Spring practice starts as ASU begins search for new QB

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                </div>  Spring practice for the Arizona State football team is just getting underway, and this year the slate of 15 practice sessions will feature a couple of significant departures from […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Spring practice for the Arizona State football team is just getting underway, and this year the slate of 15 practice sessions will feature a couple of significant departures from recent years.

For one, there will be no spring game to wrap up the program, which concludes April 16.  The major renovation work that is going on at Sun Devil Stadium has forced head coach Todd Graham to drop the game for the next two seasons.

But the difference this year that is probably even more significant to the fan base is the lack of a clear choice to fill the quarterback role next season.  Mike Bercovici, who threw for 3,860 yards and completed 60 percent of his passes last season, has graduated and left a big hole to fill in the Sun Devil backfield.

Graham has three potential replacements and another on the way this summer, but no apparent front-runner – yet.

It no doubt reminds Graham of his first year at ASU back in 2012 when he had his choice of three quality QBs and couldn’t come to a final decision (or didn’t announce it) until a week before the season opener against Northern Arizona University.  Next season he will again be opening against the Lumberjacks – and again has a tough decision to make.

That first year in Tempe he admitted that the quarterback competition became one of the most difficult personnel decisions he’s had to make in his college coaching career, which included two other head-coaching jobs.

As it turned out, a sophomore named Taylor Kelly stepped to the forefront and took over the reins for the next few years, becoming one of the best signal-callers in program history.  And his back-up, Bercovici, patiently awaited his chance until taking over full time last season.

Now Berco is gone, and the process starts all over again.

Kelly is still around.  He worked as an offensive assistant on this season’s coaching staff and had a chance to get to know the three quarterbacks who will be returning for 2016.  And better than anyone else, he can appreciate the situation they all find themselves in this off-season, as each tries to move to the top of the list before the start of training camp in late summer.

Brady White and Bryce Perkins were both true freshmen this year, while Manny Wilkins was a redshirt freshman.  Wilkins was the designated back-up for Bercovici, but was on the field for just three games and saw very limited action: no pass attempts and just five rushes for a total of 41 yards.

So there is really little difference among the three as far as experience goes.  They all had the same advantage of being involved in the program for a full season, learning the playbook and getting reps in practice, while also benefiting from the mental reps that come from being on the sidelines, signaling in plays, and getting familiar with the call sheets.

Wilkins was a four-star prospect when ASU got his commitment and ranked by 247 Sports as the ninth-best dual-threat quarterback in his class.  He threw for 2,195 yards and rushed for another 811 yards as a senior at California’s San Marin High School.  The 6’3″ Wilkins piled up a total of 36 touchdowns as a dual-threat QB.

White and Perkins were able to use this past season as a redshirt year, so they have plenty of time to work their way into the starting role.  Perkins is the local favorite, graduating from nearby Chandler High School, where he set a school record for passing touchdowns (46) and his 74.6 percent completion rate was a new state record.  He also averaged almost 10 yards a carry and scored five TDs rushing.

White was just as impressive in high school in Newhall, CA.  A four-star recruit and top-10 prospect, he threw for 3,725 yards and 45 touchdowns in his senior year.

Perkins might have an edge in at least one category: he takes care of the football.  He threw just six interceptions in both his junior and senior years at Chandler High – one of the most-often preached virtues from his new head coach, and his new offensive coordinator, Chip Lindsey, who replaced Mike Norvell at the close of the regular season.

“Whoever takes care of the ball, makes the best decisions, will have the best chance to be our quarterback,” said Lindsey in an article in The State Press.

Lindsey had just stepped into his new role back in December when he was asked about the quarterback competition that lay ahead.  “I probably won’t really know until next fall, to be honest, but spring ball will be a good test” he told the media then.

Well, testing time has arrived…and the new teacher is begining the grading process.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)