Quarterbacks working to put final touches on spring development

Arizona State's three-man battle at quarterback should continue into the fall, but players are trying to keep focus on finishing the spring successfully.

While Arizona State’s spring practices are coming to a close at the end of the week, the three-way quarterback race is still ongoing and will be into fall camp – quite possibly even through the first game of the season.

But for ASU sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins and redshirt freshmen Brady White and Bryce Perkins this week serves as a final chance to impress coaches before summer workouts begin.  

“Every week I strive to win the day, win the day and beat everybody out,” Perkins said. “This last week is just final touching points. Make sure you leave with an impression and go out strong and we have a big evaluation coming up so it’s about doing everything right. All the details, and make sure all the mistakes we made earlier in the film room get corrected.”

Through spring, it was stated early on by ASU head coach Todd Graham and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey the three quarterbacks would be equally splitting up team period reps at practice.  

Since then, there has been no indication of who has slight edge with spring winding down and on Friday, Lindsey said he doesn’t “see it being anywhere close right now for sure.”  

"I'll say this, they both had their good days and they both had their okay days,” Lindsey said regarding the quarterbacks. “None of them, I said both, I meant all three. None of them had terrible days and that’s, some of that goes with that they are really preparing each day. They study. That’s different than some of the other places I’ve been. They already know the install so really I’m just reviewing it with them and that’s a testament to them.”

Wilkins said he already sees improvement in his game this spring and he’s confident and comfortable with the relationships he’s made with the receivers so far. Along with building those connections on the field, studying film off the field is a huge component to Wilkins’ progress.

“Like on days like today, right after practice I’ll get dressed, go eat, go watch film right now and after that I’ll go home and watch film because they put corrections on there, but I watch the practice before corrections get on there to see if I can pick up on it first,” Wilkins said. “So then I’ll watch it after corrections and then go do tutoring or whatever and then when I get home and have nothing else to do, homework done and everything, I’ll go through again and watch everything and get game reps mentally.”

From a skill development standpoint, Wilkins said he’s more patient than he has been and can read the defense and pick up things a little quicker on the field.

In addition to working on the skill set of the quarterbacks, Lindsey said the offense has worked in a lot of situational periods and have talked a lot about ball security –  something Graham has preached all spring.

As far teaching the quarterbacks when to put the ball up and let the receivers make a play versus not putting the ball in jeopardy, Lindsey said it’s a fine line for quarterbacks to make.

The hardest thing about playing the quarterback position is understanding the game well enough to know when it’s the right time to take chances and when they really should throw it away, according to Lindsey.

“It’s pretty much based on game situation,” Perkins said. “You have to know what down it is and what down and distance it is. What you need. If you need a field goal, if you need to score, if you need to drive. When is that in the game. Is it late? Is it early? So it’s just about the game situation and the game awareness you have to have.”

White tends to take more sacks than Wilkins or Perkins in the team periods media have been able to view, but he said it’s all about trusting the offensive line to hold their protection and waiting for the opportune moment to find the open receiver under pressure.

“If a guy (receiver) is struggling off the line of scrimmage it’s probably not the best option to just throw it out there because the [defensive back] is going to have his eyes around and be ready so it could be ball in jeopardy, but for the most part our guys are winning, so sometimes you might have to sit and wait for their eyes to get around and anticipate that, but it’s your job to get the ball and it’s all the timing you work on,” White said.

Lindsey said the quarterbacks have done a good job so far on base downs in their decision-making with the football and by making the offense simple, that’s a way to aid the young quarterbacks.

But with only two spring practices remaining, Wednesday and Saturday, the quarterbacks are already looking ahead to summer and how they will plan to improve on their own time.

“During the summer time when we can’t work with the coaches or anything, we will have skill development about three times a week,” Wilkins said. “Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, we’ll go out and do 7-on-7, go through some team tempo, stuff like that. Things that we really do at practice, just no coaches, music is on and having fun.”

Offensive position group improvements  

While the quarterback battle is receiving a lot of attention this spring, other position groups –the young offensive line, tight ends, and wide receivers – have also impressed Lindsey.   

Redshirt junior wide receiver Cameron Smith junior wide receiver Ellis Jefferson and senior Tim White have all jumped out at Lindsey as wideouts who have met or exceeded his expectations coming into spring camp.

“Obviously Cam (Smith), it’s been my first experience with him and he’s been impressive. He’s a good looking guy,” Lindsey said. “I thought Tim White has been what Tim White was coming out of last season.

“Ellis Jefferson has been a really good surprise. He has had a good spring.”  

With injuries this spring to senior tight end Kody Kohl (leg), and junior tight end Grant Martinez, Lindsey has also seen improvements from both sophomore tight end Jay JayJay Wilson and junior tight end Raymond Epps.

Epps has been working mainly with the first team during team periods with Wilson also getting reps in with redshirt freshman Tommy Hudson.    

“I think Jay Jay Wilson, he jumps out at me,” Lindsey said. “I think Raymond Epps is another guy. He’s a long bodied guy who can make plays. Jay Jay has had great energy and is physical at the point of contact. I think our o-line as a unit has been a surprise. Those guys have gelled together. Those guys seem to be bonding.

“To me I just want to see us get better each day and to me those are the guys I see are going to stick out at the end.”

Examining all the groups on offense since his arrival to Tempe in December, Lindsey said one of the key components to the 2016 season will be continuing to run the ball – something Lindsey noted wasn’t a strength for ASU in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl against West Virginia.  

In that game, ASU junior running back Demario Richard had 11 carries for only 48 yards while junior running back Kalen Ballage had 12 carries for 26 yards.

Combine those stats with Wilkins, former starting ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici, and former ASU running back D.J. Foster all getting carries in the Sun Devils’ 43-42 loss, ASU only tallied 102 rushing yards.

“I think I’ve learned that we’re built probably a little different than last year from the standpoint of our quarterbacks are a little different, but our running backs are a year older,” Lindsey said. “We are going to depend on those two guys, and (redshirt freshman) Nick Ralston also has provided us with depth to allow us to do some unique things with our running backs.”

Notes

-- Junior linebacker Christian Sam (hip), senior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola (shoulder), freshman offensive lineman Marshal Nathe (knee), senior tight end Kody Kohl (leg), and junior tight end Grant Martinez, senior defensive lineman Edmond Boateng, sophomore safety Armand Perry, and sophomore corner Tyler Whiley, were all in green non-contact jerseys.

-- Junior cornerback Maurice Chandler was the only new player in a green non-contact jersey on Monday. Chandler has been battling a sore leg muscle. 

-- Sophomore linebacker Jamal Scott redshirt freshman defensive lineman Bo Wallace, and sophomore linebacker Khaylan Thomas (surgery for torn meniscus) were not in attendance. 


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