By Charles Wulf
TEMPE, Ariz. — With the Sun Devils ranked 15th in the preseason AP Poll, Coach Graham has his team focused on Texas A&M. The Devils have an experienced senior quarterback in Mike Bercovici and are poised for a big season.
While there isn’t any speculation about who will start under center, there are questions surrounding the backup quarterback. Graham has reiterated that the number two quarterback has yet to be named.
“I think that’s far from being wrapped up,” Graham said after practice when asked about the number two quarterback.
Currently there are three players competing for the number two spot. Manny Wilkins, a redshirt freshman, was with the team last year and has spent the most time in Mike Norvell’s system. Freshman Brady White, a highly touted recruit, graduated from high school early to participate in ASU’s spring practice. The third quarterback in the race is true freshman Bryce Perkins. Perkins led Chandler High School to a state title last fall.
Ideally, the Devils would like to redshirt their freshmen quarterbacks — White and Perkins — which would allow them to save a year of eligibility. However, redshirt freshman Wilkins has yet to differentiate himself from the other two quarterbacks, and clearly struggled in the Camp T scrimmage, behind White and Perkins.
“Obviously we would like for Manny [Wilkins] to step up and to be that number two guy,” Graham said. “All those three guys are still really close, and as far as a guy that is prepared, we’ve got a lot of work to do there.”
Graham has expressed his concerns about backup quarterback before. During ASU’s media day on August 8, Graham addressed the lack of a number two quarterback, saying:
“We’ve got one guy with experience and no one else with any.”
Despite the quarterback battle behind Bercovici with just 12 days until the first game, Graham believes that White and Perkins can help ASU’s defense prepare for the quarterbacks that they will eventually see during the season.
“We’ve got the other two young guys [White and Perkins] down here because I think they can help us get prepared for possibly two quarterbacks we’re going to see,” Graham said.
With Perkins and White playing on the scout team, Wilkins is the preferred choice to replace Bercovici if needed. But, Wilkins has failed to show he can handle the number two spot.
A decision by the Sun Devils coaching staff — head coach Graham and offensive coordinator Norvell — has to be made soon. It will simply be too much to ask of Perkins and White to learn the scout team offense and ASU’s game plan each week.
“I think Coach Norvell and myself would tell you that’s still a competition underway,” Graham said. “Right now, he [Wilkins] is running with the twos and we’ll see how it goes.”
ASU has enjoyed a luxury at quarterback for the past several years by having Taylor Kelly and Bercovici. Both were fully capable of being starters at the Division I level. So, last season when Kelly went out with an injury, Bercovici stepped in to lead the Devils to a 2-1 record.
But with less than two weeks before the season opener in Houston against Texas A&M, Graham and his coaching staff are hopeful Wilkins steps up to clearly take hold of the number two quarterback position. If nothing becomes cut and dry, the coaching staff will have a tough decision on their hands.