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ASU Football: Taylor Kelly's Fast Starts are the Key to High Octane

A closer look at Taylor Kelly's fast start to the season reveals that it's the sum of early success in many areas

Ezra Shaw - Getty Images

Six weeks ago, Taylor Kelly completed his improbable rise up the depth chart when he was named Arizona State's starting quarterback over Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank. Yet, based on the headlines reporting the news that day, the phrase "for now" had as prominent a place as "Taylor Kelly" and "ASU".

At the time, it wasn't an outlandish notion. In fact, it seemed like the smart perspective. It was a close competition with all three quarterbacks, and Kelly was viewed as the lowest-risk, if not least-talented, option. It seemed like it would just be a matter of Kelly keeping the seat warm for a few weeks until his replacement was ready.

Now...not so much.

Instead of being a place-holding game manager, Kelly has proven to be a dynamic playmaker that is one of the primary reasons for the team's 4-1 start. He has impressed with his composure, command of the offense, mobility and downfield passing.

Another area in which he's excelled has been his tendency to start strong. On every level, whether it's a play, drive, quarter or game, Kelly has been at his best at the outset, and that in turn has resulted in the great start to the season for the team. In short, he's become the ideal man to lead the "high octane" offense.

Let's take a look at how it all breaks down.

Drive Level

Every drive starts with first down, and when you have a quarterback who can find consistent success on that first play, the chances of a sustained drive increase dramatically. Thankfully for ASU, it's the down on which Kelly has been most efficient.

Helping his cause here is the playcalling. So far this year, ASU has run 125 times on first down, as opposed to just 53 passes. That has allowed Kelly and the Sun Devils to catch defenses off guard, and the evidence is below.

Down Comp Att Comp% Yards TD INT Rating FD
1st 36 48 75.0 441 4 0 179.68 16
2nd 35 52 67.3 535 1 1 156.23 27
3rd 20 35 57.1 312 4 1 164.03 16

Quarter/Half Level

Arizona State is outscoring their opponents 56-10 in the first quarter, and that +46 margin is the best of any quarter for the team. The early success continues all throughout the first half, with ASU on the right side of a 125-38 margin through the first 30 minutes. The catalyst for those early points has been the hot passing by Kelly, with seven of his nine touchdowns coming in the first half.

With the blowout nature of three of ASU's five games, it's no surprise that he has been less active in the second half, although it should be noted that the crunch time of the fourth quarter is when Kelly has been nearly as proficient as he has been in the opening frame.

Period Comp Att Comp% Yards TD INT Rating FD
1st Qtr 29 41 70.7 433 4 1 186.75 18
2nd Qtr 23 39 59.0 368 3 0 163.61 16
1st Half 52 80 65.0 801 7 1 175.49 34
3rd Qtr 23 35 65.7 234 1 0 131.30 15
4th Qtr 17 22 77.3 257 1 1 181.31 11
2nd Half 40 57 70.2 491 2 1 150.61 26

Season Level

Add up the success early in drives and in games, and you have a major part of the sensational and expectation-shattering first five games of his career. While many have compared Kelly to fellow Idahoan Jake Plummer, a more timely comparison with his Sun Devil quarterbacking predecessor stacks up favorably.

Here are the numbers for Brock Osweiler and Taylor Kelly over each's first five full career starts (note: this does not include Osweiler's 2009 start in which he left the game due to injury).

Player Yards Comp % TD INT Rating Record
Brock Osweiler 1,361 62.5 9 3 137.51 4-1
Taylor Kelly 1,292 67.2 9 2 166.34 4-1

Sun Devil fans are well aware of the type of player that Osweiler became during his lone season as starter, as he set several school passing records en route to being a second round pick by the Denver Broncos.

It's obviously way too early to throw out similar expectations, but if the early returns are any indication, the future is bright for Kelly and the Sun Devils.

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