Pac-12: Michael Eubank

ASU QB Michael Eubank to transfer

December, 13, 2013
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State backup quarterback Michael Eubank plans to transfer to another school.

Coach Todd Graham said after practice Friday that he will help Eubank in the search for a new team.

The 6-foot-6, 246-pound quarterback was used mostly in short-yardage situations by the Sun Devils, including a notable failure on a goal-line sneak in the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford.

Read the rest of this story here.
Arizona State Sun Devils

2012 record: 8-5
2012 conference record: 5-4 (Second in South Division)
Returning starters: Offense 6; defense 8; Kick/punt: 2

Top returners: QB Taylor Kelly, DT Will Sutton, LB Carl Bradford, RB Marion Grice, RB D.J. Foster, LT Evan Finkenberg, TE/H Chris Coyle, S Alden Darby, DE Junior Onyeali

Key losses: RB Cameron Marshall, LB Brandon Magee, WR Rashad Ross, P Josh Hubner, OL Andrew Sampson, OL Brice Schwab.

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Marion Grice* (679)
Passing: Taylor Kelly* (3,039)
Receiving: Chris Coyle* (696)
Tackles: Brandon Magee (113)
Sacks: Will Sutton* (13)
Interceptions: Keelan Johnson (5)

Spring answers
  1. Dynamic duo (1): Running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster should make up one of the most prolific 1-2 punches in college football. This was the first time for both to go through full springs at a major college (Grice was a JC transfer, Foster is a sophomore) and the reports are both have added speed and muscle to their frames. With the way ASU uses its backs in the passing game, expect big total yardage numbers from both in 2013.
  2. Dynamic duo (2): On the opposite side of the ball, DT Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford make up an equally dangerous tandem. There are only 10 players in FBS football returning with 10-plus sacks from 2012. And ASU has two of them. Sutton, the league's defensive player of the year, had 13 and Bradford notched 11.5. Combined with several other returning starters, the Sun Devils boast one of the top front sevens in the league.
  3. QB depth: Per head coach Todd Graham, Mike Bercovici had a fantastic spring. We know Kelly is entrenched as the starter. But with Bercovici surging and Michael Eubank bringing the dimension he brings, the Sun Devils have fantastic depth at the position -- something very important for a team hoping to make a championship run.
Fall questions
  1. WR questions: Help should be on the way. Graham called wide receiver his biggest need and the 2013 class includes Jaelen Strong, Ronald Lewis, Joe Morris, Cameron Smith and Ellis Jefferson. When they get put into the fold, it should make an immediate impact on depth and athleticism at the position. All five are at least 6-foot, giving Kelly plenty of options and wiggle room in the red zone.
  2. Line depth: It's always a concern. And while the Sun Devils look stacked on the defensive line, they are working to replace departed Andrew Sampson and Brice Schwab. The staff spent the spring working Sil Ajawara (LG) and Vi Teofilo (RG) into the starting five. Behind them is some versatility in Tyler Sulka, Devin Goodman and Mo Latu.
  3. Special improvements: Graham called ASU's special teams middle of the road last year -- stressing they need to improve in the kicking game if they want to be a better team. Departed punter Josh Hubner was one of the best in the league. Dom Vizzare looks to step in but will be pushed by incoming freshman Matt Haack. Zane Gonzalez was brought in to push returning kickers Alex Garoutte and Jon Mora.
Every game counts. But some games count more. Or tell us more.

We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.

And then we'll let you vote from a list of potential options.

We're going in reverse alphabetical order.

Arizona State

Most important game: Nov. 30 vs. Arizona


Most important 2013 game for Arizona State?


Discuss (Total votes: 2,401)

Why it's important: This time last year, Arizona State fans were simply wondering what they were going to get with Todd Graham as their head coach and how quickly it would take for Michael Eubank to win the starting quarterback spot. There was also a consensus that no matter what happens, just beat Arizona.

They did.

But an eight-win season and a bunch of talent returning on both sides of the ball -- including quarterback Taylor Kelly and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton -- means the Sun Devils can raise the expectation bar higher than it was last year. Their hopes for 2013 should include roses. Whether the Sun Devils are actually good enough to turn those hopes into reality depends on how they navigate a very demanding 2013 slate.

