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And they’re off: The QB1 race begins at Arizona State

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham stands on the sideline during an NCAA college football game against Washington, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The number is six.

There are six quarterbacks who will compete to be the Arizona State Sun Devils starting quarterback in 2017.

It’s a competition that is not expected to determine a winner until fall, perhaps as late as the days leading up to the Aug. 31 season opener against New Mexico State.

Yet despite the five-plus month wait, the quarterback position will be the most talked about aspect in this, the sixth year of head coach Todd Graham.

And the first words were spoken Thursday.

Following the Sun Devils’ second of 15 spring practices, five of the currently available signal-callers addressed the assembled media.

In alphabetical order:

*Blake Barnett, redshirt sophomore; listed at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, he’s the heralded transfer from Alabama*

“I’m trying to come out here and give the best that I have. I came here for a reason. I have full belief in myself. I think that if I’m able to perform at my top level and play the best that I can play, I believe I will be successful. I came in here with, not that arrogance, but just that confidence in myself, so I’ll hold myself to that standard.”

*Bryce Perkins, redshirt sophomore; listed at 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds, he’s limited here in spring but expects to be “full-go” by fall camp as he rehabs from a serious neck injury that sidelined him all of last season*

“It definitely makes me appreciate the game more. Make sure that, now, every rep never take it for granted because you never know if you’re going to get a next one. So, having that happen to me, I’m coming back and saying  — I get it from my brother — my vision is clear now. God allowed me to come back from an injury like that, so I won’t take it for granted. I’ll make the most of it.”

*Dillon Sterling-Cole, sophomore; listed at 6-foot-3 and 204 pounds (15 pounds heavier than a season ago), he started at Oregon on Oct. 29*

“Coming in now, I feel more comfortable. I have more confidence in myself…being able to handle that adversity as a freshman and now coming into spring and knowing how to cope with some of those difficulties playing quarterback here I feel like this spring should go well for me.”

*Brady White, redshirt sophomore; listed at 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, he’s being held out of spring practice as precaution as he recovers from a right foot injury suffered against UCLA on Oct. 8*

“What we’re expecting is for me to be back beginning of summer, be able to do the full program and compete in the fall. Right now, it feels fine. There’s no pain with what I’m doing (throwing on the side). It’s just a matter of continuing to be patient and let it get back.”

*Manny Wilkins, redshirt junior; listed at 6-foot-3 and 197 pounds, he completed 63.3 percent of his pass attempts for 2,329 yards and 12 touchdowns despite dealing with ankle, foot and shoulder injuries throughout the season*

“I’m as confident as I’ve ever been. I’ve worked my butt off this offseason to just get bigger, get stronger; get mentally stronger and just being out there and throwing with the quarterback coach and all that stuff. Just little things that I need to get better on to take myself to the next level. Obviously, getting injured last year, it sucked, but it’s part of the journey, it’s part of the road that I’m on and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”

The last of the six quarterbacks will arrive in the fall. That’s 6-foot-4, 190-pound Ryan Kelley, a local kid out of Chandler Basha High School who signed with ASU after decommitting from Oregon.

Again, all six have been told it’s an open competition.

“We have enough talent. It’s getting the right people on the field at the right time. The first component to that is getting the guy that’s going to elevate the other 10 guys at quarterback,” Graham said. “Obviously, Manny is our returning starter and he’s got competition there, so that will be something that I think is going to be very competitive throughout the spring.”

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