At last in the here and now, Arizona State has a starting quarterback. Whether it’ll be the same starter as next month or even next week remains to be seen.
Ahead of Saturday night’s opener against Northern Arizona, ASU announced that Manny Wilkins will be the starter against the FCS program. Wilkins began summer camp engaged in a three-way competition for the job with sophomore Bryce Perkins and freshman Brady White; a neck injury suffered by Perkins whittled the list of contenders to two early on in camp.
“We’re going to run Manny out there with the first group, he’s earned that,” head coach Todd Graham said. “But we’ve got great confidence in Brady as well. Manny’s our guy to run out with the first group and we’ll go from there.
“We’ve got great confidence in both those guys, and, if Bryce was able to play, we felt that there was a very unique skill set with him.”
According to Graham, he had “known for weeks” that Wilkins would be under center for the first game. Graham also added during his radio interview that the competition isn’t over and will extend on into the season.
Wilkins served as Mike Bercovici‘s backup in 2015. The redshirt sophomore ran for 55 yards on seven carries but didn’t attempt a pass. In fact, the Sun Devils are one of two FBS teams who have entered or will enter the 2016 season without a quarterback on the roster who has attempted a pass at this level.
Also on the roster at the position is true freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole, a four-star 2016 recruit who Graham describes as “something special” and someone who they’re “excited about the future with him.”
North Carolina’s eastern and western Group of 5 programs are going to rekindle their rivalry.
Appalachian State and East Carolina — or is that East Carolina and Appalachian State? — announced Tuesday plans to play a 4-game series in 2021 and then 2024-26.
The teams will meet on opening weekend (Sept. 4) of the 2021 season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, then go home-and-home for the final three games of the series. East Carolina will host on Sept. 14, 2024, App State will take a turn on Sept. 6, 2025, and East Carolina will close the series on Sept. 5, 2026.
“On behalf of Appalachian State University, I would like to thank Will Webb, the Charlotte Sports Foundation, Jeff Compher and East Carolina University, the Carolina Panthers, and Bank of America Stadium for the opportunity to host a home game in downtown Charlotte,” App State AD Doug Gillin said in a statement Tuesday. “The chance for App State to host a home game in an NFL Stadium, in Charlotte where our largest alumni base is and against a program like East Carolina is a great opportunity for our students-athletes, alumni, and fans.”
“Both football programs have a rich history of success and outstanding fan support,” East Carolina AD Jeff Compher added. “I am especially excited for our future football student-athletes who will have an opportunity to play in such an exceptional NFL venue as Bank of America Stadium. We are grateful to Doug [Gillin] and our colleagues at Appalachian for working together in creating this four-game series.”
The two teams have met 31 times previously, but only twice since 1979. East Carolina has won each of the recent meetings — 29-24 to open the 2009 season and 35-13 to open ’12, both in Greenville — and holds a 19-12 all-time advantage with wins in the last six and nine of the last 11 matches.
Arkansas has promoted Paul Rhoads to defensive coordinator, the program has announced.
Like a college player going pro or a high schooler freshly offered a scholarship, Bret Bielema made the announcement through his Twitter account.
Rhoads ascends to the defensive coordinator spot after Robb Smith left the staff to take the same job at Minnesota. He spent the last season on staff as defensive backs coach, but he’ll have his work cut out for him as he moves to the big chair.
Arkansas concluded the 2016 season ranked 123rd nationally in yards per play allowed and 85th in scoring defense. The Razorbacks allowed 37.3 points per game and 7.87 yards per play in SEC games — which both stood as the worst in the conference.
Best known for his 7-year run as the head coach at Iowa State, Rhoads made his name in coaching as a successful defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh (2000-07) and Auburn (2008).
Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware is the quintessential “player you hate if he’s on the other team and player you love if he’s on your team.” Boulware constantly searches — often times outside the letter of the rule book — to look for an edge, and made no secret of his disdain for ESPN college football analyst Demsond Howard‘s disdain for Clemson’s linebackers.
Howard’s quote that started the one-sided feud, via The Clemson Insider:
“Defensively, when I watch Dalvin Cook, Florida State’s running back do … and he is an elite running back and there is no doubting that. He is a special talent. But they are supposed to have a special defense, too. I think their achilles heel may be their linebackers. They are good straight ahead, but as far as going east and west, sideline to sideline, Dalvin Cook turned the corner whenever he wanted to against that defense. I need to see the linebackers play a little better, too, from Clemson.”
That’s the kind of quote that the average viewer would consume and then never give a second thought, or, if you’re a Boulware, the kind you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
With Clemson’s national championship now in the bag, Boulware showed off his new strategically-placed tattoo on Twitter, tagging Howard in the process.
(By the way, Cook did rush for 169 yards and four touchdowns that night, though Clemson won the game, 37-34.)
Knowing Boulware, he’ll spend the rest of his days barefoot, hopping with his inked foot splayed in the air, begging each and every passerby to ask him how he got that tattoo.
Arizona State has hired former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson to coach its offensive line, the Sun Devils announced Tuesday.
Henson spent seven seasons on staff in Columbia, the last three as offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and/or tight ends coach. His offenses helped the Tigers win the 2013 and ’14 SEC East championships, but their yards per play ranks plummeted from 13th to 125th in yards per play over his three years at the helm. Missouri rebounded to rank 31st in the first year under new coordinator Josh Heupel.
He spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst at Oklahoma State.
“Josh brings a tremendous background of winning championships at the highest levels,” says Graham. “He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri and won back-to-back SEC East Championships. He was the recruiting coordinator at LSU and was recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters for his accomplishments there. He helped LSU win the 2008 BCS National Championship. Josh brings a wealth of knowledge of our system to our staff, in addition to being one of the finest recruiters in the country. He will blend well with Chip Lindsey and Rob Likens.”
In addition to coaching the offensive line, Henson will serve as assistant head coach and run game coordinator. Former offensive line coach Chris Thomsen left for a position at TCU earlier this week.
“I am so happy to be at Arizona State University,” Henson said in a statement. “One of the things that attracted me to ASU is that Coach Graham has a track record of winning wherever he’s been. And he has a track record of developing young men. Winning is important, but being involved in their lives is also what appeals to me. I know a lot of members of the current staff and they have great things to say about the university and about the Phoenix area. I came out here years ago as a guest of former ASU assistant football coach Johnny Barr and found it to be one of the best places in the country to live. I am very excited to get started.”
Arizona State finished 112th in rushing, 119th in yards per carry and sacks allowed, and tied for 105th in tackles for loss allowed en route to a 5-7 campaign in 2016.