No matter how high the hopes get, however, there is and always will be one constant. Beat Arizona.

But before things get all territorial, the Sun Devils have to go through a gauntlet as tough as any team in the league.

Last year Arizona State faced seven teams that finished the year with winning records. One of those was an FCS team, meaning the Sun Devils faced six sub-.500 opponents. And they did what they were supposed to do in those games -- going 5-1 with the only loss coming on the road to Missouri. But when the schedule ramped up, they lost four in a row to Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State and USC before rebounding nicely to close the year with wins over Washington State, Arizona and Navy. The combined record of ASU's 2012 opponents was 80-82 (.493) and if you only count the FBS schools, it was 72-79 (.476).

The 2013 season promises to be tougher. Then again, so do the Sun Devils. The combined 2012 record of this year's opponents is 87-67 (.564). And if you take out FCS Sacramento State, the combined FBS teams were 81-62 (.566). It features both Rose Bowl participants in Wisconsin and Stanford and the national runner up in Notre Dame. All three of those games will be huge toward building ASU's national credibility.

But they aren't as important as Arizona.

Right now ASU and UCLA are perceived as the frontrunners in the South -- and USC isn't too far behind. Last year's showdown with the Bruins was epic -- with both teams scoring late before a game-winning UCLA field goal sealed it for the Bruins. It's a budding new rivalry and it could again determine the 2013 South champion.

But it's not as important as Arizona.

The way ASU's schedule sets up is interesting. It's frontloaded with four tough, consecutive games against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame. That's as tough a stretch as any team in the country. And it closes against Oregon State, at UCLA and home to Arizona. How ASU negotiates the schedule early will go a long way toward how the rest of the country feels about them.

But, all together now, it's not as important as beating Arizona.

The home team has lost the last four meetings between the schools. Last year's score, 41-34, is considered a blowout by recent historical standards. The teams played to 31-27 in '11, 30-29 (2OT) in '10 and 20-17 in '09. The average margin of victory has been less than a field goal.

It's as fierce a rivalry as there is in the nation and in a recruiting destination-state like Arizona, bragging rights mean everything. The addition of Graham and Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has also added a new and exciting element to the showdown. And as the old adage goes, anything can happen in a rivalry game.

Suppose ASU isn't as good as advertised and it goes 1-4 to start the season and one of the LA schools takes the South. Nothing would rectify a disappointing year like beating your rival. Suppose ASU is as good as advertised and they are in the looking at 10-11 wins heading into the Arizona game. Nothing puts a stamp on a year like heading to the postseason at your rival's expense.

So while ASU certainly has plenty of important games that carry national significance -- it's still hard to imagine anything ever trumping the Territorial Cup as most important.
By his own admission, Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell is sleeping better. He's sawing logs instead of laying awake at night counting reps -- trying to find the right way to divide time between three quarterbacks competing for Arizona State's starting job.

As we all know, Taylor Kelly emerged from the competition of three last year to win ASU's starting quarterback position, and he led the Sun Devils to an 8-5 record.

That Kelly guy turned out to be pretty good also -- completing 67.1 percent of his passes for more than 3,000 yards with 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He finished ninth nationally in passing efficiency, second only to Oregon's Marcus Mariota (7th nationally) among Pac-12 quarterbacks.

This year, there is no competition, at least for the starting spot. Kelly is the guy. And that puts Norvell at ease.

"Anytime you go into a spring with a guy that has that experience and you know what he can on game day and you have a sense of what you have, it's refreshing," Norvell said. "There aren't as many sleepless nights. We're very excited about Taylor and what his future is going to be.

"We still have great competition at that position with Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici and they are continuing to push him each and every day at practice. That's the good thing about our situation, we feel like we've got three great quarterbacks and they are all continuing to grow. But it is nice to know you have your guy in there that can get it done on game day."

Norvell believes the Sun Devils have only scratched the surface of what they are capable of offensively. With an efficient starter like Kelly and a running back corps that is phenomenal in space, Norvell can use this time to dream up more crazy ways to get the ball to his backs.

"There's more of a knowledge of the offense as a whole," Norvell said. "I was talking about this to a couple of coaches after our first practice. To get done with that practice and the fact they had a sense of what we were doing was nice. This time last year it was completely foreign to them. Being able to build on that first year experience and the overall knowledge, now you are able to get more advanced. To put in more of the offense. To look at different things and be able to build on the success and also get a little more complex with what we want to do."

