Spring evaluation: QB preparedness grades

As the spring schedule wraps up, SunDevilSource.com is providing preparedness and long-term potential grades of every player on the Arizona State roster, starting with offensive linemen. We also rank each player in the group in terms of current competency.

1. Mike Bercovici (senior) -- In many ways, Bercovici is the personification of Arizona State coach Todd Graham's program ideology. A fifth year senior, this spring Bercovici became the first offensive player in three years to wear the Pat Tillman Practice jersey. He's a truly great student-athlete in every respect: a team leader; a community service figure; a post-graduate high-academic achiever. On the field, he's improved dramatically. Bercovici was doughy and relatively immobile as a freshman and wore a heavy knee brace, a marker of his status as a pocket passer. Those things are gone now. He's much leaner and dramatically quicker, better able to execute the full gamut of the Sun Devil offense.

Though he's never going to be considered a great athlete or a true high end run threat in the read option component of the ASU scheme, he will keep defenses honest, at a minimum. On speed outs he stresses defenses laterally quite well, particularly in the red zone, and is accurate even at a brisk pace moving to his throwing side. Primarily though, Bercovici is a pocket passer who stands tall and will step forward and drive the football, and do so with a quick release. He's more a rhythm passer and has more of an ability to utilize the full route tree of the ASU offense than his predecessor. He makes pro throws, driving the ball on deep posts or sharp out/in cuts even better than throws that require more finesse. On in-between types of throws, his touch isn't ideal. On downfield shots Bercovici is prone to not putting enough air under the ball, particularly when his target has beaten a defender, and this creates too little margin for error on the attempts.

Where Bercovici is perhaps most improved is with his fluent command of the ASU offense and how quickly he's able to run the hurry up capability, often ready to snap the ball much sooner than the rest of the personnel and imploring them to have a greater sense of urgency. He knows where everyone is and should be at all times and has good coverage recognition pre and post snap, including blitz identification. These things, coupled with more maturity and less pressure -- something that led him to try too hard to make plays when immersed in a true quarterback competition earlier in his career -- have led to Bercovici being much more willing to hit his check downs and hot targets and take what defenses give him. It has reduced his ball jeopardy frequency dramatically. But in tight games, this tendency may creep back into his mentality and has to be watched and managed carefully. It is evident at times in scrimmages when he's pressing to make a play. Overall, he has done a very good job of maximizing his potential from a skill development standpoint and is a more capable college quarterback than we once anticipated he would likely become. Preparedness Grade: 4 / Potential Grade: 4

2. Manny Wilkins (Redshirt Freshman) -- From a tools standpoint, Wilkins is extremely intriguing and someone who clearly has a high upside. He's a very good athlete for a quarterback, both from a mobility standpoint and also with his arm. He has good ball velocity and a lot of range as a thrower and delivers a remarkably clean ball with consistency. Wilkins is also very accurate and probably has a better overall combination of touch and accuracy than Bercovici, with no less range as a thrower even though his ball velocity and ability to fit throws into tight windows isn't as developed.

As a prospect, Wilkins is a fantastic fit for the Sun Devil offense. He has great suddenness exiting the mesh point with the football in the read option component of the game, and makes good defender reads quickly. Wilkins can stress a defense at the line of scrimmage in a way the other quarterbacks on the roster can't, and in the open field he's quite shifty and elusive. In spring practices the game seemed to slow down to some degree for Wilkins, and enabled him to show more poise in the pocket and work through his progressions better. But in the Spring Game, this largely evaporated and he was back to a limiting tendency to bring his eyes down quickly and become more of a ball carrier than a deliverer. He has to overcome this.

The whole key for Wilkins' ability to fully unlock his potential is forcing himself to remain in the pocket, feeling the rush instead of looking at it, and going through progressions, even if it means taking sacks in practice. He will need to get his eyes through the full progression quite a bit more quickly, while at the same time being able to more quickly process the pictures his brain is seeing in the defensive secondary. Wilkins knows the offense relatively well already and can recognize coverages in the film room, but doing so at the pace needed to be a high end BCS quarterback remains some distance away. He also needs to continue to get bigger and stronger, as he's a bit leaner than you'd want at the position given the amount of pounding he would take as a function of his plus-mobility. Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 4.5

3. Brady White (freshman) -- There's an awful lot to like about White's potential as a college quarterback, starting with his truly remarkable poise. White is completely unflappable for a true freshman, in a way we've never seen from an ASU true freshman quarterback in the last decade. As a coach you'd much rather have a player too comfortable in the pocket than not comfortable enough, and White provides this to his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Norvell. Along with that, White is already very impressive at keeping his eyes down field and feeling the rush as opposed to looking at it. White is different than Wilkins in that when he's moving he's still much more looking to throw the ball than Wilkins, who becomes much more of a rusher. White isn't as athletic as Wilkins but has much better than average mobility, and is a very good play extension quarterback prospect. Right now he'll take more sacks than he should, but it's because he's working through progressions and really absorbing what he's seeing down the field and trying to hold on long enough to make a play. That's a very encouraging thing for a young quarterback's overall potential.

White has a good arm, probably not quite as good as Wilkins or Bercovici right now, but certainly he's got the ability to make all the throws in the ASU offense. He also throws a very clean ball and has perhaps the best accuracy and touch among the ASU quarterbacks -- better than Bercovici and it's very close between White and Wilkins. Mechanically, White will occasionally lose discipline with his footwork when delivering the football, particularly after being flushed, not getting set when he has time to do so. He sometimes will also get a bit lackadaisical with his throwing mechanic, but less so in the spring with Norvell closely watching than he showed when running for his life on a near-every play basis last season at Hart. White has already gained more than 10 pounds since he arrived at ASU, and should eventually play north of 200 pounds, with a nice frame at 6-foot-2. He's different from Wilkins, but also has a very high ceiling. Right now it's a virtual toss up between Wilkins and White, with a slight edge to Wilkins due to his ability to run the read option and be a major athletic threat. But White is already right there and has only been in the program three months, much further along than the typical true freshman quarterback. Preparedness Grade: 2.5 / Potential Grade: 4.5

Preparedness/Potential Grade Key

5: All-American level performer

4: First/second team all-league level performer

3: Mid-level Pac-12 performer

2: Fringe Pac-12 performer

1: Non-Pac-12 level performer

Editor's note: Players are ranked in terms of overall current preparedness and not based on potential.


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