ASU football reveals depth chart, NAU kickoff time flexed

Todd Graham did not reveal his starting quarterback in his first official presser

The biggest news Monday afternoon happened before ASU football head coach Todd Graham said a word. 

In fact it was Mark Brand, ASU's associate athletic director, who informed the media present that the kickoff time Saturday had been flexed to 8 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks, ushering in another season of #Pac12AfterDark in Tempe. 

September games at Sun Devil Stadium have been under the lights for good reason, with temperatures still in the high 90's after the sun sets. 

"We're excited to get out here and play in a new stadium," Graham said. "Our guys are working hard, and we can't wait until Saturday to have Sun Devil Nation out here." 

Graham said NAU's receivers will provide a fitting challenge for his young secondary.

img_7825
By Stefan Modrich | The State Press

ASU football head coach Todd Graham addresses the media at his first weekly press conference of the 2016 season on Monday, Aug. 29, 2016 at the Dutson Theater in Tempe. 

"They've got talent," Graham said. "They're very explosive, and a very formidable opponent. So I don't really look at who are our common opponents or anything like that. This is all about this year, last year doesn't matter." 

And yes, Graham was asked about who will be lining up under center for the Sun Devils on the first drive of the year. 

His response? 

"We've got two guys that we have a lot of confidence in," Graham said. "Our team knows who our guy is, we'll run out there with the starting lineup." 

Graham delegated the official decision to offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, and heaped praise upon true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole, who was on the receiving end of such compliments throughout camp. 

Lindsey's next public availability is Wednesday afternoon, so it's possible that a formal announcement could be made then. 

Graham was asked about the maturity of redshirt sophomore Manny Wilkins, who appears to be the presumptive starter after practicing with the first team Saturday, but has not been confirmed. He praised Wilkins' academic achievements and reflected upon his earliest days with the program. 

"I remember him coming in as a freshman, and that's the most immature you're going to be," Graham said. "He's matured a great deal. There's a standard with those quarterbacks, and the guys that have come before him have left a really strong legacy here." 

Without having to go through the formalities of trying out two young quarterbacks, the Lumberjacks will have a much more established offense led by sophomore signal-caller Case Cookus and a pair of stud receivers in sophomore Emmanuel Butler (an FCS All-American) and freshman Elijah Marks. 

"We've got to come in and execute," Graham said. "We have to go out there and take care of the football, and do a good job performing at a high level. ... They're very capable." 

Graham also addressed the vaunted Devilbacker position, referring to both redshirt junior A.J. Latu and junior Koron Crump as starters, consistent with the public depth chart. 

"I always tell (Latu) he's one of my favorite players on defense," Graham said. "He's a guy that just brings it with passion, a very smart player, very physical player, a guy that loves this game." 

Ultimately, the shift in tone and urgency from Graham in practice over the course of spring ball and transitioning to the rigors of fall camp — like a politician pivoting from a primary campaign to a general election — can only mean one thing. 

"It's game time," Graham said. "We've got to go out and be disciplined." 


Reach the reporter at smodrich@asu.edu or follow @StefanJModrich on Twitter.

Like State Press Sports on Facebook and follow @statepressport on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.