Saturday could be the day the Arizona State Sun Devils start their third different quarterback this season. It could also be the day their original starting quarterback returns to the lineup.
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said that he “anticipates” redshirt-sophomore Manny Wilkins (high left ankle sprain) will play against the Colorado Buffaloes.
“I don’t know how much,” Graham said. “Obviously, that can change, but I anticipate him to play.”
Graham said Wilkins threw and directed a two-minute drill during today’s practice. If he doesn’t start, true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole will be called into action again.
With both Brady White and Bryce Perkins—the other two quarterbacks listed ahead of Sterling-Cole on the depth chart entering the season—injured, behind Sterling-Cole is receiver Jack Smith and Colton Gerhart. The two have been practicing this week as emergency options under center.
When asked for his diagnosis of Sterling-Cole’s performance at practice, Graham responded with “solid.”
“Obviously, he’s young,” Graham said. “He and Jack (Smith), both of them had solid weeks. They have different skill sets, so we’re gonna do whatever we gotta do to win.”
While the offense deals with a quarterback dilemma, earlier in the week the defense appeared en route to being without two of its best players in cornerback Kareem Orr and Armand Perry. On Thursday, Graham said Orr practiced fully, while Perry was limited.
The fifth-year head coach said dealing with the multitude of injuries has been a distraction, but his team has approached the situation with a next-man-up mentality.
“Obviously, I’d much rather not have those distractions,” he said. “But, there’s no excuses. Figure out a way to get it done, that’s been our mentality. It’s a challenge of coaching and running a team.”
Graham even took a more philosophical approach to the ordeal.
“It’s just a way of life. Some years are tougher than others, but the key is you find a way to win, and we’ve had fun doing it.”
Despite all that's happened, the Sun Devils are still 5-1. The tilt with Colorado on Saturday could mark a key turning point in the season in regards to how the conference will shape up.
Graham’s young team has pulled out some close contests, contrasting the manner in which his previous team—a veteran squad—was unable to.
“How you win close games with discipline and leadership,” Graham said. “I think 99 percent of it has been the discipline of our players—self-discipline—and their leadership. And I think our staff has done a nice job.”
He caught himself, giving more credit to his staff by joking, “I should say that’s more than one percent.”
With eight new coaches on his staff, Graham said the collaboration between each member and the roster has gone well.
“We don’t step across the line,” he said. “Don’t think coaching and leadership doesn’t matter; It does matter. I think our coaching staff has done a great job of planning quickly.
“We still got a long way to go.”
The Sun Devils will travel to Colorado this weekend hoping to get another step closer finishing the season on the right note.