QB Taylor Kelly (Photo: ASU)
Arizona State ended their return to Camp Tontozona with an inter-squad scrimmage on Saturday. Throughout the game fans were closely analyzing every drop back all three quarterbacks made, and rightfully so.
Despite Coach Graham's positive reports on Taylor Kelly, 6'5" 240 pound redshirt freshman Michael Eubank got the start at quarterback. On the day Eubank went 12-16 with 81 yards and a long touchdown pass to Rashad Ross.
Overall, Eubank had a solid day, but at times still struggled with his accuracy, overshooting open receivers numerous times. Rushing wise, Eubank had 15 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown, displaying his Cam Newton-like athleticism.
"I think my performance went well; I got to show everybody what I could do with my legs," Eubank said. "I missed a couple throws today, but I got them back putting our offense in position to score."
Taylor Kelly also got plenty of looks with the first stringers, going six of 10 with 162 yards and slinging two touchdown passes. The downside to Kelly is his arm strength, as he often lacks that necessary zip on the ball to hit tight openings. However, Kelly has clearly made significant strides throwing the deep ball, hitting Ross on the numbers twice in stride downfield.
While Kelly may not be the sexy choice, he is probably the right one, showing a keen ability to throw accurately, run well and most importantly, be an excellent game manager.
"I took care of the ball, I moved the ball up and down the field," Kelly said. "I think I did a good job today. I have high expectations for myself so I just need to come out everyday with great focus."
The original favorite to win the job was Mike Bercovici, but rumors are swirling that he will be ASU's third string QB. Bercovici sported a stat line of 10-14, 186 yards with one touchdown but one interception. The interception practically wrote Bercovici off, as Coach Graham continues to emphasize taking care of the ball. The consistent play from Eubank and Kelly makes for one difficult decision on who should start.
According to Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic, Coach Graham said, "If you ask me my opinion right now, we'll probably wind up using more than one quarterback."
Coach Graham went on to state that he will likely announce the starting quarterbacks or quarterbacks in his Monday press conference.
While the quarterbacks jockeyed for position, all three used wide out Rashad Ross to their advantage. Ross was a wild card heading into Camp T and probably leaves as a top player on the depth chart. Three of the four touchdown passes ended with Ross on the receiving end, while also pulling in a team high 193 yards.
On the ground, the Devils were without star back Cameron Marshall, presenting ample opportunity for others to prove their value. The surprise of the day was freshman Terrell Davis, who led the way with 16 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Highly touted freshman D.J. Foster was used all over the gridiron, carrying the rock eight times for 36 yards, showing explosive play-making ability. His uncanny ability to break containment, catch out of the backfield and pure raw speed, will cause matchup nightmares weekly.
Defensively, ASU let up long runs that set up huge bombs over the top. ASU consistently brought pressure, creating glaring gaps in the secondary. For the amount of players blitzing, the pressure was mediocre, forcing only two sacks on the day.
Of the eight touchdowns allowed on the day, the first team defense was only responsible for three points. Therefore, ASU's key defensive players looked sharp, while guys in the second unit were struggling.
"I thought we started a little bit slow and not pleased with that but I am pleased with our effort," defensive coordinator Paul Randolph said. "The first defense I thought played extremely well together once we got everything rolling, the second defense battled."
Cornerback Osahon Irabor had the only interception on the day. Irabor intercepted Bercovici in the red zone, it was a tough back shoulder pick, especially impressive for a guy known to have a slight case of butter fingers.
The standout of the day on defense was junior safety Anthony Jones, who forced a fumble and delivered some clean and brutal hits. Jones was swarming to the ball, coming up to support the run effectively, while also making his presence felt against the wide outs.
In regard to special teams, incumbent kicker Alex Garoutte's effort today only made his candidacy better in the kicking competition against Jon Mora and Dillon Jackson. Garoutte made his only in game attempt from 45 yards, and he also was the only kicker to knock in the post-practice last second game ending simulation attempt.
In the grand scheme of things, I give the overall performance a B+. The starting offense and defense were great, but limited depth has me nervous. Beyond today's action, the restoring of the Camp Tontozona tradition has been a valuable lesson for these players.