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Column: One year after Kelly benching vs. Arizona, Berco should be wary of same danger

One year ago, Todd Graham benched a struggling Taylor Kelly for Mike Bercovici in the Territorial Cup. Would he bench a struggling Berco for Manny Wilkins in 2015?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Hindsight is 20/20, and we're sure seeing clearly now.

All the preseason hype, the Herbstreit prediction, Todd Graham calling this year's team his best yet. It's all served as a cruel punchline for detractors of Arizona State football this season.

The magic of the Territorial Cup has allowed ASU fans to forget about the grand scope of their team's season for a week, with all eyes focused on taking the Cup back from Arizona and reaching bowl eligibility. If ASU upends the WIldcats and brings the Cup back to Tempe after falling short in 2014's incredible Territorial Cup, it'll turn around a lot of the negative sentiments that currently bombards the program.

A win over U of A plus the recent in-state recruiting victories make for both consolation for this season and hope for next season, enough to keep most ASU fans happy until the 2016 campaign starts with renewed expectations.

So with the rest of this season only offering the prize of pride as ASU's reward, the question needs to be asked: when does Todd Graham start thinking about his next QB?

We know that Graham has already made efforts to get Manny Wilkins real game experience (he played a snap against Washington). ASU's struggles in the nonconference games didn't offer him much time and the conference season hasn't provided him with much more, but the coaching staff has started to turn their attention away from the heights it can achieve with Mike Bercovici and started the process of evaluating its quarterback situation for next season.

And they should.

Even though he's a senior who's served as a strong leader for this year's Sun Devils, to say that Mike Bercovici deserves these last two or three games of his career because of what he's put into the team is to value the next two or three games over the next two or three seasons.

The leader Bercovici deserves to play out his career, but Todd Graham's not obligated to keep him in there just because he's the guy that was tabbed for the first ten games of the season.

This is different from Taylor Kelly, who lost his job due to injury and even though he clearly came back too early, his place as the team's starter was earned with his performance. Bercovici's been inconsistent at best, and dreadful at his worst.

Bercovici hasn't reached Graham's breaking point yet, but the Arizona game could be exactly that. Remember last season? Bercovici finished the game for ASU, and Kelly spent the last regular season game of his career on the bench. On Saturday, a struggling Bercovici should get yanked too.

With Brady White sitting in the wings and seen by many as the solution next year for ASU at the quarterback position, Wilkins has the benefit of being able to step in for Berco in the case Graham pulls him and state his case to take the reins full-time in 2016.

ASU isn't going to be throwing White or Bryce Perkins in there as both are redshirting, so any opportunity for Wilkins to show that he's progressed enough in his two years in the program to experience early success on the field is vital for the coaching staff headed into 2016.

Manny Wilkins has become a fan favorite at ASU for his performance on the recruiting trail, serving as one of ASU's strongest advocates in winning away a few strong recruits from other Pac-12 schools. But with so much excitement held for White as a four-star recruit, he's in danger of being overtaken by a player with more eligibility than him.

ASU doesn't know what it has in either Brady White or Manny Wilkins. But they know they have to make a decision between them. With an important game on the horizon and an important decision further ahead, it's time for ASU to start seeing what Wilkins can offer on the field. Who knows, maybe the best player to come from the recruiting class he helped put together is him.