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Graham: Mental game, maturity key to Wilkins’ improvement

Arizona State's Manny Wilkins (5) passes the ball during an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Lubbock, Texas. (Brad Tollefson/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP)
LISTEN: Todd Graham, ASU football head coach

Through four games this season, Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins has been solid.

After finishing last season with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Wilkins has clearly improved, but what has changed?

“I think the biggest thing is that I challenged him,” ASU head coach Todd Graham told Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “I said ‘well I am going to tell you, you got to stop playing quarterback with your athleticism and you need to start playing with your character and your smarts and that’s what a quarterback does is manage the game.’

Our goal is to have zero interceptions and zero turnovers.”

And while Wilkins has fumbled once this year, he’s the only starting Pac-12 quarterback without an interception. Through four games, he’s thrown for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns, completing 93 of his 140 pass attempts for a 66.4 completion percentage.

“I think he played solid Week 1 and I think he played solid Week 2, better Week 3, better Week 4. He’s just continuing to play better,” Graham said. We’ve got five receivers over 100 yards, no one in the country has that and I don’t think it’s been done here in that short amount of time.

“We’re spreading the ball around, he’s taking what they give us and we’re able to do that by him really being prepared and his intellect and his football smarts and him checking and getting us in the right place.”

In ASU’s upset win over the Oregon Ducks last Saturday, Wilkins went 24-39 for 347 yards, his most this season, and one touchdown. He also got it done on the ground, adding two more scores and 35 yards on 14 attempts.


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