He's also heard the increased buzz about the team, knowing full well that high expectations will clash with a difficult schedule in just a few months.

"Right now we're just focused on ourselves," he said. "The biggest thing with spring ball is making sure each player is getting better. Right now it's about finding an identity with the guys we have and letting them grown and come together. We know we have a great challenge this season. Our guys will have to come out and start fast and we'll continue to build from there."

Pac-12 chat wrap

January, 31, 2013
Apparently I offended Stanford fans yesterday by saying I don't think the Cardinal can go undefeated -- which was promptly followed by the fact that I don't think any team in the Pac-12 can go undefeated. Sounds like a good poll question for later today -- can anyone go undefeated in 2013? For now, enjoy the chat highlights or click here to see the entire chat.

Trojan1981 (Edinburgh): With 38 conference championships under their belt, nobody can reasonably dispute that USC is a "traditional powerhouse"; but do any of the other teams in the PAC 12 meet the definition?

Kevin Gemmell (2:02 PM): Hey, Trojan 1981 to start us off. How about that. USC certainly has a nice advantage in overall titles. But UCLA has 17, Washington 15, Stanford and Cal at 13 apiece. I guess it depends on your definition of "traditional" power, but I think you could make an argument for UCLA and certainly Stanford and Oregon are on the rise.

John (Mountain View, CA): Kevin, after covering the program for a year, you probably know this -- what was the demand for Mike Bloomgren among college and pro teams? There was a report that USC was attempting to hire him as well as contact from other schools and the NFL. How hot a commodity is he now? What are the chances he follows in the footsteps of other Stanford OCs and get an NFL OC gig or college head-coaching job after next year?

Kevin Gemmell (2:07 PM): I don't know how much of a demand there was from the NFL. I can tell you he's extremely well-respected among his peers in the league and he was the natural choice for the job. [Head coach David] Shaw clearly recognized that. I know he spent four seasons with the Jets and he and [UCLA offensive coordinator] Noel Mazzone became good friends during that time and Noel can't stop raving about him. Give him a couple of seasons before we start talking about him moving up. But he certainly is one of the brighter pro-style minds in the country.

The Intern (Andrew) (Office, Couch): Can we expect [Taylor] Kelly to start for ASU next year? any chance for the other guys? Or maybe back to 2 QB system?

Kevin Gemmell (2:12 PM): [Todd] Graham strikes me as a smart coach. And a smart coach doesn't sit guys as efficient as Kelly was this year. I see no reason why he wouldn't be the starter. That's not to say they won't keep working in [Michael] Eubank or if Kelly falters, we could see a switch. But based on his performance last year, he's earned the right to be the starter through good times and bad.

Haggmark (San Francisco): Lame excuses aside, how many wins does [Lane] Kiffin have to get to keep his job in 2014. Does one embarrassing loss seal the deal?

Kevin Gemmell (2:19 PM): I think if he can get to 8-9 wins without any of the off-field issues, that would probably be enough considering the sanctions he has to deal with. But seven wins coupled with another off-field incident probably would be the end.

Mario (Tah): OSU: Blip in 2012 or sign of things to come?

Kevin Gemmell (2:35 PM): I think a sign of things to come. That offensive line should get better, good skill players in the pipeline and the coaching staff has been one of the best in the country in terms of continuity.

cougarbrian's little brother (PDX): Who will win the Apple Cup next year?

Kevin Gemmell (2:39 PM): I would say Washington based on the talent coming back. But I would have said Washington this year based on the talent they had (wait, I did say say Washington in my predictions. Thanks a lot Dawgs).

SEC fan (The dirty south): What are the chances the Pac-12 catches up to us for best conference in the country and steals the NC from us?

Kevin Gemmell (2:40 PM): I think Oregon is the only team that could legitimately make a run at the national championship next year. I think Stanford is going to be outstanding, but I just don't know where the points are going to come from. I see them being in a lot of close games again next year. As far as "best conference," teams like Oregon State and UCLA need to step up when the spotlight is on them for the conference to be respected in terms of its depth.

Bill (Denver): Time for a token CU question..... Can you say something nice about the Buffs?

