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ASU head coach Todd Graham: We have a starting quarterback

Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Southern California Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The question as to who will line up under center and take the snaps at quarterback for the 2017 Arizona State Sun Devils may have been answered on Thursday, exactly six weeks before the season opener.

It’s Manny Wilkins’ job to lose, according to head coach Todd Graham.

“We have a returning starter. He’s the starting quarterback until somebody beats him out,” he said, leaving the door open for sophomore transfer Blake Barnett.

“Is there competition? Big-time competition. I like that,” Graham continued.

Wilkins and Barnett split first-team reps during spring football, with Wilkins appearing to have a stronger hold on the position at the conclusion of the 15 practices, though the two were listed as co-No. 1 in the post-spring depth chart.

Wilkins will now go into fall practice as the clear front-runner to start against New Mexico State on Thursday, August 31.

ASU begins practice next Tuesday.

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Wilkins started 10 games, completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 2,329 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 246 yards — the third-best mark on the team — and five scores.

Wilkins played much of 2016 hurt, however. He suffered an ankle injury at USC on Oct. 1. Toe and shoulder issues followed that and either limited his performance or kept him off the field entirely, forcing the Sun Devils to play redshirt freshman Brady White and true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole after White injured his right foot against UCLA.

White, according to Graham, is not expected to be available this season.

“He’s working hard in his rehabilitation to make it back. I don’t project that will be this year, but he is working his tail off to do that. He is not out of the year, but it was a 12-month recovery with his injury. Really proud of him in how hard he’s working to make it back and that’s critical to us as well,” Graham said, speaking to reporters from the new Student-Athlete Facility.

Last season Graham waited until the day before the first game to officially name Wilkins his starting quarterback. Wilkins beat out White, as well as Bryce Perkins, who has since transferred.

It’s now Barnett, a former five-star recruit and one-time Alabama starter, who stands between Wilkins and a second consecutive Week 1 assignment.

“Like I said, we have a starting quarterback and so as far as making an announcement,” Graham said, “if somebody beats him out, I guess, we can make that announcement, but right now we have a starting quarterback and Blake knows that. He’s got to beat him out. I’m looking forward to seeing that competition.”

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