It's time for another House of Sparky Roundtable. After debating whether Herb Sendek deserves a mulligan for 2011-2012, we head to the gridiron for our next topic
With spring practice coming up, who is your pick to win ASU's three-man quarterback competition?
Brad Denny: For the second time in three seasons, the big offseason storyline surrounding the Sun Devils is a three-man quarterback competition. Each of the young candidates--Mike Bercovici, Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank--brings with them enticing qualities, but for me, there is one that stands out from the pack.
Eubank is a physical specimen similar to the Cam Newton mold--6'5" and 240 pounds and despite that tight end-like size, Eubank is an excellent runner. He was a four-star prospect in the class of 2011, and Rivals ranked him as the eighth-best dual threat quarterback in the nation. He is unrefined as a passer, but has the strong arm necessary to make all the throws. He has experience in a spread offense, and given his running ability and the run-heavy nature that ASU's spread is going to take, drawing parallels to the Auburn offense under Newton is natural. Perhaps his greatest asset in this competition is his familiarity with the current coaching staff. He was heavily recruited by Todd Graham and Mike Norvell while they were at Pitt, and the Panthers were among the finalists before Eubank chose to come to ASU. Coming off his redshirt season, he's my choice to take the Sun Devil reigns.
Nikil Selvam: Mike Bercovici checks in at roughly 6'1" and about 202 pounds. He has solid mechanics, and since his arrival on campus Berc has proven that he's willing to put in the work during the offseason. Naturally, that's the type of quarterback that you want leading an offense, and his presence could do much the same thing that Brock Osweiler's leadership did last year for the team (well, at least for the first half of last year).
The most intriguing aspect of Bercovici's game is his arm strength--he can throw the deep ball pretty well, which could serve as a huge threat in Todd Graham's system. Graham has already stated that he intends to utilize a heavy run game with two-back sets. A guy like Bercovici--who has the ability to make accurate passes and also chuck a couple deep--would complement the run game well. If nothing else, opposing defenses that decide to cheat and stack against the run run the risk of falling victim to a big play action pass. Berc has the potential to provide stability to an unproven set of receivers while adding a potent dimension to the ASU offense. For that, he deserves consideration as ASU's starting quarterback in 2012.
Cory Williams: Taylor Kelly clocks in 6'1" and 199 pounds. In terms of body size, he is similar in stature to Drew Brees. Since we haven't seen much of Kelly in game situations at ASU, we must rely on a few things: highlight reels from high school and practice situations.
Back in Idaho, Kelly showed a diverse skill set while quarterbacking Eagle High School to the Class 5A State Championship in 2009. If you're interested, you can watch his nine-minute highlight reel now.
What do I see? I see a quarterback with decent mobility and a decent arm. He rolls out both directions and makes accurate throws, though there is not a lot of zip on the passes. The flip side of that coin is that he has great touch on his throws.
Much like Brees, Kelly has a great knack for hitting the receiver in stride on slant routes. Shorter routes are key for shorter quarterbacks, and finding the seam is a big part of Todd Graham's offense. Kelly would execute his gameplan well.
What doesn't look so good? On several passes, Kelly underthrew his receivers, being saved by the poor defensive coverage. If he makes these types of passes in a Pac-12 game, they are picked off 80% of the time.
Sure, Eubank or Bercovici are talented players, but only Kelly provides both mobility and arm strength for the 2012 season. He can tuck and run or hit a guy in stride. He's exactly who you want throwing the swing pass. He is Taylor Kelly, quarterback of the Arizona State Sun Devils.
The debate continues after the jump...
Brad: You both make solid arguments for Bercovici and Kelly as being more polished passers than Eubank at this point (overlooking Cory's arm strength contradiction on Kelly). If this were Noel Mazzone's offense, they'd probably be a better fit.
But in the end, Eubank is the man needed to operate Mike Norvell's offense. You know who agrees with that? Mike Norvell. That's why Eubank was so heavily recruited by Pitt when Norvell and Todd Graham were there. To me, that says all you need to know about who they feel is the leader to become the starting quarterback. Need another prominent voice? How about CBS' Bruce Feldman, who ranked Eubank fourth on his "Top 10: Most Intriguing Redshirt Freshmen"?
