While Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly is slowly returning to playing shape, his chance to play Saturday against USC continues to diminish. Kelly did some light throwing on the side and still had a walking boot on at practice Tuesday. He shed the crutches in order to stand and throw the football and did some strength training with a medicine ball.
"He's (Kelly) doubtful this week," head coach Todd Graham said Tuesday after practice. "I doubt he'll play, we expect him back for sure the next week."
This means the Sun Devils will need to call on Mike Bercovici to step up again, after completing 42 of 68 passes for 488 yards last week against UCLA. He's certainly familiar with the Los Angeles area. He's a Calabasas, California native, just about an hour drive from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and played high school football with USC defensive tackle Antwuan Woods.
Bercovici said it has helped him somewhat in his preparation for the Trojans.
"I know 'SC' football, they're all athletic, they're all eagar to play. They all want to be jumping around when that fight song is going on," Bercovici said. "Basically I'm just studying crazy like I was last week and we're going to put this offense in the best situation possible."
Graham has been studying the opposing quarterback Cody Kessler as well. The junior has completed 72 percent of his passes this season for 1,107 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.
"He's a very very good quarterback," Graham said. " He's more in line with a Taylor Kelly. He has command of his offense. He understands reads, he understands coverages. He does a good job, a lot better job than people think, of evading or extending plays. I've been very impressed with him."
The Sun Devils embarrassed the Trojans last season 62-41, which led to Lane Kiffin getting fired on the tarmac at LAX. It was an awful night for that program as a whole and it didn't reflect well that Kiffin wasn't even allowed on the team bus. Graham was asked what kind of motivating tool a previous result can be for a team, given that Arizona State lost 38-17 at the Coliseum in 2012 and hasn't won there since 1999.
"That's probably a media thing. Our kids wouldn't know what happened two years ago if they weren't here, unless they looked at the wall," Graham said. "Obviously you try and use everything you can to motivate people but winning the Pac-12 Championship is enough motivation for anybody. We know the games we have to win and those Pac-12 South games are must wins."
- Laiu Moeakiola began practice without a green no-contact jersey then put one on during defensive walkthrough
- Graham was working with the corners and safeties exclusively in drills. Usually he instructs the defense during walkthrough, but it's rare to see him focus in on a specific position group in a portion of practice the media is allowed to watch.
- Defensive walkthrough first team- Linemen: Viliami Latu-Jaxon Hood-Marcus Hardison. Linebackers: Carlos Mendoza (WILL)- Salamo Fiso (SAM)- Marcus Ball (SPUR), Edmond Boateng (DEVIL) Corners: Lloyd Carrington, Kweishi Brown, Safeties: Damarious Randall, Jordan Simone
- Second team- Linemen: Tashon Smallwood-Demetrius Cherry- Paul Crawford Linebackers: DJ Calhoun (WILL), Alani Latu (SAM) Christian Sam (SPUR). Corners: Armand Perry, Solomon Means, Safeties: James Johnson, Ezekiel Bishop
- Things that should catch your eye: Carlos Mendoza getting reps at first team WILL linebacker over DJ Calhoun, Marcus Ball at starting SPUR linebacker over Laiu Moeakiola, who was shadowing Ball. Edmond Boateng regaining his spot at first team Devilbacker.
- Graham said Mendoza was in there just to get him some reps but I think there is competition for the starting WILL spot this week.
- Graham mentioned improving the tackling started with more controlled, focused energy and players trying to control their tackling motions.
- Bercovici said he has more confidence going into the USC game and the thing that surprised him the most from UCLA was just how much each play matters.