Monday, August 18, 2014
Better know a Pac-12 QB: Taylor Kelly
By Kevin Gemmell
The Pac-12 is blessed with an abundance of returning starting quarterbacks in 2014. With 10 starters coming back, many are wondering if the league is on pace for its best quarterback year ever. This week the Pac-12 blog will give you a snapshot of all 10.
What you need to know about Kelly: Buried at third on the depth chart when Todd Graham arrived on campus, Kelly surprised many when he played his way into the starting lineup after a phenomenal 2012 spring session, outperforming Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici. The move was met with raised eyebrows, but has turned out to be a major boost for the program as Kelly emerged into one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the league. He’s the perfect fit for what offensive coordinator Mike Norvell likes to run. He can dink and dunk with the best of them, but his touch and accuracy were on display in 2013 when he and receiver Jaelen Strong (also returning) perfected the back-shoulder pass which has become a staple of the offense. Don’t forget, it was Kelly who was second-team all-conference last year, not Brett Hundley or Sean Mannion.
Career high point: Kelly was the model of efficiency in ASU’s 38-33 win over UCLA at the Rose Bowl last season, completing 20 of 27 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown. He also led the Sun Devils with 99 rushing yards (on 22 carries) and a score as ASU locked up the South Division with the victory. The win also avenged a loss the year before in Tempe. While Kelly has had better statistical games, this one carried the Sun Devils to the South title and had the most gravitas in the Pac-12 power rankings.
BETTER KNOW A QB
The Pac-12 is blessed with an abundance of returning starting quarterbacks in 2014. With 10 starters coming back, many are wondering if the league is on pace for its best quarterback year ever.
Career low point: If you're only as good as your last game, Kelly will be the first to say he's got a lot of work to do. In last year's Holiday Bowl -- a 37-23 loss to Texas Tech -- Kelly completed just 16 of 29 passes with no touchdowns and an interception. Though he did rush for 135 yards and a touchdown, it was the worst game of his career in terms of pass efficiency. The heavily favored Sun Devils looked sluggish on offense and Kelly shouldered a lot of that blame. There were a lot of circumstances to consider: Texas Tech had been hearing for two weeks that they would get slaughtered, there might have been a hangover from the Pac-12 title game, etc. Whatever. The Sun Devils were bad.
When he was a recruit: Despite being named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Idaho during his senior season, Kelly was something of an afterthought in the 2010 recruiting class. A 6-foot-2, 175-pound dual-threat quarterback out of Eagle High School, Kelly received an offer from Nevada -- his only offer throughout much of the recruiting process -- and committed to the Wolf Pack during the summer before his senior season. That's likely where he'd be now, had Pete Thomas not pulled away from his commitment to Arizona State and pledged to Colorado State, forcing the Sun Devils to scramble for a quarterback late in the game. Kelly took an official visit to Arizona State in mid-January and committed to the Sun Devils immediately after. The fit was perfect for Kelly, who fashioned himself after Jake Plummer, another former Idaho prep standout who just happened to become a star quarterback at Arizona State.
Opposing head coach's take: "He's a bit of a magician. He throws it well enough. He runs it well enough. He's not the biggest guy, but he can stand in the pocket and make big time throws. He can escape the pocket and make throws on the run. He might be as good as anyone in our conference as far as throwing the ball on the run as he escapes the pocket. But you also have to account for him as a runner ... he's one of those guys that you better account for because he can hurt you."
What to expect in 2014: More of the same, if not better. His completion percentage dropped from 67.1 in 2012 to 62.4 in 2013, but he also threw the ball more and was asked to do more. Also, he rushed for nine touchdowns last year compared to just one in 2012. With a lot of returning talent around him, Kelly has an opportunity to leave as one of ASU’s greatest quarterbacks. But his greatest asset will be his experience. He has started 27 games (tied with UCLA's Brett Hundley for most starts) and has an even firmer grasp of Norvell’s scheme. Norvell is one of the hottest assistants in the country right now, and he knows how to get the most out of Kelly in the air and on the ground.