That’s What He Said: Graham Talks One-Yard Fumbles, Protecting Wilkins

The Arizona State Sun Devils escaped UTSA with a 32-28 victory last week and sit at 3-0. The Devils now set their sights on Pac-12 play and the Cal Bears. In Todd Graham’s weekly press conference, he previews the Sonny Dykes-led squad, who are coming off a win over Texas.

Obviously, the strength of their team is their personnel and their ability to score points. I was impressed…they are very well-coached. Coach Dykes, I know him very well, does a great job coaching his football team. They are very well-coached in special teams and on offense and defense. They had a close game they lost to San Diego State, they had a similar-type game that we had last week. They came short on that one but then came back and beat the 11th-ranked team in the country. They have a lot of momentum here and have a good football team, well-coached and very disciplined.

There’s been an epidemic going around college football, and the only cure is hanging on to the football long enough to reach the end zone. Cal’s Vic Enwere fell victim to this against Texas, as did Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook just this season. Graham gave his thoughts on the latest game of “hot potato” in college football.

Our guys hand the ball to the official, always have. That’s just the way we do it, and there is a reason for it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a time that one of our guys have scored in the last four or five years that they didn’t hand the ball to the official. That’s something that we started doing a while ago. Obviously because of the pace, we want to keep the pace going, but also so you don’t have something like that happen. It’s usually rare, but there has been a lot of that lately. It’s too hard to score a touchdown. It’s just easier to hand that ball to the official.

Manny Wilkins took a ferocious hit early in the UTSA game. Wilkins is Graham’s most mobile quarterback he has ever had, but that puts him susceptible to big hits. Wilkins has been able to get around, and sometimes over, big hits so far, but should the tackle he took against UTSA be a cause for concern?

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When he hurdles somebody, people ask did I not like that, and I would rather him hurdle someone than get cut by him. But in that situation there, I don’t know if he didn’t see the guy or whatever. You just don’t want to take a straight shot like that.

The Sun Devils not only had to replace their quarterback this season but four of the five offensive linemen from 2015 including center Nick Kelly. A.J. McCollum has stepped in a set the tone for the line the past two games. The nation’s top junior college center recruit has impressed his head coach so far.

He’s an old school center. He’s just tough, blood and guts kind of guy. I like the guy. He really brings a lot of physicality to the run game. He’s a guy that really likes coming off the football blocking people. He’s learning, he’s very law but he’s learning and getting better. He has a lot he needs to do fundamentally. He’s brought physicality and toughness to that position.  

Arizona State hosts Cal on Saturday at 7 p.m. PST.