Wilkins a game-time decision for Oregon

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said the Sun Devils will make a game-time decision on sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins' availability Saturday in Eugene, Oregon.

For the past three weeks, Arizona State sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins hasn't taken a single practice repetition in individual or team periods open to the media.

Still, ASU head coach Todd Graham is confident Wilkins gives the Sun Devils the best opportunity to win, and if Wilkins is healthy enough to play Saturday, the Sun Devils will call upon their most-experienced signal-caller against Oregon.

"You know, it's just going to be a game-time deal, you know right now we've prepared to have Dillon (Sterling-Cole) ready to go and Jack (Smith) and we'll just see," Graham said. "Each week, it's been basically the same so we'll see, he's about the same, but it's another, it's a different injury. So it's nothing serious, it's just a week-to-week, a lot of stuff like that."

Wilkins has started each of ASU's past two games after missing the Sun Devils' 23-20 victory over UCLA with an ankle injury. Wilkins' ankle injury limited his mobility against Colorado, while an undisclosed upper body injury forced Wilkins to leave Saturday's contest against Washington State after the Sun Devils' second series. Without much depth behind him, Wilkins remains the top option if he's available to play.

If Wilkins is unable to play against Oregon Saturday, freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole and freshman Jack Smith will once again serve as Wilkins' backups. Sterling-Cole replaced Wilkins against Washington State and finished 7-for-16 for 86 yards against the Cougars in ASU's 37-32 loss. 

The Sun Devils have a number of key starters whose status for Saturday is in question, including senior wide receiver Tim White, sophomore cornerback Kareem Orr, sophomore safety Armand Perry, senior linebacker Salamo Fiso and sophomore left guard Sam Jones

All five of those players were limited in practice this week, and Graham said some of the players will be game-time decisions on Saturday against Oregon, but he would not provide specifics on each player's availability.

The Sun Devils are 1-2 on the road this season and have lost each of their conference road games in blowout fashion, but Graham said the most difficult aspect of playing in Eugene, Oregon this week against the Ducks is figuring out who is available for ASU and who will be sidelined with injuries.

"The biggest challenge is maybe figuring out who's going to play and who's not," Graham said. "Our deal is next man up, we know we need to go on the road to go win. We know how important this game is, so the toughest thing in my mind is being able to handle the atmosphere there and the explosiveness of their team in special teams and on offense." 

The Ducks have lost five consecutive games for the first time since 1996 and rank 126th in the country in scoring defense, as Oregon is surrendering an average of more than 43 points per game. 

Nevertheless, three of the five losses in Oregon's losing streak have come by a combined nine points, as the Ducks fell 35-32 against Nebraska, 41-38 against Colorado, and 52-49 in an overtime loss against Cal last Friday.

This Saturday will mark the third start of freshman quarterback Justin Herbert's career for Oregon, and it comes a week after he threw six touchdown passes in regulation against Cal. While a Herbert interception ultimately sealed the victory for the Bears in overtime, Graham said the Ducks have plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the football.

"He's a good quarterback, he does a good job, they've been more productive with him in there," Graham said of Herbert. "He's a guy that extends plays, very mobile, will run the football, and threw six touchdown passes last week, that's pretty good."

Aside from Herbert, the Ducks boast a talented running back corps that includes Royce Freeman and Tony Brooks-James, a pair of playmakers who Graham said helps make up the best overall running back unit ASU will face this season.

"Overall, when you look at all three of their running backs that they bring in, very fast, very physical, very athletic," Graham said. "So probably as far as collectively as a group, we won't face a tougher running back corps." 


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