Arizona State has entered game week preparations for the team's season opener against Northern Arizona Saturday night, but the program has yet to announce its starting quarterback.
All indications point to sophomore Manny Wilkins leading the Sun Devils' offense out for the first series against the Lumberjacks, but at his Monday press conference, ASU head coach Todd Graham was once again non-committal in publicly announcing a starter when asked about the team's quarterback competition.
“We have the two guys that we have a lot of confidence in and we probably won’t do anything but let Coach Lindsey let me know what he wants to do," Graham said. "Our team knows who our guy is; we’ll run out there with the starting lineup. But we’ve got two guys that we have confidence in with Manny (Wilkins) and Brady (White) and then a young quarterback that will be our third guy, Dillon Sterling-Cole, who is extremely talented and had a great camp. So that’s where we’re at and we’ll announce it when we get ready.”
The Sun Devils' released their first depth chart of the season prior to Monday's press conference, and Wilkins and White are listed as co-starters.
ASU's depth chart also revealed junior Marcus Ball ahead of sophomore Tyler Whiley at the team's Spur linebacker position, as Ball and Whiley have been competing for reps over the last several weeks. On Monday, Graham addressed the Spur linebacker situation and suggested both players will see the field.
“They're different, you know, they’re different, Marcus (Ball) is obviously what we consider more of a Sam linebacker and they both play that Spur position and I see both of them playing," Graham said.
Graham's comments underscore the idea that ASU will rotate both players in for different defensive sub-packages, and that Ball will be on the field when the Sun Devils need a heavier hybrid-type of athlete while Whiley will play when ASU wants an additional defensive back in the game.
The other position Graham addressed Monday was the team's Devil backer spot, where junior Alani Latu and junior college transfer Koron Crump are listed as co-starters. Latu gives ASU a heavier option who can play the position from a three-point stance whereas Crump is more of a speed rusher in the mold of 2015 Devil backer Antonio Longino.
Graham said Latu has developed into one of his favorite players, and the combination of speed and physicality he brings to the position should help ASU become more sound along the defensive front.
“I always tell him (Latu) he’s one of my favorite players on defense, just the passion from which he plays, he’s very tenacious," Graham said. "He’s a starter, he’ll start at the devil position and he’s a guy that just brings it with passion, a very smart player, a very physical player and loves this game.”
News and Notes
- Graham highlighted the return of senior specialists Matt Haack and Zane Gonzalez as one of the team's strengths for the upcoming season. Both players were named to watch lists for postseason awards at their respective positions.
- Graham spoke extensively about the skills of Northern Arizona quarterback Case Cookus and the talented group of wide receivers at Cookus' disposal. Cookus threw 37 touchdowns a season ago and was the Freshman of the Year in the Big Sky Conference.
- Northern Arizona assistant coach Aaron Pflugrad played at ASU and worked as a graduate assistant under Graham before moving onto the Lumberjacks' program. Graham said Pflugrad was an unbelievable competitor as a player and he's the "same way as a coach."