Kevin Gemmell (2:48 PM): Best mascot entrance in college football -- hands down. But in all seriousness, I like the young QBs, I like the move to the pistol and I like that the coaching staff -- though they are new -- has worked together for a few years. The Embree crew was still learning to work together. I think four wins next year is realistic and a bowl game in three years makes sense.

Drake (San Jose): Stanford has to replace very little compared to what they did when Andrew and Co. left. This is why I think you shouldn't be saying they can't run the table. BTW, their offense this year was mediocre and they still should have won all 12 games. Yes I'm still mad about notre dame.

Kevin Gemmell (2:51 PM): I don't think any Pac-12 teams can run the table. Not just Stanford. Going undefeated in this day and age is so hard to do. Has nothing to do with Stanford being Stanford. It's just plain hard. With that said, [Kevin] Hogan (and [Josh] Nunes) at least had [Zach] Ertz, [Levine] Toilolo and a 1,000-yard rusher in [Stepfan] Taylor to work with. Now you're taking all of that out of the equation? That's a ton of offense to replace.

Carson (Seattle WA): Where do you see UW in your preseason polls next season?

Kevin Gemmell (2:58 PM): Hovering around 25 ... not sure if I'm going to include them (though I did last year, again, thanks Dawgs). I know Ted is very high on them and will probably have them in his preseason top 25.

Final: Arizona State 41, Arizona 34

November, 24, 2012

It was a tough night for Arizona quarterback Matt Scott. And the Arizona State Sun Devils made him pay for each and every mistake.

ASU intercepted Scott three times and forced a fumble from the signal-caller. All four turnovers were converted into touchdowns as the visiting Sun Devils erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to top the rival Wildcats 41-34 in the Territorial Cup.

Marion Grice rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns to lead a Sun Devils attack that stalled at times -- but used the momentum of the turnovers to outdistance the Wildcats.

They also blocked a punt in the fourth quarter deep in Arizona territory that Cameron Marshall turned into a touchdown on the next play. The fourth turnover -- an interception from Robert Nelson -- was returned 66 yards to the Arizona 2-yard line late in the fourth. Michael Eubank took a quarterback sneak in from a yard out to give the Sun Devils (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) a 41-27 advantage with less than three minutes left in the game.

No. 24 Arizona (7-5, 4-5), however, didn’t go away quietly -- not surprising since the last three meetings between the schools have come down to the final play. It took just 57 seconds for the Wildcats to get a quick score -- a 17-yard pass from Scott to David Richards with 1 minute, 54 seconds to play.

But Arizona failed to recover the onside kick and Sun Devils were able to run out the clock.

Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher, carried 25 times for 172 yards and a score. He did, however, miss a few series with an undisclosed upper-body injury -- but did return later in the game.

Though Scott finished with three touchdowns, the three interceptions and the fumble were killers. ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly was far more protective of the ball, completing 16 of 29 throws for 191 yards with no touchdowns -- but also no interceptions.

The victory moves Arizona State in front of the Wildcats in the final Pac-12 South standings and likely means a higher-profile bowl game for ASU.

Instant analysis: Oregon 43, ASU 21

October, 19, 2012
Both Arizona State and Oregon were looking to make statements. One succeeded. Here’s how the Ducks ran away with it, 43-21, on the road:

It was over when: On the first play of the second quarter Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly was intercepted by Boseko Lokombo. It was Kelly’s first interception in 103 attempts. Three plays later, Kenjon Barner plowed ahead on a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Ducks ahead 29-7. You could certainly argue it was over before that, but this one felt like the proverbial nail in the coffin.

It was really over when: Jesse Palmer and Rece Davis started sucking down burgers in the TV booth (11:23 in the second quarter).

Game ball goes to: Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, who rushed for 143 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns -- including a 71-yard touchdown run.

The cycle: A rare statistical achievement for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who had one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown.

Stat of the game, 20: That’s how many consecutive games Oregon has scored at least 30 points.

Fun stat of the game, 195: The number of pushups between The Duck and Sparky (153 for the Duck, 42 for Sparky).

Unsung hero: Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan had two sacks and five tackles (all in the first half) to stymie Taylor, who was 10-of-18 for 93 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Unsung hero II: Snaps to ASU running back D.J. Foster for his touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was a 23-yard run on fourth-and-6 following a swing pass from Michael Eubank. He cut back across the middle of the field, broke two tackles and kept his balance for the score.

