Several seniors for ASU football will suit up one final time on Saturday in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl. Who has something left to prove?
Arizona State’s matchup with No. 21 Fresno State on Dec. 15 will be the 27th edition of the Las Vegas Bowl. While the bowl game has been in existence since 1991 and will likely continue into the foreseeable future, Saturday marks the final game in the college careers of numerous Sun Devils.
With one final game to play, here are three ASU seniors that can both impact their collegiate legacies and strengthen their cases to play professionally following the Las Vegas Bowl.
Manny Wilkins – Quarterback
A redshirt senior, Wilkins has experienced nearly every high and low with the Sun Devils over the past five years.
He was on the roster when ASU climbed to No. 6 in the College Football Playoff in 2014 and started for former coach Todd Graham as the Sun Devils watched a 5-1 start evaporate into six consecutive losses and a missed bowl berth in 2016.
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But in three years under center, he’s provided stability and been a sense of familiarity as the program underwent a coaching change and hired four offensive coordinators in as many seasons.
Wilkins’ final campaign — prior to Saturday — rests on 2,896 passing yards and 19 touchdowns against four interceptions not including an additional 401 rushing yards and eight scores on the ground.
Though ASU did not reach a Pac-12 Championship Game in Wilkins’ time, he leaves Tempe as the third Sun Devils quarterback to beat USC, UCLA and Arizona in the same season.
What’s at stake Saturday?
For Wilkins, a win would mark his first in a bowl game as the starting quarterback after missing out on bowl eligibility in 2016 and losing 52-31 to North Carolina State in 2017.
It’d also be the Sun Devils’ third win over a ranked team in 2018, adding onto victories over then No. 15 Michigan State and then No. 15 Utah.
But most importantly, it’s an opportunity to show the type of competitor Wilkins is. Though he’s not expected to hear his name called in the NFL Draft next April, he’s regarded for his toughness and resiliency.
While those intangibles don’t necessarily translate to wins and losses, both could be enough to garner calls about signing as an undrafted free agent.
Renell Wren – Defensive Lineman
This has been a word used time and time again to describe Wren. Measuring at 6-foot-6 and 297 pounds complemented by athleticism few interior lineman possess, he’s got no shortage of potential.
But Wren’s numbers don’t accurately represent his impact. He finished with 37 tackles (4.5 for loss) and one sack this season but the Sun Devil captain anchored the defense in 2018.
Given his combination of size and speed with a good reach, he’d often see double teams on the line but Wren remained effective in stopping the run.
His 23 defensive stops ranked fourth among all Pac-12 interior defenders while a positive run-impact score of 19.2 percent of rushing plays was No. 23 among all interior defenders in the FBS.
Those efforts did not go unnoticed as Wren was named honorable mention to the Pac-12 All-Conference team.
Fresno State averages over 146 rushing yards per game including quarterback Marcus McMaryion, who has seven touchdowns on the ground. Look for Wren to be a key cog in forcing the Bulldogs to become a one-dimensional offense.
Wren’s draft projections are unknown at this time but another chance to play on national television (in a game that doesn’t start after 10 p.m. ET) has the makings of an opportunity he simply can’t afford to strike out on.
A big performance only bolsters Wren’s resume prior to any pre-draft workouts.
Casey Tucker – Offensive Lineman
Beyond sports or any competition for that matter, second chances are rare. Tucker received a third and it very well could prolong his football career.
After transferring from Stanford, Tucker announced he’d play his final season of college football at ASU. Throughout the offseason, all signs pointed to the graduate transfer becoming a mainstay at left tackle.
However, Tucker struggled, prompting a move to left guard. That’s when things began to click for the Chandler, Ariz. native.
He became the anchor of an offensive line that allowed 15 sacks in 12 games, the third-fewest in program history and was a key to sophomore running back Eno Benjamin’s 1,524-yard breakout season.
His performance earned him an honorable mention to the Pac-12 All-Conference team.
At 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, Tucker’s versatility could translate well to a zone-blocking scheme in the NFL.
But for Tucker, the biggest focuses on Saturday should be clean blocking (no penalties) and remaining effective in both facets of the offense.