TEMPE, Ariz. — In nearly two seasons working and playing alongside Manny Wilkins, Brady White has developed a pretty good read on his friend and fellow Arizona State quarterback.
“Whenever he comes off the field I always ask him questions on what he’s seeing,” White, the Sun Devils redshirt freshman, said Tuesday. “We have a good communication about that.”
When Wilkins went down late in the first half of a 41-20 loss at USC last Saturday, White figured he had a good handle on that scene, too.
“I saw that play happen and I’ve seen Manny bounce back up before so I wasn’t sure if it was serious,” White said.
It was. Wilkins suffered a left foot injury that ended his game and will likely keep him out of this Saturday’s Pac-12 game against UCLA at Sun Devil Stadium. His absence (he was in a walking boot for the rest of the game), forced White to throw his first passes as a Sun Devil.
“I saw the trainers running out and I said, ‘where’s the ball? I’ve got to start warming up,'” White said, sheepishly. “I hate to see my brother go down like that but if my number is called I’ve got to step up and go be a leader and help this team win the game.”
Coach Todd Graham called Wilkins questionable-to-doubtful for the UCLA game. The Sun Devils received good news on Monday when tests revealed no breaks, nor torn ligaments despite the fact that Wilkins was helped off the field. Wilkins was no longer in a walking boot during practice on Tuesday, but he is still limping.
“Whether he can make it or not this week I don’t know,” Graham said. “It’s just a pain thing. He’s been improving every day. We’ll see what he can tolerate.”
Throughout the spring and training camp. Graham insisted that the race for the starting job to replace graduated Mike Bercovici was neck-and-neck between Wilkins and White. Wilkins’ additional year in the program likely played a major role in him winning the job, but some analysts believe White has the greater upside and they will likely get a chance to judge that belief firsthand against the Bruins.
“That’s not our first choice,” Graham said. “Our first choice is to have our starter but I’m really confident in Brady.
“He’s a guy that has prepared and worked hard. I thought he did a nice job when he was in there. It took him a little bit, like it would anybody. We didn’t make a first down in the third quarter, but he did do well in the fourth quarter. If he winds up playing this week and Manny doesn’t make it back we’ve got confidence in him.”
White completed 6 of 13 passes for 80 yards and a TD against the Trojans. While he insisted there was value in learning under Wilkins, he was happy to get his first sustained action, even if it came in an impossible situation (ASU trailed 27-6 at the half and 41-6 after three quarters).
“I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “I felt I was well prepared throughout the week. I did have butterflies; first time really playing an extensive period in the game. After a few plays those went away and I felt pretty comfortable. I just got back to playing the game and trusting the game plan and what I’d been prepared to do.”
While it is not certain — at least publicly — that White will start against the Bruins, he said that uncertainty is not impacting his preparation.
“My approach is: every day I’m going to be preparing as if I’m the guy; as if I’ve been the guy,” he said. “Football is a sport where there’s many things that can happen and you never know when your number is going to be called so I always want to be ready whether it is my time or someone else is going.”