It's Mike Bercovici's time to take the reins. The redshirt junior practiced Tuesday for the first time as the Sun Devils starting quarterback.
"It couldn't be a better opportunity for me to play in this game, in this situation," Bercovici said. "I've been ready for this for a long time because I really do put the pressure and constraint on myself. This is an opportunity that I owe to my teammates."
Bercovici is 14 of 24 for 112 yards and a touchdown in his Arizona State career. He'll be counted on now more than ever as he makes his first start against the Bruins in under two weeks. Tuesday at practice, Bercovici was 2 of 3 for roughly 20 yards, completing both passes to wide receiver Cameron Smith in 11 on 11 work.
"Berc can run this offense. He has been running it for three years," offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said. "His growth is unbelievable and that's the thing that gives me such confidence."
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound signal caller went through all the normal motions of the quarterback group at practice. He went through basic skill work, did some agility drills, stretched as normal with the team and worked on ball security in a drill where a coach tries to rip the ball out of his hands as ran. He then worked the 11 on 11 period at first team quarterback. He was calm and collected as he spoke with the media for about 10 minutes after practice.
"Mike has a lot that he adds to the offense. From a talent and a skill standpoint the key is to adapt what we're doing to him," head coach Todd Graham said. "This is a game he has prepared for his whole life and we'll have a great plan for him."
Prepping for UCLA
The Sun Devils have a bye week, but started preparing for the Bruins today. The maroon and gold face off with the team from Westwood in a Sept. 25 primetime game on ESPN that will have big Pac-12 south implications.
"This is why you coach, this is why you play. I can tell you this, it's the most excited I've been all year," Graham said. "This is a game on the schedule that I look worward to myself because it's a huge challenge. You're playing a great, well- coached team.It's been us or them who have represented the Pac-12 south so this is as big as it gets."
Both teams will be 3-0 headed into the game and it will be the first matchup between two ranked teams at Sun Devil Stadium since 2007. The Bruins will be looking to avenge their de-facto Pac-12 south championship game loss to Arizona State last season.
"Besides any of those guys down south that wear navy blue and red, if you ask any of our up front linemen who they want? They want powder blue. They want to drive those guys down," Bercovici said.
Some changes up front
After an impressive showing against Colorado, Demetrius Cherry got the first team reps over Tashon Smallwood on Tuesday. Graham said it would be a rotation between Cherry, Smallwood, Hood and Viliami Latu up front. He also noted that he wants to try and get Emanuel Dayries and Mo Latu more involved.
"We're still adapting to what they can do so we're getting that figured out a little bit," Graham said.
- Carlos Mendoza and Laiu Moeakiola were both in green no-contact jerseys. Graham noted that Moeakiola will play against UCLA.
- First team defense- Linemen: Demetrius Cherry-Jaxon Hood-Marcus Hardison. Linebackers: DJ Calhoun (WILL), Salamo Fiso (SAM), Christian Sam (SPUR), Antonio Longino (DEVIL). Corners: Lloyd Carrington, Kweishi Brown. Safeties: Damarious Randall, Jordan Simone
- First team offense- Quarterback: Mike Bercovici Running back: Kalen Ballage Wide receivers: Jaelen Strong, Cameron Smith, Deantre Lewis (slot). Tight end: Kody Kohl
- Bercovici drive stat line: 2 of 3 for roughly 20 yards, both passes completed to Cameron Smith
- Second team defense: Linemen- Edmond Boateng- Emanuel Dayries- Tashon Smallwood. Linebackers- Carlos Mendoza (WILL), Alani Latu (SAM), Ezekiel Bishop (SPUR), Marcus Washington (DEVIL). Corners: Armand Perry, Solomon Means. Safeties: James Johnson, Marcus Ball
- Manny Wilkins backed up Bercovici at second team quarterback.
- Things that should catch your eye: Christian Sam at starting SPUR after Graham praised his efforts there Saturday in replacement of Moeakiola. Demetrius Cherry replacing Tashon Smallwood at first team TIGER. Carlos Mendoza at second team WILL linebacker shows he's inching closer to a return to the field. Kweishi Brown receiving first team reps over Armand Perry at corner.
- Taylor Kelly came out of the practice bubble on crutches and got into a golf cart driven by an athletic department staffer. He was quickly driven away from the facility.