The Sun Devils earned their first 10-win season since 2007, and much of that had to do with the improvements made by quarterback Taylor Kelly. Kelly earned Second Team All-Pac-12 honors above more well-known candidates like Brett Hundley and Kevin Hogan because of his precision, his leadership, and his ability to deliver when Arizona State needed him most.
2013 Expectations: Unlike 2012, the quarterback race was settled far in advance of the season. Everyone and their mother knew that Kelly earned the starting job based on his play as a redshirt sophomore, but many speculated whether Kelly had what it takes to help this team realize its true potential.
In his first season as a starter, Kelly was surprisingly accurate as he completed more than 67 percent of his 359 attempts. Still, Arizona State remained grounded in its running game, and Kelly didn't deliver against the Sun Devils' top opponents.
Coming into this season, the Sun Devils expected increased production at the quarterback position including more yards, more touchdowns, fewer interceptions, and most of all, more victories. Quarterbacks are measured by wins and losses more often than players at other positions, so Kelly would be heavily scrutinized if the Sun Devils failed to perform up to expectations.
Prior to the year, the Sun Devils also expected backups Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici to compete for the No. 2 job and provide Kelly with a capable replacement. Based off of trends from 2012, folks knew that offensive coordinator Mike Norvell had installed a package deliberately for Eubank's talents, so seeing Eubank thrive and run the football when his number was called was something the Arizona State brass expected of him.
Expectations were high coming into 2013, but they certainly weren't unreasonable. Let's see whether the quarterbacks lived up to the hype.
2013 Production: Taylor Kelly threw fewer touchdowns in 2013 than he did in 2012, and he also threw more interceptions in his second season as a starter. Still, the Idaho native was excellent all season, and earned Second Team All-Pac-12 quarterback honors behind Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks.
Kelly surpassed expectations for the 2013 season by breaking the Sun Devils' single-season record for total yards from scrimmage formerly held by Brock Osweiler. Along with 3,635 passing yards, Kelly rushed for 608 yards and nine touchdowns. Kelly was particularly elusive down by the goal line, where he ran the read-option extremely well during the second half of the season.
For all the flak Arizona State takes about failing to win big games, Kelly was still a top performer in some of Arizona State's losses. Aside from a terribly rough outing against Texas Tech, the Sun Devils' signal-caller threw for more than 300 yards in two of Arizona State's four losses. Yes, Kelly also made bad decisions in important games, but it's not his fault that he faced constant pressure and lacked a stable running game in three of the four losses.
Overall, Kelly made the improvements that Arizona State expected of him in 2013. It's easy to forget he's in just his second season as a starter at the college level, and less than 24 months removed from being the third quarterback on the depth chart.
Kelly's doubters will always point to a 125-yard outing against Texas Tech and cite him as an example of Arizona State's big game failures. Still, more people will remember him for an efficient 20-27, 225-yard passing game against UCLA coupled with 99 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
As for Arizona State's other quarterbacks, Mike Bercovici won the backup job and appears as though he'll be waiting in the wings for at least one more season under Kelly. Bercovici completed 3-4 passing attempts this year, and added 46 yards on the ground in mop-up duty.
Bercovici remained in the coaching staff's good graces, but the same could not be said about fellow backup Michael Eubank. Eubank just didn't fit Mike Norvell's system, and memories of his goal line package are hard to erase for fans who believe the Sun Devils had a chance in the Pac-12 Championship game.
In December, Eubank announced he's transferring out of Arizona State to pursue a chance to win a starting job elsewhere. Eubank has extraordinary physical talents, and it wouldn't come as a surprise if he found success in a more patient, relaxed environment.
Who's Returning in 2014?
Taylor Kelly: 302-484, 3,635 yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 173 rushing attempts, 608 yards, 9 rushing touchdowns
Mike Bercovici: 3-4, 18 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 10 rushing attempts, 46 yards, 0 rushing touchdowns
Michael Eubank: 4-5, 70 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 13 rushing attempts, 20 yards, 3 rushing touchdowns