A dozen or more starters or key reserves were unavailable or limited for Arizona State in its 54-35 loss at Oregon on Saturday.
Understandably, the Sun Devils have as a primary goal for their bye week, a desire to get healthier. They'd probably like to have a couple weeks off right now, but it won't even be a full bye week because a week from Thursday the Sun Devils will host Utah on Senior Night.
As ASU coach Todd Graham sees it, that gives them about four extra days to rest and recover. In order to help accomplish their objective, Graham is shortening practices by more than an hour this week, and there will be several off-days mixed in.
"Our focus is to work fundamentally on our timing and those sorts of things and to heal up," Graham said. "Our whole deal is, we haven't been healthy in almost a month. We need to get players back so we're being very smart. We are practicing, but our practices are abbreviated and brief. We have a comprehensive plan with our training department and medical staff to treat and get our guys back. That's our biggest thing, to get as many guys back as we possibly can and then also keep your timing and all of that."
One of ASU's key injured players, of course, is starting quarterback Manny Wilkins. The sophomore didn't play at Oregon last week due and is dealing with shoulder, ankle and foot injuries. As a result, true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole got his first career start.
Wilkins practiced on Tuesday, but didn't throw the football. Instead, he jogged around and even handed the ball off to running backs in ASU's tempo segment. Wilkins looked more mobile than he has since hurting his ankle a month ago at USC, but still not ready to play.
"We've got an off-week this week so we'll just leave it at that," Graham said, regarding the status of Wilkins for the Utah game. "We're healing up."
If Wilkins can't play, the Sun Devils will again turn to Sterling-Cole. It's really their only option, since the team's two other scholarship quarterbacks, redshirt freshmen Brady White and Bryce Perkins are also injured and out of action.
Sterling-Cole completed 21 of 38 pass attempts for 302 yards against the Ducks, but had three interceptions and just one touchdown. He flashed a lot of talent, but also showed that he's still early in his development in some respects.
"Obviously he's young and got to take care of the football and continue to learn what we're doing," Graham said. "But (he shows) great promise. I think he's got big time arm talent. It's just, learning a system in two weeks is very difficult to do. I think he's done a solid job under the circumstances when two, three weeks ago he was running scout team. Learning the system are the things he has to improve upon, mastering what he's doing, learning the checks, learning all those things like that, that go along with the system. But I was very proud of how he's come in and the effort he's put in there and obviously we've got to get better at not turning the football over. That's the No. 1 thing in our system."