What it means for Arizona State: Nothing left to do but pick up the pieces, because this was a kick in the teeth. It didn’t help that they lost Will Sutton on the second play of the game. That was a factor -- but only on defense -- because Sutton doesn’t impact what they do on offense. The Sun Devils can’t let this game beat them twice because they’ve got UCLA next week followed by Oregon State and USC. One bad loss could turn into a tailspin if they can't bounce back.

What it means for Oregon: Business as usual for the third-ranked Ducks. Another week, another blowout win. They’ve got Colorado next week before that big showdown at USC on Nov. 3. If they didn’t turn heads in this game, they can certainly do it on Nov. 3 with a similar performance.

Big second half boosts ASU over Buffs

October, 12, 2012

For the first 30 minutes, it looked like Colorado had a chance. The Buffs had all of the momentum heading into the locker room after scoring 10 points in the final 24 seconds of the half and cutting Arizona State’s lead to 20-17.

But a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half from ASU’s Rashad Ross, and the Sun Devils’ screen game on offense, was more than the young Buffs squad could handle and Arizona State pulled away for a 51-17 road victory.

Running back Marion Grice caught three of Taylor Kelly's career-high five touchdown passes; another went to running back D.J. Foster, who was running out of the slot. The two backs combined for 11 catches, 178 yards and four touchdowns. Kelly finished 20-of-28 for 308 yards. It was also the fifth time in six games that Kelly did not throw an interception.

The victory moves the Sun Devils to 5-1 (3-0 Pac-12) and sets up an intriguing showdown next Thursday night with No. 2 Oregon (6-0, 3-0). Colorado slips to 1-5, 1-2.

The Buffs didn’t make it easy on ASU early on. After the Sun Devils took the lead on Grice’s first touchdown (point-after attempt blocked), Colorado responded by taking a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter on a 2-yard run from Tony Jones. Touchdown receptions from Grice and Foster moved the Sun Devils ahead 20-7 toward the end of the first half.

But Jordan Webb (20-of-41 for 180 yards) engineered an 11-play, 75-yard drive that cut the lead to 20-14 in the closing minute. On the ensuing kickoff, Jamal Miles fumbled the ball back to Colorado at the ASU 19, which set up a 37-yard Will Oliver field goal to close out the first 30 minutes.

It was a different story in the second half, which started with Ross’ touchdown. ASU’s defense blanked the Buffs and Kelly added his fourth and fifth touchdown passes of the game -- the last one going for 31 yards to Richard Smith.

A scary moment in the closing minutes of the game when Colorado linebacker Brady Daigh was taken off the field on a stretcher after a collision with ASU's Michael Eubank. Daigh was seen moving his hands and his head; ESPN's Samantha Steele, who was working the game on the sidelines, reported that the medical staff was taking precautionary measures by putting him on the stretcher.

After the delay, Cameron Marshall (13 carries, 98 yards) added a late 14-yard touchdown run.

Poll: Who had the most impressive win?

September, 11, 2012
As we all know by this point, the Pac-12 went 6-1 this past weekend against teams from BCS conferences. Three of those victories were against Big Ten opponents and three were against ranked teams.

But was any one more impressive than the other? That's the question today.


Which team had the more impressive victory in Week 2?


Discuss (Total votes: 11,625)

Here are your choices:

Arizona: One of three Pac-12 teams to notch a win over a ranked opponent, the Wildcats outraced No. 18 Oklahoma State 59-38. Arizona seems to have quickly taken to Rich Rodriguez's offense and Matt Scott leads the conference (fourth nationally) in passing yards.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils plowed Illinois 45-14 with Taylor Kelly tossing a touchdown and 249 yards and Michael Eubank throwing a pair of scores. ASU has posted 108 points in its first two games. The defense is playing solid and the two-QB system seems like it's working.

Oregon State: The Beavers did it with defense, shutting down No. 13 Wisconsin -- and Heisman candidate Montee Ball -- to claim a 10-7 victory. Oregon State had two weeks to prepare for the Badgers. And because of the early bye, the Beavers will get two weeks to prepare for this team...

