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ASU’s Wilkins: ‘I’ve invested too much into this program’ to be complacent

Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins throws prior to an NCAA college football game against UTSA, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

TEMPE, Ariz. — As ASU head coach Herm Edwards neared the end of his press conference, quarterback Manny Wilkins slinked into the room and sat by the door in a corner, out of the sight of most media members.

“Sometimes when you have a high-flying offense, and you’re not in the 20s (points) before halftime, you get, like, ‘What’s wrong?’ Nothing’s wrong, it’s just, you don’t get in the 20s all the time,” Edwards was saying.

Wilkins was staring dead-eyed straight ahead, but when he made eye contact with a staff member of the athletic department, he gave a small smile above his large beard.

When it was his turn to talk, he was asked what he thought about Edwards’ words.

“I wasn’t listening. I was zoned out,” he admitted.

It was his brief respite between a two-hour practice on a day that hit 107 degrees and interviews with multiple national radio stations.

But after being told the context of Edwards’ quote, he delved in.

“It’s all about adapting to each situation the correct way,” Wilkins said. “Whether it be games where we throw 30 up the first half, what are we going to do in the second half? Are we going to get complacent?”

His story of adapting to the circumstances has been well-told, whether it’s waiting behind former quarterbacks Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici, overcoming injuries or fighting off competing quarterbacks who were the assumed heir apparents to Bercovici.

Complacency? He hasn’t shown that.

After a pair of wins, Wilkins is making sure his teammates aren’t either.

“Lately, I’ve been holding the offense back and we’ve been running about four, five half-gassers just to get some extra conditioning in, just to separate ourselves just a little bit from everybody else,” he said.

“Tuesday, I found myself like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I really want to run today.’”

They had beaten Michigan State less than 72 hours prior and were a ranked team.

That calls for some leniency, right?

“I saw a couple guys kind of dragging around and it hit me, it was like, if you want to be great, what it took to get to what we’ve done – and we’re nowhere close to where we want to be – but we’ve had a little bit of success and now we can’t get complacent,” Wilkins said.

It’s only been two games.

Wilkins has been at a similar point. ASU started 5-1 in 2016 — though no opponent in that stretch matched Michigan State’s caliber — before the team was plagued by injuries and lost its final six games.

“I’ve invested too much into this program, I’ve invested too much time. Guys that are on that field that have been here for four years, they’ve invested too much time for somebody that it’s their first year for them to feel sorry about their body being hurt or for them to miss an assignment. I’m not with that,” Wilkins said.

“If you’re going to miss an assignment and you’re going to do that continuously – after one, it’s like, OK, I understand, but if you do it two, three, four times? Dawg, you can’t be – you’re not trusted. You’re not dependable. You can’t be on the field because I don’t feel comfortable having you on the field at the time.”

Wilkins is living for offensive coordinator Rob Likens’ “DBS” motto: “Don’t be soft.”

“We can’t say, ‘Hey man, we’re a little sore, we had a big game last week, we’re good, we’re good, we played hard,” Wilkins said. “Nuh-uh. We’re not doing that. We’re going to continue to do what we did because it’s what got us to where we are.

“And on top of that, now we need to start doing more.”

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