TEMPE, Ariz. – Five days ahead of its season opener, Arizona State head coach Todd Graham declined to name a starting quarterback. It’s a stance he’s held since fall practice began and even going back to the spring.
The latest Sun Devils depth chart, released Monday, lists redshirt sophomore Manny Wilkins or redshirt freshman Brady White at the position.
“We’ve got, obviously, the two guys that we have a lot of confidence in,” Graham said, adding during his weekly press conference that he would defer any official announcement until given the OK by first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Chip Lindsey.
Of course, whether that happens before Saturday, when ASU kicks off 2016 against Northern Arizona University at a renovated Sun Devil Stadium, is unknown.
Regular observers of practice, however, noticed Wilkins lining up with the first-team offense during open periods all last week.
“Our team knows who our guy is and will run out there with the starting lineup,” Graham said. “But we’ve got two guys that we got a lot of confidence in with Manny and Brady and then a young quarterback that will be our third guy, (freshman) Dillon Sterling-Cole that is extremely talented and has had a great camp.
“That’s where we’re at, and we’ll announce it when we get ready.”
Wilkins, listed at 6-foot-3 and 190-pounds, has always been considered the favorite to lead the Sun Devils this season and replace Mike Bercovici, who graduated and signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Wilkins backed up Bercovici a year ago, seeing limited action. In three games, Wilkins rushed for 55 yards on seven carries. He did not attempt a pass.
In fact, according to ASU’s own research, the Sun Devils are one of only two FBS teams nationally, joining the Tulane Green Wave out of the American Athletic Conference, without a quarterback on the roster that’s thrown a pass in Division-I.
Because of the uncertainty at quarterback, as well as offensive line and secondary, the expectations for ASU this season are the lowest they’ve been since Graham arrived in 2012. The media picked the Sun Devils to finish fifth in the Pac-12 South in the conference preseason poll.
That’s not to say ASU can’t win with an inexperienced quarterback. The learning curve may just be a little steeper.
With Wilkins, though he lacks the game experience, he is entering his third year in the program.
“I can still remember him coming in as a freshman,” Graham said. “That’s the most immature you’re going to be when you come in as a freshman. But he’s matured a great deal, and the biggest thing I would point to his academics. I think he had a 3.6 or so GPA last semester.
“There’s a standard with those quarterbacks, you look at both he and Brady and Bryce (Perkins). The guys that have come before them have left a really strong legacy on what it takes to be a quarterback here and it’s leading by your actions on the field, off the field and in the classroom.”
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