UCLA: It was a combination of offense and defense that got it done for the Bruins -- led by another 200-plus yard rushing performance from Johnathan Franklin in the 36-30 win. The Bruins gutted a supposedly stout Nebraska defense, while Datone Jones tallied a huge safety to put the Bruins ahead for good.

Stanford/USC: The Cardinal bounced back with a fairly dominating performance over Duke. Ed Reynolds picked up his second and third interceptions of the year. USC crossed the country and dealt with inclement weather, but Matt Barkley still tossed six touchdowns.
Given the competition the four first-time starting quarterbacks were facing last week, the fact that all four came out winners wasn't exactly an anomaly. But it's still a positive sign for those programs and a good indication that maybe the coaches made the right call in selecting Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, Josh Nunes and Taylor Kelly as the starters. Here's a look at how they did in Week 1 and what's coming up in Week 2.

Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
  • Week 1 wrap: Kelly went 15-of-19 (78.9 percent) for 247 yards with a touchdown in a 63-6 win over Northern Arizona. The Sun Devils did the bulk of their damage on the ground with seven rushing touchdowns. Kelly also ran the ball six times for 43 yards. He was efficient and he protected the ball -- a big plus with coach Todd Graham. Worth noting also that Michael Eubank saw some time with seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown. He also was 1-of-1 for 2 yards.
  • Up next: The heat gets turned up on the Sun Devils this week with Illinois coming to town (and again the week after with the first road trip of the year to Missouri). And by the way, Illinois has the top rushing defense in the country (at least statistically) through the first week of the season "allowing" minus-6 yards per game. Granted, it was Western Michigan, but we'll get a better feel for what Kelly is capable of this week.
  • Graham says: "We didn't face so much adversity, but that's going to change this week. We're going to have a challenge this week. They blitzed a lot, they were a pressure team. I learned what I knew about him was true. Very poised, doesn't get rattled, takes care of the ball and manages the game and makes good decisions. That's all he's done since spring."
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
  • Week 1 wrap: Mariota was a very crisp 18-of-22 for 200 yards and three touchdowns -- and the fact that the Ducks got to schedule nap time for the starters between halves helped. Of the four first-time starters, he looked the most consistent and rightfully earned the praises of head coach Chip Kelly.
  • Up next: Fresno State has to be weeping quietly in a corner after watching film of Oregon last week. The Bulldogs only allowed 10 points last week, but that was Weber State. It will be interesting to see if Mariota makes it to the third quarter this week.
  • Kelly says: "I thought Marcus did a good job -- a real good job in decision making, was accurate in his throws. He missed one protection check, but overall for a first game I thought it was good ... We don't take into account you're a first-year starter. We grade all of our quarterbacks the same way, whether you went in in the fourth quarter or you started the game."
Josh Nunes, Stanford
  • Week 1 wrap: We're still not 100 percent sure what we're getting with Nunes since, by head coach David Shaw's own admission, the Cardinal had a pretty conservative, pretty vanilla attack. His touchdown pass to Drew Terrell looked awful pretty, but there isn't much to be learned from his 16-of-26 performance for 125 yards.
  • Up next: My best guess is the Cardinal won't open up the playbook much this week against Duke if they don't have to and they'll break out the private reserve for when USC comes to town in Week 3. Nunes would benefit from a stronger rushing attack and better offensive line execution, which was surprisingly lacking in Week 1.
  • Shaw says: "He graded out very well. Josh got us to the right plays. We were relatively conservative early in the game and he executed the game plan and did well."
Brett Hundley, UCLA
  • Week 1 wrap: Against an overmatched Rice squad, Hundley went 21-of-28 for 202 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception. He also ran seven times for 68 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown. At times, he looked like a poised starter. At others, well, a redshirt freshman. But overall it was a very positive debut.
  • Up next: Nebraska -- which brings a much tougher defense than the one Hundley faced last week. Rice wasn't very aggressive with its pressure, but Nebraska will bring as many as six guys on one play. We know he can run, and he might be on the move more this week. Head coach Jim Mora said he expects to learn more about his team after Nebraska.
  • Mora says: "We saw a young, developing quarterback who made some good decisions and then had some plays he'll be able to grow from and learn from. He showed poise and confidence and the ability to run the football as things broke down."

