Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Meet your quarterback: Arizona State
By Kevin Gemmell
There were six quarterback competitions in the Pac-12 this year. Some came about by the departure of some outstanding quarterbacks. Others just needed new life infused into the offense.
Today we're going to take a look at each of the quarterbacks who won their job.
We conclude the series with Arizona State, which produced probably the biggest upset of the six quarterback competitions. Entering the spring session, Taylor Kelly wasn't exactly an afterthought, but he was considered third in the three-man competition involving Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici. But he did the work and came out of fall camp as the starter.
Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
- 2011 stats: 4-4, 31 yards. 0 TDs, 0 Ints.
- Career stats: 4-4, 31 yards. 0 TDs, 0 Ints.
- Pros: Kelly offers a nice balance for what new head coach Todd Graham is trying to do on offense. He's not the most athletic quarterback -- that honor goes to Eubank. And he's not the best pocket passer -- that distinction is Bercovici's. But Kelly is good enough at both aspects of the job -- getting the ball to receivers and also making plays with his feet -- that he fits in with Graham's scheme.
- Cons: He's good at each aspect, but not great. In fact, Graham has said that Eubank is going to get a lot of playing time -- essentially because he's such a good athlete that they can't keep him off the field. So Kelly will have to get used to games when his rhythm might be disrupted. He could be cranking out yards on one series, and then sit another while the Sun Devils run the Eubank packages. Plus, if Eubank is as good as many are predicting, you have to wonder if it's only a matter of time before he overtakes Kelly on the depth chart.
- How he won the job: Hard work. Refreshing, isn't it? Good for him. He was considered behind the other two coming out of spring ball. But he recognized what he needed to work on, addressed it and got better at it. One aspect of his game that needed improving was his strength in the vertical passing game. He came into fall camp making all of the throws, much to Graham's delight. Also, he didn't turn the ball over, which goes a long way with Graham. Coaches hate turnovers. New coaches hate them even more.
- Coach speak: "Taylor is a guy that's very consistent," Graham said. "Very even-keeled. Does a great job managing the game. He's a very smart player. He can extend plays and make things happen with his legs, but he's very accurate with the arm. The bottom line was we felt like, going into this season, I'll be honest with you, we thought he was a little behind. We thought he was in third. He got stronger and faster and improved his arm strength over the summer. He's a guy that doesn't turn the football over. He manages the game and gives us opportunities. Those are the reasons why we picked him."
- Backup plan: Eubank is going to play. Graham has made it clear they'll have packages for him. But while Kelly is the every-down quarterback, expect Eubank to be the first off the bench. He's a physical talent at 6-foot-5, 242 pounds, who will push Kelly for playing time.