This edition of milestone monday centers around Arizona State signal caller Taylor Kelly. Last season, Kelly had a break through season with 29 touchdowns through the air. Kelly had a 159.9 passer rating in his first season as a starter and he threw for over 3,000 yards.
The milestone for Kelly is 31 touchdown passes, as that number is the school record for touchdown passes in a single season set by Andrew Walter in 2004. Our writers give their take on whether Kelly will break Walter's record, or come up short.
Cory Williams: I don't think Taylor Kelly is going to throw 31 touchdown passes in 2013 for a few reasons. There are questions in the wide receiver corps that have yet to be answered, and the schedule is much more difficult than last season.
Arizona State had four "stat padding" victories last season against Utah, Colorado, Washington State and Navy. Kelly threw a total of 16 TD passes in those wins, dominating inferior competition in the process. While we still face three of those teams, they all project to be somewhat improved over last year's units.
Anything is possible and a projection like this can be a crapshoot, but 31 TD passes is a lot to ask of our junior signal caller. If anything, I'd project closer to 26-27 touchdowns with a few more rushing TDs out of Marion Grice and D.J. Foster.
Ben Haber: From year to year players develop and teams change, meaning Taylor Kelly will be significantly better in 2013 and have more surrounding help. Therefore, I expect Kelly to toss 31 or more touchdown passes and break Andrew Walter's school record.
Kelly gained a plethora of experience, going from the unknown commodity to the proven cornerstone. During fall camp, Kelly can solely focus on learning about the offense, while attempting to create a rapport with the wide receivers. By doing so, the little nuances of the game should be addressed in further detail, which helps Kelly in an optimal position to improve.
Regardless of Kelly's progression, the new additions on the outside can help number 10 get into the record books. Junior college recruits Jaelen Strong and Joe Morris are both more talented than any other target from 2012.
In addition, coach Todd Graham continues to rave about new wideouts Ellis Jefferson and Cameron Smith. ASU addressed their glaring need at wide reciever, allowing Kelly to take the next level.
One detriment Kelly may struggle to overcome is the daunting schedule. Weeks 2-5 will either make or break Kelly's pursuit of 31 touchdowns.
Kerry Crowley: On paper, this milestone looks fairly realistic. Taylor Kelly tossed 29 touchdowns with a subpar receiving corps in his first season as a starter. With more experience and explosive playmakers on the outside this season, it only seen logical that Kelly would surpass last season's total.
I agree with Ben that Kelly has made great strides this offseason, but I actually agree with Cory as I don't see Kelly breaking the school record. Kelly is extraordinarily efficient, but I don't think the Sun Devils will call his name as much in the red zone this year.
Arizona State has a stable of running backs determined to get the ball in the end zone, and I know Mike Norvell wants the ground game to be the identity of this offense. I predict Kelly will throw anywhere from 25-30 touchdowns, but I think Andrew Walter's record is safe for one more year.
Ryan Bafaloukos: This is a very good question because all the guys above me make great points. Taylor Kelly almost hit the record last year in his first as a starter, so logic would tell me he will only raise his numbers.
However, consider in Arizona State's five losses Kelly threw eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. Kelly put up great numbers against bad competition, throwing 12 touchdowns against California, Washington State and Colorado.
The schedule for ASU is more difficult this season meaning Kelly will have to shine against tougher competition. He has to face a good Notre Dame defense, a great Stanford defense and perhaps an underrated Wisconsin defense. I do not think Kelly will get the record this season. I would put Kelly's touchdown number around 25-28.
Cody Ulm: I'm in the pessimistic camp. Not to say Kelly is going to take a step backwards; I actually expect him to bring his game to the next level. But lots of times, "bringing your game to the next level" coincides with doing what the team needs. And with their schedule and the improved running game, I don't expect Todd Graham to force Kelly to put the team on his back like he often did last season.
Outside of the Cal and UCLA games, Kelly never threw for two or more touchdowns in a competitive contest. For my money, I'd say the Kelly we can expect to see for most of the season is the man we saw in the Arizona game.
No, his numbers weren't too flashy but he picked his spots and put the run game in a position to succeed. Sure, he'll pad his stats against teams like Colorado, Washington State, Utah and Sac State but I still see him coming up short of last seasons total of 29. If he throws any more, it could likely mean that the Sun Devils' season isn't going exactly as planned.
Nick Marek: I would agree most with Ryan on this question. I would not be surprised if T Kelly broke the record this season after seeing what he did with mediocre receivers last year, but I don't think the schedule helps out the junior. Four of the first five games are against opponents ranked inside the preseason top-25 polls including potential top ten games at Stanford and in Dallas against Notre Dame.
Also, if it weren't for Grice and Foster, this milestone could be in reach but I see both backs adding to their rushing touchdowns this season because ASU is going to play up-tempo again and they had pretty good success with the running game.
If Kelly were to surpass 31 passing touchdowns, he would need another monster year from Chris Coyle (which very much could happen), but then Jaelen Strong and Cam Smith need to play well immediately alongside Kevin Ozier. I think it's more realistic to say his regular season total will be around 27 with a few rushing TDs.
Keep in mind, Eubank more than likely wont steal as many goal line reps this year. That could turn in to the eventual game changer.
Mitch Terrell: Everyone in this discussion makes valid arguments favoring and opposing Taylor Kelly breaking the touchdown record. However, the x-factor to me is the schedule. Yes, the wide-receiver position has been upgraded, at least from an early perspective, and Kelly seems to only have room to grow after having some rookie struggles last season.
The playbook is hard wired into his brain and things should run smoothly for him as well. But the schedule, especially the beginning of the season, is nothing like it was in 2012. I predict just as many touchdowns as last season, but with less interceptions. It also may come down to the last game of the season and who they play. I'm not saying it's impossible for Kelly to reach 31, but if he does, I will be surprised if ASU isn't heading to Pasadena for the New Year.