It's not how you start, it's how you finish that counts.
After ending spring practice as a slight leader in the three-man battle to become Arizona State's next starting quarterback, Mike Bercovici has faltered in fall camp, while Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank have shined, and on Monday, head coach Todd Graham made his strongest comments yet in the offseason long quarterback battle.
"If we played today, Taylor would be the guy," said Graham, and first tweeted by Will Boor of The State Press.
Graham did point out that nothing is final, and that the competition will continue up at Camp Tontozona this week.
The decision was based on the performance of the three players over the first full week of fall camp, which culminated in a Saturday night scrimmage. Kelly will run with the first team, and Eubank will now see the bulk of the second-team practice snaps before Bercovici. The Sun Devils hope to come down from Tontozona with a firm starter named for the August 30th opener against NAU.
From the outset of his tenure, Graham has emphasized ball security as his most critical factor in the evaluation.
"We have one mission: own the football. I don't care about stats. I just want to take care of the football," Graham said. "But the one that's going to play isn't the one who has the best physical skills. It's going to be the one that will take care of the ball."
Ultimately, that led to Bercovici being eliminated from the competition. The most experienced member of the group and regarded as the most polished passer of the trio, Bercovici got off to a slow start during fall camp while the other two—especially Kelly—performed well.
Kelly was seen by many (including myself) as running third in the competition at the outset, but a strong effort in the spring game showed a lot of promise. That momentum carried over into a very strong first week of fall camp, where his consistent—and turnover free—play earned praise from Graham and a spot as the first quarterback to take the field in most of the practices.
He will attempt to fend off Eubank, the physical marvel and former recruit of Graham when the coach was at Pittsburgh. At 6-foot-5 and 242 pounds, Eubank has tremendous size that he combines with great running ability and a strong arm, and he's been able to improve his passing during the early stages of fall camp. During Pac-12 Media Day, Graham said that he couldn't see a situation in which Eubank didn't play, and the possibility of a two quarterback system remains on the table.
The team will hold a practice Tuesday morning before leaving for Tontozona where they will hold four practices before the scrimmage on Saturday, August 18th.