Depending on who you ask, 2015 starting quarterback Mike Bercovici was either a pretty good player who was limited by a scheme that fit him worse than your ugly Christmas sweater from three years ago, or he was a terrible player who made the system look bad. Either way, his graduation creates uncertainty at the position that hasn’t been felt since head coach Todd Graham’s first season with Arizona State in 2012, when Bercovici battled Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank for the starting position, which Kelly ultimately won.
However, this QB competition is different in that the Sun Devils have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. It seems that any one of these quarterbacks would do well as the starter next year, but which one of them is best? It’s a good problem for Graham and new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey to have. Let’s meet the contestants:
#5 Manny Wilkins – RS Sophomore, 6’3″, 190 lbs., 4-star recruit
Manny Wilkins committed to Arizona State for the 2014 class and was immediately seen as the heir apparent to Bercovici. The 4-star prospect was rated as the 9th best dual-threat quarterback in his class by 24-7 Sports and the 14th best overall quarterback in his class by Scout.com. His high school career saw him throw for 4,548 yards and 40 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,378 yards and 22 touchdowns. In 2015, he served as Bercovici’s immediate backup as a redshirt freshman and saw a limited amount of snaps. While he never actually attempted a pass, he showcased his athleticism by rushing 7 times for 55 yards. He has an advantage in this competition due to his experience in the program.
#3 Bryce Perkins – RS Freshman, 6’3″, 215 lbs., 4-star recruit
Bryce Perkins has all the components to be a great QB for the Sun Devils. His father, Bruce, played for Arizona State in 1988 and 1989 before going to the NFL, and his brother, Paul, starred at running back for UCLA the past three seasons and just got drafted by the New York Giants. Perkins is also the ideal hometown hero, as he led his Chandler High School football team to their first state title in the school’s history during his senior season. He was also instrumental in getting two of his high school teammates, DB Chase Lucas and WR N’keal Harry, to commit to Arizona State for this year. ESPN ranked him as the 14th best dual threat quarterback in his class, as evident by his 5,332 passing yards and 1,609 rushing yards for 26 touchdowns on the ground. His strength, though, is in his accuracy, as he completed 72.4% of his passes during his two years in high school, and threw a whopping 70 touchdown passes compared to only 13 interceptions. He even set his high school’s records for passing yards and passing touchdowns, breaking the record previously set by Brett Hundley, the guy who holds just about every passing record at UCLA now. From a pure talent perspective, Perkins has ample opportunity to emerge, but his familiarity with the playbook is his biggest obstacle.
#7 Brady White – RS Freshman, 6’2″, 200 lbs., 4-star recruit
Brady White is the highest rated recruit in Arizona State football’s history. A unanimous 4-star recruit, he was rated by Rivals.com as the second best pro-style quarterback of his class, behind UCLA’s celebrated youngster Josh Rosen. He had the rare distinction of starting three years on his high school varsity team, where he racked up 10,835 passing yards and 101 touchdowns. In fact, his senior season (3,725 passing yards and 45 touchdowns) was so good that he was one of 16 nominees for the US Army National Player of the Year in 2014. His talent throwing the ball is unquestionably the best of the three, but he’s limited as a runner in an offense that traditionally asks its quarterback to do a lot on his feet, which could potentially present a scheme-player mismatch similar to Bercovici in 2015.
What We Know So Far
As I’ve alluded to thus far, it’s a pretty tight competition between three players that are equally qualified. In the two spring practices that have been made available to the media, all three have gotten significant reps in different team drills, giving each of them ample opportunities to prove themselves to the coaches. However, the second practice also gave us a pecking order: Wilkins received first team reps, while Perkins worked with the second team, and White played with the third team.
However, White later showed the other two up in passing drills, showcasing all of the passing talent that made him so highly touted, while Wilkins and Perkins frequently overthrew their receivers and looked shaky on longer throws. A notably new thing for the quarterbacks was that offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey had new running backs coach John Simon work with the three QBs on ball protection drills typical to what running backs go through. It seems apparent that Lindsey will put a heavier emphasis on the quarterback’s ability to impact the running game, which would seemingly benefit Perkins and Wilkins.
Lindsey, however, has said the most important thing he’s looking for in a quarterback is the ability to engineer scoring drives, take care of the football, and be a leader:
“It doesn’t have to be any type of guy. Just whoever leads our team the best is where we’ll go.” – Chip Lindsey
Coach Graham echoed that sentiment, putting a heavy focus on leadership:
“The quarterback’s going to be the guy who elevates the other 10 guys on the field. The key component to quarterback is leadership. It’s not the guy who’s talking, it’s the guy other guys respond to.” – Todd Graham
Lindsey has indicated that the summer workouts will be the first major step for whomever the next starting quarterback will be:
“In the summer, all their workouts are team led so you figure out real quick who takes charge. Your team will probably know who the starter is before the coaches do. I think that’s what [Graham]’s saying. In the summer, who’s going to go to work? Who’s going to improve? When we go out here for the first day of fall camp, who has made the biggest improvement?”
As Lindsey alluded to, fall camp will likely be where the starter is decided upon. Camp Tontozona, a rich Sun Devil tradition, happens in the first week of August. While it seems that Wilkins has the slight edge right now, the position is absolutely up for grabs between all three of them. Wilkins’ experience lends itself to the leadership aspect, Perkins’ mix of pinpoint accuracy and high athleticism makes him an ideal fit for the high-scoring scheme, and White’s elite passing skills set him apart with regards to making smart decisions.
I can easily see any of these three becoming the starter, and it truthfully doesn’t matter because I believe any of these three will find success in Lindsey’s scheme. However, my prediction is that Perkins makes a push during Camp Tontozona that harkens back to his state title ways and forces the coaches to name him their starter. Will I be wrong? Probably. But people love predictions, and I won’t deprive the people of what they love. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments!
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