Thursday, August 23, 2012
Taylor Kelly ready to fix the Sun Devils
By Kevin Gemmell
Arizona State is a program that could use some fixing. So it only makes sense that they turn to a mechanic.
Meet Taylor Kelly, starting quarterback, drag racer, gear head.
When he's not running the Sun Devils' offense, he's running cars on the quarter mile back in his hometown of Eagle, Idaho. He runs a Toyota Supra, a BMW M3 and a Nissan 240SX. He's hit 129 miles per hour and covered the quarter in 10.9.
Pretty fast. And if something breaks, the wrenching gene kicks in and he fixes it.
Car enthusiast Taylor Kelly won the race to be Arizona State's starting quarterback.
That's sort of like his new job with the Sun Devils. Earlier this week, Kelly was named the victor of a three-quarterback competition and will start when ASU opens next week against Northern Arizona.
Kelly takes the helm of an offense that was big on numbers -- but also big on disappointment, particularly down the stretch when they dropped the final five games. Through the first eight games, when things were cranking, the Sun Devils averaged 36 points per game. During the losing streak, that number dropped to 29.
Something was broken. And now Kelly has to fix it.
"It's really about guys being focused and paying attention to every little detail and every play," Kelly said. "Focus on your job. If you do that and do your job, it can all come together. You never know when a big play can happen. But it's the little things that have to happen before a big play can."
Coming out of spring ball, Kelly was considered an underdog in the competition that included Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici. Eubank is the most athletic of the three. Bercovici, who backed up Brock Osweiler last season, was the better pocket passer. Kelly is a blend of the two. He can make plays with his feet, and he says his offseason training allowed him to get stronger in the passing game. That's what won him the job.
"I worked really hard throughout the summer," he said. "The main thing I needed to work on was my vertical shots and my arm strength and getting comfortable with me taking those shots. That was the key for me this summer. I studied a bunch of film and really got comfortable with the offense and my feet and reading the defenses.
"In camp, I felt a lot more comfortable with the guys and the offense and reads. I just came out and cut it loose."
But Kelly probably won't be an every-snap quarterback. Eubank has shown so much potential and athleticism that new head coach Todd Graham has been adamant about getting him on the field. Expect the Sun Devils to have a few different looks that give Kelly a breather and Eubank a chance to show off his talent.
"We'll definitely have some packages for him," Kelly said. "I think it's going to be exciting. We'll be giving the defenses different looks and I think it's going to be really good."
After NAU, the schedule picks up with Illinois at home, at Missouri, home to Utah and then at Cal. Those last two pose two of the toughest defenses in the conference. But Kelly knows he has the team behind him.
"The guys respect me and I respect them," he said. "We have a good group. The guys are focused on the little things. That's what [Graham] keeps preaching and guys are buying into it -- the team concept. Working together as one unit. That, more than anything, will take us really far this year."