Each week starting from now until day of the 2013 Sun Devil football season, the ASU media relations department will release a position group summary for every spot on the Sun Devil roster. These will provide in-depth detail on the top returners, promising newcomers and all you could need to know about each position as we head into what should be another exciting season under Todd Graham.
The first batch of summaries will focus on the offensive side of the ball, and this week we will review the 2013 Sun Devil Quarterbacks.
by Jeremy Hawkes
Just a year ago, the Arizona State University football team was heading into the start of summer practice with a big question mark at the quarterback position. Many who thought they would be seeing battle between Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici for the starting role ended up seeing dark horse Taylor Kelly emerge from the fold following a phenomenal preseason. The sophomore would go on to have a record-setting year at the helm of the Sun Devil offense and, now a junior, leaves no doubt as to who the program’s starter will be heading into the coming Fall.
In his first season of starting, Taylor Kelly completed a school-record 67.1 percent of his passes for 3,039 yards and 29 touchdowns. On the season, Kelly finished second in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency at 159.88 and was ninth in the nation in that category. He shattered the previous school record for quarterbacks with over 300 passes in the category, which was previously 145.09 by Rudy Carpenter in 2007. Kelly also set the school record for completion percentage (67.1 percent, 241-359). The previous record was 61.8 percent set the previous season by Brock Osweiler (minimum 300 pass attempts).
With 29 touchdown passes in 2012, Kelly ranked second in ASU single-season history, just one shy of the school record set by Andrew Walter in 2004. Additionally, Kelly threw just nine interceptions and the .0251 interception percentage ranks second in school history among QBs throwing over 300 passes, behind only the .0238 percentage set by Andrew Walter in 2003 (10 of 421). The team went as Taylor Kelly went as he threw 21 touchdowns with zero interceptions in ASU’s eight wins on the season.
Kelly also owns the ability to make things happen with him legs, making him a threat in designed plans and giving him to opportunity to keep broken plays alive. This ability was demonstrated by his 516 net rushing yards on 134 attempts on the year - a mark skewed by the fact that sacks count against his rushing total. If you take out sacks, Kelly would have led the team in yardage and yards per carry with 690 net rushing yards in 2012 on 103 carries (6.7 ypc). Over the course of the season, Kelly had eight carries of 20 or more yards, easily tops of the team ahead of Marion Grice and D.J. Foster (3). Kelly accounted for 37 first downs on the ground on the year, a mark that also led the team.
Heading into the season, quarterbacks coach Mike Norvell has challenged Kelly to make the same improvements from Spring to Fall as he made last season and doing so is important as ASU’s preseason practice won’t be a cakewalk for Kelly, with Eubank and Bercovici both returning this year to offer competition following a Spring that saw both make improvements.
Eubank is one of the most athletically gifted quarterbacks in the league at 6-6, 246 with the ability to use his legs and to make passes. He finished 2012 with 223 rushing yards and four touchdowns, the latter ranking him third among Pac-12 quarterbacks in the category. His ability to bring a unique skill set to the field will give him chances to make plays again this coming season.
Norvell noted that Eubank made large improvements on understanding the rhythm and timing of the offense this Spring, allowing him to make better passes. Eubank also isn’t afraid to put in the extra work to succeed, often being found on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the weight room working on his footwork or in the football office watching film.
Bercovici can’t be left out of the equation either, with Norvell pointing out that he may have had the best spring in terms of improvement of all three guys. One of those improvements came in getting his body suited physically to what the Sun Devils expect from their quarterback. In the Spring, Bercovici showcased some athleticism extending the play and running the ball that was much improved from last season.
The redshirt sophomore also has a strong arm and a quick release that allowed him to make some fantastic passes during the Spring and even head coach Todd Graham noted that after a great Spring, he’s not a guy one should rest their laurels on. He was the first true freshman to throw a pass for the Sun Devils since Jake Plummer back in the 1990's and was a top-rated quarterback prospect out of high school so the potential for success is clearly there.
Redshirt freshman Taylor Cohan rounds out the quarterbacks for the season and will provide valuable depth toward the scout team.