The 2016 ASU quarterback battle has entered its final stretch, leaving just two remaining competitors in Manny Wilkins and Brady White. You wouldn’t be able to tell from talking to players and coaches, though.
There’s no sense of anxiousness when any one gets asked about the situation. In fact, the program has taken more of a “we’ll get there when we get there” approach publicly despite the potential gravity of the final decision.
The veterans on the team appear fine with that.
“I’m comfortable,” junior running back Demario Richard said of whoever is named the starter.
The tailback said any of the three original competitors—Bryce Perkins (neck injury), White and Wilkins—could run an entire practice without the coaches’ help, and things would run smoothly. He trusts they’ll manage well when the season starts.
“The offense is comfortable,” he said. “I’m comfortable with whoever wins the job.”
While Richard’s words may come off as avoiding the question or dismissive, the tone with which he said it was sincerely relaxed. It was effectively confident, and he wasn’t the only one to exude it. The two players fighting for the position are cool, calm and collected when discussing the potential of starting. Still, each would rather the focus be on their journey to get better.
“I think I’m comfortable with what I’m doing,” White said. “But I think Manny’s doing a great job as well. I think both of us playing well is raising our level of play out on the field.”
Neither player is overly concerned with the other’s play, but focused on honing in their respective skills and understanding the offense. Wilkins said when one player makes a mistake during practice, both go over to the sideline to understand what to correct together.
“I think that’s been one of the biggest things is showing this team that even though it’s a quarterback battle or whatever, it’s not a battle in our minds and in the film room,” Wilkins said. “We’re not bickering or anything like that. We’re just working together to work hard.”
This sort of unity even extended into their answers when asked about their knowledge of where they currently stand in the competition.
White: “I think that’s a question for the team.”
Wilkins: “That’s all coach Graham. I don’t know.”
Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey wouldn’t budge when asked whether there’s a leader in the clubhouse at the moment. Instead, he pointed out both players appear to be prepared to assume the starting job when it’s given out.
“They’re competitive. They all want to be the quarterback,” Lindsey said. “At the end of the day, it’s gonna come down to who gives our team the best chance to win and who takes care of the football. I think you can win with any of them.”
Considering the plethora of talent at the skill positions, Lindsey isn’t wrong for believing so.
Junior running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage could perhaps be the best backfield duo in the Pac-12. The receiver group, led by redshirt-senior Tim White, is arguably the deepest and most improved offensive unit.
Regardless, in order for anything to get done on the offensive end, there needs to be a signal-caller. But as the close of the preseason draws nearer, we’re still awaiting for one to be decided on; as was the plan.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” White said of the final decision. “I just know that I got to keep getting better.”
It won’t be too much longer, but Sept. 3 couldn’t come any sooner for Sun Devils football fans looking to put their faith in a new starting quarterback.