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 1

August, 30, 2012
So much has happened in the offseason that it might be hard to digest it all. No worries; we've got you covered. Here are a few things to keep an eye on as the Pac-12 kicks off with four games today, one tomorrow and the rest of the docket Saturday.

  • New coaches: The conference saw an influx of some big-name coaches in the offseason, and they make their debuts this week in the Pac-12 with some high hopes to turn their respective programs around. The consensus among many is that Mike Leach (WSU) will have the most success -- at least this season -- since he inherited a team that already has players for the style he wants to run. Jim Mora makes his collegiate head-coaching debut with UCLA, overhauling the Bruins on both sides of the ball. Rich Rodriguez brings his innovative spread offense to Arizona, and Todd Graham is trying to rehabilitate ASU's program. Leach has the toughest game (at BYU) of the four this week, but all four are winnable.
  • [+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez
    AP Photo/ Arizona Daily Star/Benjie SandersRich Rodriguez and Arizona host Toledo -- a team that upset Rodriguez's Michigan squad in 2008.
    QB debuts: There were six quarterback competitions in the conference this year, and four quarterbacks will be making their first collegiate starts this week: Josh Nunes for Stanford, Brett Hundley for UCLA, Marcus Mariota for Oregon and Taylor Kelly for ASU.
  • Extra pressure? There are weighty expectations for all four QBs -- but the heaviest are probably on Nunes and Mariota. Stanford is coming off of back-to-back BCS bowl game appearances (2011 Orange and 2012 Fiesta), while Oregon has been to three straight (Rose in 2010, national championship in 2011 and Rose in 2012). Nunes replaces one of the greatest quarterbacks in conference history in Andrew Luck, and Mariota takes over one of the best offenses in the country.
  • Backup plan: While neither Chip Kelly nor Todd Graham is likely to stray from the vanilla aisle in Week 1, it still will be interesting to see whether/how they use their backup quarterbacks either this week or in the coming weeks. Bryan Bennett at Oregon was probably one or two bad practices away from taking over the reins, and Michael Eubank has been touted as an outstanding athlete whom the Sun Devils simply can't keep off the field.
  • Don't screw it up: The Pac-12 is favored in 11 of 12 games in Week 1, with Washington State being the only underdog. That means -- at worst -- the conference should go 11-1. While it would be fantastic if every team won, the reality likely is that there will be at least one team that messes up the curve. Wouldn't be a bad announcement to the rest of college football if the conference ran the table.
  • Reputation matters: Speaking of the Pac-12's reputation, this is the first time the conference enters a season with two teams ranked in the top five of the AP poll. USC checks in at No. 1, and Oregon is No. 5. You could say the hype and expectations for both these teams are, well, considerable.
  • Heisman hopefuls: Time to start number crunching for Matt Barkley, De'Anthony Thomas and Keith Price. All three have been mentioned as Heisman candidates, and Barkley has assumed the not-so-envious title as preseason front-runner.
  • Committee members: Two members of the 1,000-yard club from last season find themselves in larger committee roles. Curtis McNeal at USC is now sharing the ball with Penn State transfer Silas Redd, and Cal's Isi Sofele will see some of his carries go to C.J. Anderson.
  • Extra week for OSU: From all of us at the Pac-12 blog to Nicholls State, best of luck. Stay dry, stay safe.
  • Look ahead: While Cal and Washington won't be looking ahead, it wouldn't hurt for you to take a sneak peek at what LSU and Ohio State are doing against North Texas and Miami (Ohio), respectively. Those are the two biggest out-of-conference games on the schedule this season and important games for the reputation of the conference. As they say, know your foe.
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.

Lunch links: Depth chart chatter

August, 28, 2012
They took my saddle in Houston, broke my leg in Santa Fe;
Lost my wife and a girlfriend somewhere along the way.

Take 2: Quarterback surprises

August, 24, 2012
Overall, there weren't many surprises across the Pac-12 during fall camp. Though a couple of the quarterback competitions did catch our eye. Here's our take on a pair of surprising outcomes.

