TEMPE, Ariz. — A reporter gave Arizona State football coach Todd Graham an ultimatum at Saturday’s final spring practice: If you were going to play next week, which quarterback would start?
Graham smiled: “It would be the guy in the single digit number,” he said.
Manny Wilkins (No. 5), Brady White (No. 2) and Bryce Perkins (No. 3) all wear single digits, so Graham was clearly playing coy, but he did add this nugget: “Every day, when you’re here, I think after the spring, guys can tell who’s done what.”
A lot can happen over the summer and in fall camp. One player can progress through hard work and reps while another falls off. That said, if you were handicapping the Sun Devils’ quarterback race at the conclusion of spring ball, you would have to label it a two-horse race.
Wilkins has the lead, largely based on experience, but White is closing ground quickly and may have the greatest upside of the three. Perkins has fallen to a distant third.
“Manny has obviously been in some games before so I guess he’s got that leg up, but we’re still trying to figure out who leads our team the best and there’s so much more to it than who throws a touchdown in a scrimmage or a practice,” offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said. “We’ve graded every single throw every time they’ve been in a team setting. They’ve all three had their moments.”
Wilkins believes he has made strides in becoming a team leader and adapting to the Sun Devils’ tempo, but there are still concerns about his ability or patience to progress through his reads.
Lindsey added that White has made great strides in that area.
“In decision-making? I think he did,” Lindsey said. “He had a couple that showed up during the spring where he’ll tell you, ‘I went brain dead.’ What you want to see is a guy not repeat the same mistakes and I think that’s where he’s grown.”
White believes there is a lot more room for growth.
“I’ve always prided in myself in knowing where to go with the ball and that’s obviously huge when you play quarterback,” White said. “When you see something you have to know when the ball has to be out and you have to have the confidence in what you’re seeing to make that play. You can’t just be back there scrambling.
“I’ve been a sponge and soaked up as much as I can from the guys before me, and coach Lindsey. I have seen progress, but sometimes I’ll still get caught up looking at the rush a little bit or not finding my back quick enough. That comes with experience and learning from mistakes.”
Graham was careful to point out that nothing has been decided. Publicly at least, he’s still calling it a three-QB race.
“My first year here it was very much still a competition and I think it’s very much still a competition now,” he said. “What separated it that year was the summer and then fall camp. It’ll do the same here.”
The message was clear. Don’t rest on your laurels. Use the summer to take the next step or risk falling behind.
“In the summer, all their workouts are team led so you figure out real quick who takes charge,” Lindsey said. “Your team will probably know who the starter is before the coaches do. I think that’s what (Graham’s) saying. In the summer, who’s going to go to work? Who’s going to improve. When we go out here for the first day of fall camp, who has made the biggest improvement?”