Todd Graham inches closer to naming starting quarterback

With a week to go until its first game, Arizona State practiced a pregame walkthrough on Saturday morning and sophomore Manny Wilkins took first team reps at quarterback.

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham didn't announce a starting quarterback for the team's season opener against Northern Arizona on Saturday, but he did come close.

After Saturday's practice, Graham said he thought about publicly announcing the Sun Devils' starting quarterback, and said his team has known who will hold that job for the first week of the season for a few weeks now.

"I was going to announce it today, but then you asked that question and now I'm not," Graham joked when asked about the competition. "Ask our players, they know. I think they've known for several weeks. I don't know, we might announce it whenever, maybe tomorrow, or not announce it till the first guy runs out there." 

At ASU's Saturday morning practice, sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins led the Sun Devils' first team offense in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills as the team simulated pregame warmups. Wilkins took reps with both the first team and second team wide receivers as redshirt freshman Brady White saw a limited amount of reps with the second team offense.

Wilkins has taken first team reps with ASU's offense throughout the week in periods of practice open to the media, and appears poised to take the first snaps of the season for the Sun Devils next Saturday.

While teams typically hold walkthroughs to familiarize players with how pregame warmups and substitution situations will materialize on game days, Graham said Saturday's practice was important to make sure all of ASU's assistant coaches were prepared for each situation. With five new assistant coaches this year, Graham wanted to ensure his staff is clear on how game day communication will flow.

"Today was really for our staff, you know none of them have been through game day," Graham said. "Our game day is a unique experience, so we just kind of went through our pregame warmup and then went through kind of a game script and kind of how we operate on the sideline and stuff like that, so that was today. Then we did our third downs, a normal Wednesday practice."

As ASU simulated various situations on Saturday morning, freshman Cohl Cabral took first team reps as the Sun Devils' long snapper in punt and field goal situations. Returning starter and junior long snapper Mitchell Fraboni has been sidelined with an injury since the start of fall camp, but earlier this week, ASU had Cabral split reps with walk-on long snapper Riley John.

At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, John's frame is small for the position, and Graham said he considers Cabral's size important, especially on the field goal unit.

"We've got, it's something we think he (Cabral) does very well, especially in the short snaps, having a bigger body, stuff like that, so that's where we're at," Graham said.

One of the mild surprises from the media viewing portion of Saturday's practice was ASU using multi-year starter and senior linebacker Salamo Fiso with the second team defense as juniors D.J. Calhoun and Christian Sam took first team reps as inside linebackers. Fiso did not participate in a handful of practices over the last few weeks because of a hamstring injury, but has been playing with more frequency in team drills open to the media of late.

Graham cautioned against reading into Fiso's second team reps this morning, saying ASU considers Fiso, Calhoun and Sam starters at linebacker.

"No, no Salamo's a starter," Graham said. "We consider him and and D.J. (Calhoun) and Christian (Sam) all starters." 

News and Notes

  • Senior safety Laiu Moeakiola was not in attendance at practice during the media viewing portion for the third consecutive practice. Moeakiola missed Thursday's practice to see a hamstring specialist, according to Graham.
  • Freshman N'Keal Harry took first team reps with the wide receivers and has done so throughout the last week. Harry has put himself in position to start with a strong fall camp.
  • With Moeakiola out, junior Chad Adams took first team reps at the bandit safety position. 
  • Sophomore Tyler Whiley and junior Marcus Ball each took first team reps at the Spur linebacker position in the 11-on-11 walkthrough.
  • In one sub-package, former walk-on Tramel Topps took first team reps at defensive tackle alongside junior Tashon Smallwood. Topps received a scholarship on Monday.

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