Spring football is right around the corner. House of Sparky will be providing you content previewing Arizona State’s offseason practices, beginning with a look at the quarterback position.
The Arizona State Sun Devils are hoping to get steady production out of the quarterback position after the 2016 campaign saw three different players start under center. Stability will start with health—ASU entered last offseason hosting a four-man battle for the starting job. Three of those players suffered injuries, with two of them being of the season-ending variety (one occurred during the offseason, the other during the season).
The Sun Devils will once again host a contentious quarterback battle this spring, with four different players having a shot at the role, including a highly-touted transfer. Fans can only sit back and watch as the drama unfolds, and it all begins when spring practices open next week.
Bryce Perkins: did not play last season.
Dillon Sterling-Cole: 50.9% completion rate, 388 yds, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 10 rush yds, 1 TD in 4 appearances last season.
Brady White: 51% completion rate, 259 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 3 rush yds in 2 apperances last season.
Manny Wilkins: 63.3% completion rate, 2,329 pass yds, 12 TDs, 9 INTs, 246 rush yds, 5 TDs in 10 starts last season.
Blake Barnett: 57.9% completion rate, 219 pass yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, -17 rush yds in 3 appearances last season (Alabama).
Ryan Kelley: incoming freshman, will arrive following graduation from high school.
Keep An Eye on: The quarterback battle in its full entirety
This is the first time we’ll be seeing Alabama transfer Blake Barnett in action for ASU. The question(s) that still need to be answered: is he good, or at least good enough to set himself apart as ASU’s best option at quarterback early on?
Furthermore, while there are two favorites in this competition, that doesn’t mean the other competitors aren’t worth not paying attention to.
Sophomore Dillon Sterling-Cole could very well be on his way to spending a redshirt this season after burning it last year out of necessity. He flashed promise, particularly in his first career start on the road vs. Oregon, and if he has shown any sort of improvement entering spring, should rightly garner consideration. Also, redshirt sophomore Bryce Perkins -- who announced he was clear to play in January after suffering a neck injury which held him out for the entire 2016 season -- could be ready to compete. His pedigree and physical attributes makes him an intriguing prospect alone.
We don’t expect to see Brady White (foot) in the spring as he continues his rehab. He told House of Sparky during spring media day he is targeting the beginning of summer to return.
True freshman Ryan Kelley won’t factor into the battle for now, as he is still finishing up his senior year at Basha High School (Ariz.).
Biggest Strength: Depth
Sure, it was probably the strength of the position group before the series of injuries hit too, but there’s something to be said when you have four rostered quarterbacks with at least one career start under their belts, as compared to last season, where White and Sterling-Cole’s first-ever action came in the middle of contests where they were flung into games because of injuries.
Biggest Concern: Continuity
While new offensive coordinator Billy Napier has hinted there won’t be a schematic overhaul, adjustment periods should be expected, specifically for Barnett. With veteran targets in Tim White and Frederick Gammage no longer in the fold and new additions expected to assume sizable roles, there could be an adjustment period between the new receivers and quarterbacks.
What it all means: Sit tight
The quarterback situation isn’t expected to be resolved right away. That said, fans should still be excited. The production out of the position can only be expected to improve after last season, and the added suspense makes paying attention to the spring a bit more worthwhile.
Napier said in February he was more concerned with diagnosing the intangibles each quarterback brings to the table, but now that the pads can be strapped on, it’s time to see who can best boost the team through their performance on the field, too.