This is normally the day that we get ready for Saturday's game, posting our preview, but with no game, we turn to our staff for another quick roundtable. Our one question this week is: With Taylor Kelly expected to return against Stanford, what do you think of the job Mike Bercovici did, and what do you take heading into next year?
Justin Emerson: Managing Editor (@J15Emerson)
Nick Krueger: Managing Editor (@NickPKrueger)
Jason Galvin: Columnist (@Jason_Galvin)
Shane Theodore: Staff writer (@shane_writes)
Connor Pelton: Staff writer (@ConnorPelton28)
Emerson: Mike Bercovici proved he can beat Pac-12 teams, and inspired confidence in the team for 2015. Admittedly, I had low expectations for whoever was stepping in for Taylor Kelly, not just him, but he surpassed them by a mile. Maybe the coaching staff was right when they call him one of the best quarterbacks in the conference? There is a lot of quarterback turnover next season in the Pac-12, and Arizona State will be one team with a definite quarterback who will have an offseason to take command of the team. I was expecting 2015 to be a bridge from Kelly to Brady White or Manny Wilkins or whoever steps in, but 2015 can be a year that the Sun Devils compete with Bercovici taking snaps.
Krueger: My expectations for Bercovici before UCLA were probably lower than most and I was surprised when he came out and threw for 488 yards. I was ready to see a lot more drops and miscommunication and while that happened, it wasn't with the same frequency. Take away the interceptions and Arizona State probably loses by 21 or less to the Bruins. As the Sun Devils prepped for USC, my expectations were even lower. I expected Su'a Cravens and Gerald Bowman to prey on every mistake Bercovici made. Leonard Williams was another name that was supposed to be called throughout the night and they didn't set up. I severely underestimated his abilities, but two games is enough to convince me that he can play. I won't go as far as to say the quarterback job is 100 percent his in 2015, but he certainly helped his resume the past two weeks.
I'm not sure he has a place the rest of the season. If he showed particular expertise around the goal line, then maybe in certain red zone situations, but the severe lack of a run game with him under center hurts him a lot. As I wrote Tuesday, if Kelly is healthy and ready, he should start.
Galvin: Unlike Nick, I'll absolutely go as far as saying the job is 100% Mike Bercovici's in 2015. I had the fortune of covering several Bercovici games when he was at both Westlake and Taft high school's in the greater Los Angeles area, and he's always had a lively arm and a fierce competitiveness. You could just tell when you talked to him that Bercovici was born to be a leader. He's incredibly smart and understands the game well. I believe he'll be a great coach one day.
I expected him to move the ball against UCLA, and he did. The interception for a touchdown at the end of the first half was as much on Todd Graham as anyone, as the Sun Devils had burned all of their timeouts and the offense clearly needed a breather in the red zone. The game unraveled at that point, but it was hardly Bercovici's fault.
USC was another story. I thought the superior individual talent of the Trojans would cause more of a problem, but instead Bercovici channeled the power of being close to home and playing in front of people who doubted him in his prep days (look into his high school story, it's fascinating). Bercovici refused to let his team quit, and never thought the game was over until Jaelen Strong was trotting through the end zone untouched. This kid can play. He's not a prototype. He's short, doesn't run well and lacks experience. But he's the real deal. His arm is fantastic and he knows how to lead. Kelly is going to play when he's ready, and that should be the case. But the Sun Devils won't lose any games because Bercovici starts over Kelly.
Theodore: I think most of us had a consensus expectation for Bercovici heading into the UCLA game: he was going to make some pretty throws because he has a strong arm, but his inexperience would lead to mistakes. And that's exactly how he performed against the Bruins, making a couple of throws that very few quarterbacks can make and a couple of throws that I would've made if I had been thrown out there.
However, I've already written on how my initial expectations for Bercovici were too low. He's a much more developed passer than anyone outside of the team could've known before the UCLA game, and that's shown up in the box score. Sure the running attack has died over the past two games, but Bercovici adds the danger of deep passing that Taylor Kelly doesn't bring to the table.
Overall, I think the tough competition in UCLA and USC that Bercovici has faced will help him for when he takes over the quarterback job next season, and the drop off from Kelly to Bercovici won't be as large as we once thought. Kelly is one of the best quarterbacks in school history, but Bercovici is more than capable of succeeding against Pac-12 defenses.
Pelton: Heading into the UCLA game, I expected a fairly pedestrian second string quarterback performance. You know, a heavy dependence on the run game, some great throws when needed from Bercovici, and of course, a few mistakes. We ended up seeing way more throws than I thought, but that was a product of playing from multiple possessions behind for the majority of the second half. Heading into USC, I was strangely optimistic. It was cautious optimism, but I felt a good performance coming since he had that always-challenging first start behind him. Little did I know just how great he would play. Going forward this season, Taylor Kelly is obviously the guy, but if he is ever feeling less than 100 percent or looks shaky, I feel confident we have a more than capable backup ready to come in.