Ted Miller: Four of five Pac-12 quarterback competitions have been decided, and Oregon is expected to announce its decision between Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota on Friday. You could make a case that three have been surprises. But the one that surprised me most was Taylor Kelly at Arizona State.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Kelly
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireTaylor Kelly's ability to take care of the football won over Arizona State coach Todd Graham.
I can't recall reading or hearing anyone say that Kelly was going to win the job after spring practices. Further, I can't recall reading or hearing anyone say that Kelly was any better than third after spring practices. In fact, coach Todd Graham said as much, essentially telling reporters that Mike Bercovici would likely start and Michael Eubank would play if the season started in May.

Ah, but the season didn't start in May. And lookie here. Kelly is the last man standing. No, I didn't see it coming. But there is a lot to like about Kelly winning the job.

Why? First, you've got to love an underdog who did some offseason self-analysis and then busted his rear over the summer, set on improving. How can you not respect hard work paying off? Consider Kelly's comment to Kevin Gemmell:

"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."

Kelly seems to have finished first by finishing second in two key areas and first in a third. He was second to Bercovici in terms of polish as a passer and second to Eubank in terms of running the option. But he was first in terms of protecting the football. By Graham's calculus, that equals No. 1.

Another reason to like this decision: It shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that Graham and his staff conduct true competitions. If you've been around college football for a while, you know that some staffs have reputations for playing players with better recruiting pedigrees or who look better in their uniforms. That means close competitions go to a guy with more recruiting stars and better 40 times rather than pure production in practice.

At the beginning of preseason camp, it looked like Graham and his staff were poised to pick either Bercovici or Eubank, who could look prettier than Kelly during practices. But this competition turned out not to be a beauty contest. That's a good thing, something that should be encouraging to Sun Devils fans.

Kevin Gemmell: While the fact that Jordan Webb won the starting job at Colorado doesn't come as much of a surprise, it was the timing -- and timeliness -- that was somewhat surprising. To understand Webb's surprisingly swift ascension from Kansas castaway to Colorado starter, it's important to understand how it all came together.

When it became clear Webb wasn't going to get the looks with the Jayhawks, he busted his backside to graduate early so he could transfer somewhere with a graduate degree program not offered by Kansas. Once granted permission to talk to other schools, he reached out to Colorado quarterbacks' coach Rip Scherer, who relayed the information to Jon Embree. The head coach then talked with his son, Connor, who serendipitously had transferred from UNLV to Kansas, and was able to give his dad the scoop. After some initial vetting, the courtship began and voilą, Colorado had a quarterback.

[+] EnlargeJordan Webb
Denny Medley/US PresswireCast off by Kansas, Jordan Webb has dazzled his way into Colorado's starting QB job.
I don't think anyone is blown away by the fact that he was named the starter. After all, he started 19 games in the Big 12. Connor Wood, a Texas transfer and the presumptive favorite before Webb arrived, has zero career starts. Experience trumps inexperience almost every time.

But I think the most surprising aspect was that Webb was named the starter so quickly after arriving on campus. Wood had taken all of the snaps with the first-team offense in the spring, since his immediate competition, Nick Hirschman, missed time with a broken foot. With no one to really push Wood, the consensus among those in the know was that he was just too Jekyll-and-Hyde. He'd have good days and bad days. The consistency wasn't there.

So in comes Webb, a spread quarterback who has never worked under center before, and three weeks later he's the starter. Not exactly the traditional path. By even courting Webb, it was pretty clear that Embree wanted another option at quarterback -- either to turn the heat up on Wood or win the job outright. We don't know what happened behind the closed gates of Colorado's practice field, but those must have been three dazzling weeks.

I'm also surprised that Wood didn't make more of an impact. He played well in the spring game and was such a highly touted recruit that it seems peculiar that he fell out of favor so quickly. I will say this for Wood, though -- he's handled the situation with poise, grace and maturity. Not an easy spot, but he stood up to the media and talked about being a team player and that he supports Webb and Embree's decision. Big, big ups to him for that.

Secondly, the fact that Webb won the job prior to Colorado even having a scrimmage is also a bit surprising. I would have thought that Embree would have wanted to see him in a scrimmage setting before making the call. But the coach has raved about Webb's consistency and ability to pick up the offense quickly.

In Webb, Embree trusts. In Embree, Colorado trusts.
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.

[+] EnlargeArizona State's Taylor Kelly
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesCar 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."



Saturday, 12/20
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Thursday, 1/1
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