COLUMN: Manny Wilkins takes another Big Step as a Leader
BY MICHAEL BARON // Football Reporter for Blaze Sports
Redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins is unquestionably one of the leaders of Sun Devil football. And now, the numbers garnered on game day are proving it more than ever.
At the conclusion of the 2016 season, ASU held a record of 5-7, missing out on a bowl game. Wilkins completed 197 of his 311 pass attempts for 2,329 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
However, through the first four games of this 2017 season, the Devils are 2-2. But win or lose, Wilkins has been lighting up the football field, and it’s apparent upon glancing at the stat sheet.
Wilkins is currently 93 for 140 passing, for 1,271 yards with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.
“He’s matured a great deal and he’s really been very contentious about the fundamentals and dispersing the ball,” ASU head coach Todd Graham said in a press conference Monday. “You look at how many different receivers we have over 100 yards and how he’s taking what the defense is giving him.”
Wilkins has also thrown for at least 300 yards in three of the four games to date this season.
“[He is] really relying on his intellect and the system to work instead of just athleticism,” Graham said.
Wilkins threw for a season high 347 yards in ASU’s win Saturday versus Oregon to open Pac-12 Conference play. He is also the only starting quarterback in the Pac-12 Conference to have not thrown a pick.
“You can tell he’s a veteran quarterback and he’s playing well,” Graham said. “Very proud of him.”
Wilkins’s leadership will be tested once again when the Sun Devils travel to northern California to face David Shaw’s Stanford Cardinal. As Graham puts it, you know what to expect from Stanford.
“They’re going to execute very, very well and they’re very well coached,” Graham said. “They’ve been the most consistent team in our league over the time that I’ve been here.”
Stanford is also 2-2 in 2017 after beating UCLA 58-34 last week at home. Junior running back Bryce Love ran for 263 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinal win.
“You’re going to have to go out and fundamentally play better than them,” Graham said. “You’re not going to trick these guys.”
Kickoff from Stanford Stadium is set for 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Harley Yearout and Andrew Bell will be on the call for Blaze Radio. You can listen to the game live at blazeradioonline.com.
Michael Baron is a football reporter for Blaze Sports. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow Michael on Twitter @Michael_Baron96