While that may say it all, I'll say a bit more. The offense is going to feature a 60/40 run-to-pass split, with the bulk of the passing game predicated on downfield throws off of play action. Eubank's cannon fits that well, as does his running ability on designed runs and the inevitable scrambles needing to be made behind ASU's suspect offensive line.
Then there is the eligibility factor. After redshirting last season, Eubank has four seasons left one more than either Kelly or Berc. Eubank is the long term answer here. Look at Braxton Miller at Ohio State. OSU knew it was in for a rough rebuilding season, so it handed the reigns to Miller, let him learn on the fly and now are in good shape moving forward. I want ASU to do the same. Imagine what a backfield of Eubank and D.J. Foster can do over the next FOUR years. A vote for Eubank is a vote for growth now and future success.
Nikil: While a backfield of Foster and Eubank is intriguing, it's important to think about the stability of the program in its first year under Todd Graham. Eubank is more of a high-risk, high-reward type of player, and while that's tempting, a more polished passer such as Berc has the chance to provide stability right off of the bat.
Graham needs to generate confidence on the field during his first season at ASU. He could either strike gold or strike out with Eubank out there, depending on how he develops as a passer. Berc, meanwhile, can be the guy that manages the pass offense behind a stacked four-back rotation. The run game will carry this team, and Berc's passing will be right there to complement them every step of the way.
Of course, the scene will continue to change as the season progresses and one of these three candidates (hopefully) steps up, but right now it's Berc's ability to balance a heavy run offense that holds the promise of steady dividends. For too long, ASU has been a model of inconsistent play. The selection of runners--Cameron Marshall, Deantre Lewis, D.J. Foster, and Marion Grice--will make sure that the chains keep moving. Now the offense needs a consistent passer, and Bercovici is the guy to fill that role.
Cory: If you want to win in 2012, Bercovici is not the guy. Taylor Kelly has been here for years now and has the frame and agility to get the offense moving. This is going to be a run-heavy attack that needs a capable quarterback at the helm. We've seen flashes of his leadership skills in the past and there's no reason to think it won't continue moving forward.
Sure, Michael Eubank could play sometimes and give us a new look, throwing a Wild Devil package in there and forcing defenses to plan for two quarterbacks and two completely different schemes. But if you want to provide a stable quarterback with a decent arm and a feel for the game of football, Kelly has to be your guy going into 2012. There's no other logical solution.
Cody Ulm: Each of these quarterbacks brings something different to the table and Brad, Nikil and Cory did an excellent job highlighting what they do best. With that in mind, you have to factor the situation they are coming into when making a decision.
Taylor Kelly might be the most accurate of the bunch on short routes as Cory discussed and would be the most ready if offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone stayed. Instead, the days of swing passes are gone and Kelly's ceiling is the lowest of the bunch leaving little reason to anoint him the starter on a team that's in no position with the USCs of the world.
As for Mike Bercovici, I have always been a fan. If Brock Osweiler went down at any point last year, he would have been the man I wanted t o step up and take the reins. But with this team's experience at the receiver position essentially evaporated, I think Berc would have the same growing pains as any other quarterback on the roster. While Nikil was spot on in saying Graham needs to "generate confidence" from the fan base after a rough start to his tenure, I think fans realize that he isn't a magician who is going to be able to do something Erickson couldn't with far less talent.
What Graham really needs to generate at this point is excitement and hype. That's exactly what Michael Eubank brings to the table.
While he is easily the most raw of the trio, his upside is by far the highest. In fact, it's not even close. Like Brad said, he's a poor man's Cam Newton. An option with Eubank and D.J. Foster would be the most exciting tag team since the days of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. No doubt it would get the meat in the seats and just as Brad explained it's worth giving Eubank a shot just to let him grow with all these new offensive skill players over the next four years. There's no doubt in my mind that it will be rough at times but I'd rather potentially give up a win or two in a rebuilding season and have Eubank take his lumps early than have it drag down the team in later years because he's behind on his development.
With the three quarterbacks learning a new system, all are starting over. It simply comes down to the skill set they can provide and clearly Graham thought Eubank's abilities would fit in his offense as shown by his attempted recruitment out of high school. If I was a gambling man, and I am, my money would be on Eubank. And if that turns out to be the case hold on tight fans, as it's sure to be a bumpy yet thrilling ride.
So, who's your pick? Vote below and make your case for your QB in the Comments section!