Opinion: Manny Wilkins will put it all together for his final season at ASU

The redshirt senior has the tools to turn in a solid season

As he enters his final year with ASU football, redshirt senior Manny Wilkins is the top quarterback in the program and is poised turn in a strong season this fall. 

Wilkins will be given the keys to the offense for the third consecutive season and should be in store for a productive year.

Head coach Herm Edwards is working to incorporate a more pro-style offense, which would have Wilkins playing under center a lot more and would lead to more passing plays.

For some players, a coaching overhaul and scheme change ahead of their senior season could rattle them, but Edwards and Wilkins have hit it off quite well this offseason. Despite Edwards' primarily defensive focus and coaching style, he has had a profound impact on Wilkins.

 “Overall, they’ve been side-by-side," said Anthony Totri, ASU football beat writer for The State Press. "They are very much on the same page on how they want to approach the season. Manny wants to develop himself for the future, and Herm wants to help him develop. It’s clear on the field.”

Wilkins may not possess the skillset or statistics to make him a noticeable NFL prospect, but he certainly has the ability to be one of the better quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and potentially wind up in the NFL as an undrafted free agent.

His experience within the conference and with many of the offensive players like junior receiver N’Keal Harry should only help him next year.

“It appears he’s been working on the playbook and his grasp on that,” Totri said. “He’s working on his reads at the line of scrimmage and his ability to analyze at the line and check into the correct play.”

The aforementioned offensive, pro-style scheme changes could be another difficulty for Wilkins to overcome, but he’s embracing them. 

If Wilkins can continue to improve his game and become as multi-dimensional as possible, there’s no reason to think he can’t take a major step in his game.

From his sophomore to junior seasons, he played in three more games and saw a decrease in his interceptions from nine to eight, and his passing completion percentages were practically identical (63.3 in 2016 compared to 63.4 in 2017). Naturally, he threw for more yards and touchdowns simply because he played in more games. 

He’s also no slouch as a runner with 12 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons, but the new offense could be better for him in the long-run.

So long as Wilkins familiarizes himself with the new playbook, the slower offensive pace should give him more time to think through plays and make better reads, which will lead to more productivity.

Many college football pundits don’t have ASU as a legitimate contender in the Pac-12, but the Sun Devils could surprise some people if Wilkins elevates his play.

Wilkins has handled quarterback competition between himself and University of Alabama transfer Blake Barnett, coaching turnover and has shown he can win. Overcoming adversity, no matter how big or small, is a key for any champion.

“Go look at the soon-to-be starting quarterback at (the Univeristy of) Memphis, Brady White,” Totri said. “(He could) easily be a number two quarterback at ASU (behind Wilkins).”

Wilkins has proven he has what it takes to be a starter in the Pac-12. Now it’s time for him to become a winner.  

Reach the columnist at Steven.Slobodzian@asu.edu or follow @PSlobodzianASU on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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