ASU football coach Herm Edwards in his final media session before Saturday’s season opener vs UTSA
Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral sports

ASU football practiced Wednesday at Kajikawa practice fields, the last workout open to the media before Saturday’s season opener against Texas-San Antonio.

Leading off

“We took the pads off. We really wanted to see our mental focus and concentration. More games are lost than won by errors and ball security. Going into the first game, you’re  always concerned with that. Kicking field goals, snap exchange, the little things that get away from you. We’ve got to be really locked in on that.” — ASU coach Herm Edwards 

Walding remains in backup QB hunt

ASU goes into its first game still unclear who will be the backup quarterback behind senior Manny Wilkins.

Sophomore Dillon Sterling-Cole, the only other healthy scholarship quarterback, has been unable to pull away from walk-on sophomore Kurt Walding. They are listed as co-No. 2 on the opening depth chart.

“Sometimes it could be a game situation on when and where,” offensive coordinator Rob Likens said of choosing between the two.

Walding has been through competitions in high school and junior college, not always on the winning side, and understands that sometimes the best play is patience.

He first played behind Ryan Boyle at Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines then split the job with J.T. Brown as a senior on a state championship team. With Brown hurt, Walding was most valuable player in the 2015 title game.

“We just put the team before ourselves and ended up winning the state championship,” Walding said. “That’s always been a really good example of how success will come from that.”

At Iowa Western, Walding redshirted in 2016 then opened as the starting quarterback in 2017 ahead of Kai Locksley. But after Locksley’s brother died in a shooting, Walding went to the coaching staff and asked that Locksley be the starter in part to honor his late brother.

It was an unselfish act, but the kind that coaches don’t forget. So when ASU came looking for a junior college quarterback after the transfers of Brady White and Blake Barnett, Walding was easy to recommend.

ASU wide receivers coach Charlie Fisher, formerly head coach at Western Illinois, knew Walding’s high school and junior college coaches.

“We did our due diligence, and it paid off,” Likens said. “You ask the right questions. How was he when he didn’t start? The coaches said he was great, he was a model citizen, he came to work every day and worked hard and never pouted. I would never take a guy that pouted when he was second-team quarterback because you don’t want that in your room obviously. So he had no red flags.”

In his short time at ASU, Walding, 6-1, 212, has impressed Likens with his composure and quick study. 

“You’ll see a quarterback in one scheme and he’s maybe second or third team and he goes over to another place and, oh, wow this is perfect for him,” Likens said.

“I think this scheme really fits him. He’s smart, he’s pretty accurate, he gets the ball out of his hand fast. He’s kind of like what we do. Then when we need him to throw a deep ball, he’s got a pretty good arm.”

“I’m just the type of person who always rises to the occasion,” Walding said. “That’s my self motto. No matter how big the stage is, I have confidence I’ll always rise to that level.

“Over the years, I’ve learned to just focus on myself. I’m not really too worried about how he (Sterling-Cole) does or what he does. It’s more of a focus on me and what I can do each day to grow as person and a player, and get better then learn from Manny. He’s a great guy to look up to. He’s definitely someone who, when he’s on the field, I’m watching him, seeing what decisions he makes and why that is.”

As for his decision last fall to defer to Locksley, now competing to start at UTEP, Walding has no regrets. 

“If I could do it again, I wouldn’t ever change anything about that situation,” he said. “Because I think being a good person is more important to me than being a good football player.

“We’re pretty close because of that situation. We’ll wish each other luck before our first games and talk throughout the season. I reached out to him about the recruiting process when it came to Arizona State and what to look for in it. He’s definitely a person I can talk to and I feel like he feels the same.”


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ASU players will be wearing maroon jerseys and gold helmets and pants for the opening game. Fans are encouraged to wear gold.

— Edwards’ weekly radio show called “All Aboard” will debut at 7 p.m. Thursday at The Lodge Tempe, 26 S. Farmer.

— Pac-12 Network will be filming at ASU next week for the Sun Devils’ turn on “The Drive,” to be telecast in the week leading up to the San Diego State game on Sept. 15.

— Safety Evan Fields and offensive lineman Zach Robertson continue to practice on the side. It’s not clear if either will play against UTSA.

Up next

ASU will hold a closed practice at 9:45 a.m. Thursday at Kajikawa practice fields, its final full  workout before the season opener Saturday.