For the first time since 2011, a quarterback not named Taylor Kelly started the season under center (or in the shotgun) for the Arizona State Sun Devils. After four years in the program, it was time for senior Mike Bercovici to step into the spotlight.
The redshirt senior had an up-and-down campaign and we take a look back at his year as we begin to hand out our season positional grades, starting with the ASU quarterbacks.
Mike Bercovici — B-
About eight games into the season I arrived at this conclusion regarding Mike Bercovici: If you let him set his feet, give him a clean pocket and his receiver has some separation, he can make any throw he needs to.
However, when he is forced out of the pocket or has to throw in a tight window, he struggles (to be fair, many quarterbacks do as well).
It seemed that rather than tailor the offense around the strengths of Bercovici, Mike Norvell and the offensive staff wanted him to be Taylor Kelly. Prior to the final two games of the season, the Sun Devil offense rarely took shots down the field, instead opting for the read option and bubble screens.
In 2013, Kelly ran for 608 yards and in 2014 he ran for 256. This season, Bercovici tallied just 74 yards on the ground, rendering the read option ineffective most of the season.
Even though he is the quarterback, you cannot place the blame for the offensive struggles solely on Bercovici. He was sacked nine times against Texas A&M and the offensive line struggled mightily in 2015 compared to seasons prior.
With the exception of the final two games of the season, no ASU receiver established themselves as a No. 1 option the way Jaelen Strong did for Kelly. Yes, Devin Lucien racked up 930 receiving yards, however 390 of them came in the final two games of the season for ASU.
Let's talk about what Bercovici did well this season. He is an exceptional leader on and off the field. There were times this season when Todd Graham did not have to talk to the team on the sideline after the first half ended, Berco beat him to the punch.
He represented ASU about as well as a player can off the field this year and played with plenty of passion and energy on the field.
He finished third in the Pac-12 in both passing yards per game and total offense. He threw 26 touchdowns to just nine interceptions while getting sacked 37 times. For comparisons sake, Kelly was sacked 29 times in 2014.
Bercovici spread the ball out much more than his predecessor, as five Sun Devils tallied at least 30 receptions and three racked up at least 50.
It's also interesting to compare the volume of throws between Kelly and Bercovici. In 2014, Kelly attempted 278 passes and only attempted 40 passes or more in a game once. This season, Bercovici attempted 480 passes, including seven games of 40 attempts or more.
Arizona State was 1-6 in games in which Berco attempted more than 40 passes.
So, when looking at the numbers it seems as if Bercovici was counted on to do more than Kelly was in 2014. He also saw most of his weapons miss at least one game (Richard, Ballage, White, Lucien) due to injury.
Some will say this grade is too high and Bercovici should have played better. Yes, there were times when the ASU offense could not get out of its own way and a lot of that falls on the quarterback.
However, most will agree he was playing in an offense he was not suited for and he did not complain once or publicly call out his coaches while putting up over 3,000 passing yards and a quarterback rating 134.8.
Manny Wilkins — INC
Wilkins saw the field in a few games towards the end of the season. He did not attempt a pass, but did rack up 41 rushing yards on five carries.
It seemed that the coaching staff was attempting to get Wilkins some live reps in 2015 as the quarterback competition will fully begin in the spring of 2016.
The fact that he did not attempt a pass or score a touchdown gives Wilkins an incomplete grade. It would have been nice for the Sun Devils to get him in against Cal Poly or New Mexico and see him lead a scoring drive.
But he will get his chance to win the starting quarterback job in 2016 along with freshman Bryce Perkins and Brady White.
Final Grade — B-
Because only one quarterback played significant snaps in 2015, this grade is all Bercovici. He played his best football in ASU's final three games, culminating in a 395-yard, four touchdown performance against Cal.
He showed poise and leadership on and off the field, even when faced with adversity during the course of the season and the Sun Devils will miss his leadership in 2016.