Every player makes a journey, but the journey taken by Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici is one that few college football quarterbacks could endure.
After arriving in Tempe as a highly touted recruit at the age of 17, Bercovici's career has been riddled with ups and downs that would make even the most avid theme park junkies nauseous. For the Calabasas, Calif. native, there's only one way to describe the road he's traveled.
Once considered the heir apparent to Brock Osweiler, Bercovici went from leading the pack in a three-man race for the starting quarterback spot to standing on the sidelines with a redshirt attached to his name. But with the disappointment came newfound resiliency and the ability to turn a frustrating situation into an opportunity.
"It has been tough, in every sense of the word, but not with a negative connotation but in a positive way," Bercovici said.
Last season, Bercovici saw Taylor Kelly rise from the No. 3 spot on the depth chart to the starting role and watched as fellow California product Michael Eubank assumed the backup job. But instead of letting his emotions get the best of him, Bercovici used the setback as motivation to improve and prepare for the 2013 competition.
While Kelly is the clear-cut starter heading into 2013, Bercovici has impressed the coaches by making notable strides in his abilities to operate in offensive coordinator Mike Norvell's offense.
"I'm real confident in my abilities this year to run the offense," Bercovici said. "This is my second year in the offense and I feel very confident and I feel I'm competing for a starting job."
For Bercovici, each day offers him the chance to showcase his skill set, and demonstrate the confidence he has in his game to a coaching staff that is willing to utilize a two-quarterback system. Bercovici knows that if he can put his mark on the backup role this season, then he can finally see meaningful action on game day.
"That's what the head coach has talked to me about and that's my mindset so every day I come out here I feel like I'm getting better and better," he said. "You know, whether there's tragedy or not I definitely feel myself getting better."
Bercovici knows the tragedy part already and he has proven that he's well-equipped to handle anything thrown his way. After shining throughout the practice week at Camp Tontozona, Bercovici appears to have an inside track on landing the coveted role.
"My job is to compete for the starting spot, that's what my mentality is," Bercovici said. "I know I'm pretty confident in this No. 2 spot that people want to talk about, but I feel ready to play. "
As for Eubank, he also believes there's room for him on the playing field this season. Eubank saw time early on last season as a dual-threat quarterback and actually attempted more rushes than passes. This offseason, Eubank took the time to improve on his throwing abilities. To reward his efforts, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell created a package with wrinkles designed especially for Eubank's talents.
"I think that through the duration of camp, my progress definitely came along," Eubank said. "It just opened up a few more things for my packages and I think I'll be able to get some more time this season."
So does Arizona State really have room for three quarterbacks to see game action this season? Bercovici and Eubank both seem to think so.
"I think the strength is our competitiveness," Eubank said. "We all love to compete, we all love to see the offense do well so whenever each one of us are in, we're just trying to do our best."
"My position right now on the team is if anything happens, I need to be able to come in there and win a Rose Bowl for this team," Bercovici said. "That's what my mindset is."
Perhaps that's what's so refreshing about Arizona State's quarterback competition. With transfer rates at an alarming high throughout college sports, few athletes have shone the capabilities of sticking with a program through the highs and lows.
It takes a mental warrior and that's exactly what Mike Bercovici is. Once he mentally coped with the disappointment of having to redshirt, Bercovici turned his attention to mastering the mental side of football.
So far, his work is paying off.
"I know every part of the offense," he said. "What Coach Norvell likes to say is that he wants us to talk like him and I've pretty much got that down in two years. I feel like before the play, I have myself as ready as I possibly can before the ball is in my hands."
Bercovici exudes a quite confidence at practice, and that's partly because he knows things are looking up. After battling through the toughest season of his football career, there's light at the end of the tunnel. This offseason, Bercovici knows he gave it his all, and now he's waiting for the chance to prove that he belongs at Arizona State.
"I've been through two offensive coordinators, two head coaches," he said. "I've been here since I was 17 years old. No part of it has been easy but I enjoy every part of it."
- Taylor Kelly - RS Junior - 6'2", 203 Pounds: Both Eubank and Bercovici have made strides this offseason, but so has Taylor Kelly. There's a reason he's earned the starting job, and it's been his consistent approach to improving his game that has impressed the Sun Devil coaching staff. Expect a quick-strike passing game with the running backs and tight ends heavily involved, but also expect newcomers Jaelen Strong, Joe Morris, and Ellis Jefferson to encourage Kelly to air it out from time to time. If Kelly stays healthy and manages to improve upon his 29 to 9 touchdown to interception ratio, the Sun Devils will win plenty of games.
- Mike Bercovici- RS Sophomore- 6'1'', 196 Pounds: Bercovici has turned heads throughout the offseason with a renewed sense of confidence and he appears to be the front-runner for the No. 2 job. If Kelly goes down, the coaching staff feels the Bercovici has the tools to run the offense and take over without losing much production. It remains to be seen if Bercovici's success in practice can translate onto the playing field, but only time will tell.
- Michael Eubank-RS Sophomore- 6'6'', 240 Pounds: He looks like a tight end, he runs like a bulldozing fullback, and by the way, he's a quarterback. Eubank's passing skills aren't nearly as polished as those of Kelly and even Bercovici, but he has committed to improving on his accuracy this offseason. In all likelihood, if Eubank assumes the No. 3 spot on the depth chart, he'll still find playing time as a mobile threat in a run-heavy package. Eubank can run the "Wildcat" package, and his talents should be utilized as such.
- Taylor Cohan-RS Freshman- 6'3'', 203 Pounds: Cohan won't see time this season barring dire circumstances, but he'll play an important role in preparing the Sun Devil defense as a scout team quarterback. Cohan was a prolific high school quarterback in California and demonstrated great accuracy at that level, and he should continue to mature during his second year in Mike Norvell's system. Cohan is also a scholar-baller and is a student at Barrett, the Honors College.