first game with at least 250 yards rushing and passing since 2016.
Dillingham was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Auburn in 2019, when he coached freshman quarterback Bo Nix to SEC Freshman of the Year honors. Nix broke the program’s freshman records for completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns while becoming the first true freshman QB to start a season opener for Auburn since 1946.
Dillingham helped the Tigers to a 9-3 record and an invitation to the Outback Bowl. The team’s scoring offense ranked third in the conference and 28th nationally with an average of 33.2 points per game. In Dillingham’s final game coordinating Auburn’s offense, the Tigers scored 48 points in a win over No. 5 Alabama – the most points allowed by the Crimson Tide under head coach Nick Saban.
Dillingham got his start in coaching at Chaparral High School in Arizona after tearing his ACL as a senior. He began working with the junior varsity team before being elevated to the offensive coordinator role of the varsity squad at the age of 21. Dillingham coordinated the No. 1 offense in Arizona in 2013 as the Firebirds won 12 games and advanced to the Division II state championship game.
Dillingham is joined in Tempe by his wife, Briana, and son, Kent.
COURTESY ARIZONA STATE ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS