ASU preparing Sterling-Cole, Graham intends for Wilkins to start practicing by Thursday

Arizona State redshirt freshman quarterback Brady White will miss the rest of the season with an injury.

In the closing minutes of Saturday's game against UCLA, Arizona State's nightmare scenario unfolded.

With sophomore starting quarterback Manny Wilkins watching from the sidelines with his left foot in a walking boot, redshirt freshman backup Brady White collapsed with an injury on a UCLA sack.

Leading 23-20 and hoping to hold on for its fifth win of the season, ASU elected to burn the redshirt of freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole to lead the offense for the remainder of the contest.

With redshirt freshman quarterback Bryce Perkins also on the sidelines in a neck brace due to an injury suffered in fall camp, Sterling-Cole represented the Sun Devils' fourth option at the position.

Though the lone pass Sterling-Cole threw Saturday evening resulted in an interception, the Sun Devils hung on for a 23-20 victory over the Bruins and improved to 5-1. 

ASU has overcome significant adversity with injuries thus far this season, but this week, the Sun Devils may face their most dire circumstances yet.

On Monday, ASU head coach Todd Graham announced White's foot injury is season-ending, leaving the Sun Devils in a complicated position heading into a battle for first place in the Pac-12 South with the Colorado Buffaloes this weekend.

"Brady White will be out for the year, so just wanted to make sure you guys knew that, and everybody else, we're working to get healthy and hope to have them for the game," Graham said.

Wilkins missed Saturday's game against UCLA after suffering an ankle injury at the end of the first half of the Sun Devils' 41-20 to USC last week. Wilkins came out of the locker room for the second half with crutches and a walking boot, but was jogging lightly at practice on Tuesday.

However, Wilkins' mobility was limited later on in the week, as he stood to the side of ASU's warmup line and did not participate in individual drills during practice portions open to the media Wednesday and Thursday. 

Graham said Monday that he "fully intends" on Wilkins being back for Saturday's matchup with the Buffaloes, but also indicated Wilkins may not begin practicing until late in the week.

"I fully intend on Manny being back, I'm just being honest about that," Graham said. "Our plan is for him to practice by Thursday and then obviously we're going to get Dillon ready. Regardless you have to have him ready. So getting a freshman ready or whatever, it's just reps and he got reps and it's good that he did get reps in fall camp." 

Graham said Monday the Sun Devils' current quarterback situation is one of the most difficult he's had to experience, as White is now out for the year and Perkins has been sidelined since the beginning of August. With Wilkins' health uncertain for the week ahead, Graham said ASU is in a tough spot.

"I've had two of them hurt at one time, so I guess so," Graham said. "Right now, I never have said because I don't know for sure if Bryce if there's no way he can play this year, but it's unlikely. So there's two. Brady for sure is a season-ending deal and my heart goes out to him, it's a tough deal and he did such a great job for us."

Perhaps now more than ever, though, ASU is better equipped to handle significant injuries at the quarterback position because of the way the Sun Devils have aggressively recruited quarterbacks. 

Wilkins, White and Sterling-Cole were all four-star quarterback recruits out of high school, while Perkins was a three-star recruit out of Chandler High locally. Sterling-Cole was a Scout300 recruit, ranked the 16th overall quarterback in the country for the class of 2016, and was considered the No. 3 quarterback recruit in the state of Texas by Scout. 

If Wilkins is unable to return by Saturday, Sterling-Cole will join a small group of true freshmen quarterbacks to earn a start at a Power 5 program this season. To date, Alabama's Jalen Hurts, Texas' Shane Buechele and Georgia's Jacob Eason have all started as true freshmen this season, and all three players' teams have been ranked in the Top 25 at various points during the course of the year.

If Sterling-Cole starts Saturday, it will mark the fourth time in the last 20 years that ASU will have started three different quarterbacks in the same season, and the first time since 2009. Sterling-Cole would also become the 18th different starting quarterback for the Sun Devils in the last 20 years.

Should the nightmare situation continue for ASU this week, Graham said the Sun Devils are preparing true freshman Jack Smith and junior Coltin Gerhart as emergency depth options. Smith began training camp at wide receiver, but has practiced as a scout team quarterback this year while Gerhart began his career at ASU as a quarterback before switching over to the defensive side of the ball.

"We think we've got a good chance to have Manny back and he's working toward that and we're working to get Dillon (Sterling-Cole) ready," Graham said. "We're working with Jack Smith and Coltin Gerhart for just, depth purposes."

Regardless of whether Wilkins is able to make it back from his injury in time to play Saturday or if the Sun Devils are forced to start Sterling-Cole, Graham said offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will adapt the game plan accordingly and that ASU already has experience winning with a backup.

"The key at quarterback, it's such an important position and you have to adapt your skills and talents to the person taking the snap," Graham said. "That's what we'll do and it's just like anything, we didn't have our starting quarterback last week and won. We're a team."

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