PAYSON, Ariz. — Quarterback Brady White was conducting his media interviews on Wednesday after practice when Manny Wilkins, his teammate and main competition, snuck up behind him and gave him a Wet Willy on camera.
The competition for Arizona State’s starting quarterback job may be ratcheting up a notch this week as the Sun Devils open training camp with one month left before their season opener, but offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey insists Wilkins, White and Bryce Perkins are still sitting around the Camp Tontozona fires at night, singing Kumbaya.
“They all are competitive, don’t get me wrong,” Lindsey said. “But I think they’re all Sun Devils. They want to win.”
Nobody outside the program can say for certain who will start behind center when ASU hosts Northern Arizona on Sept. 3 at Sun Devil Stadium. The safe bet is on the redshirt sophomore Wilkins, based on his extra year in the program, his nominal game experience and that big arm.
Others believe White, a redshirt freshman, has the greatest upside while a faction of Sun Devils insiders view Perkins, another redshirt freshman, as the darkhorse.
Coach Todd Graham didn’t provide any hints when he was asked, yet again, when he planned to name his starter.
“The day we play the first game,” he said, smiling. “Why would you do anything different? Our players know exactly where we’re at right now. I would never wait with my team to tell them who the starting quarterback is, but why would we give somebody an advantage by doing that?
“Our guys know this. We’re going to play the best people. It’s the one that activates those other 10 guys and can move us down the field. I like the progression of where those guys are at.”
There wasn’t much to glean from ASU’s first day of camp (without pads), which was moved to Payson’s Rumsey Park due to rain at Camp T. Wilkins began practice with the first team, but White took plenty of first-team reps as well. Perkins and true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole worked with the newcomers for the final portion of practice, but it was cut short by lightning.
Lindsey said the quarterbacks would rotate on Day 2, meaning Perkins and perhaps Sterling-Cole could work with the first and second teams on Thursday.
Wilkins showed off his strong arm on deep and intermediate routes. White showed a deft touch by threading a pass between two defenders to a receiver.
“You have to approach every rep like it’s your last,” White said. “Obviously, you’re competing to win a job but you’re out here to work together as a team. It’s ultimately a season that we need to put together, not an individual performance, so I’m just looking to put this team in the best position I can.”
Wilkins, White and Perkins have all heard the concerns about ASU’s lack of experience at quarterback, but Wilkins said he doesn’t give that a second thought.
“Why is that? Because I’m cool, calm, collected and confident,” he said. “I’m just competing with myself, to be honest. If I make mistakes, I correct myself on the mistakes that I make and I don’t make them again.”
Even when ASU names a starter, Lindsey is confident his players will remember that the competition for the job never ends.
“I think college football does that; it’s a results-oriented business,” he said. “You have to play well to keep your job no matter what position. Even if you don’t win the job, you’re one play away from being the next guy. One of the things about being in college football is they have to be mature enough to understand that, and we’ve got some mature guys.”
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