CAMP TONTOZONA, Ariz. — When the Arizona State football team finished spring ball, Mike Bercovici was the presumed starter at quarterback.
When the Sun Devils headed to Camp Tontozona earlier this week, Taylor Kelly had grabbed the lead.
When the Devils left Camp Tontozona on Saturday following a scrimmage, there was a third possibility. Michael Eubank said offensive coordinator Mike Norvell told him he could see “at least 50 to 60 snaps” per game.
Confused? You’re not alone. If you’re trying to read the tea leaves, it’s important to remember that everyone has a different cup of tea.
Some like Bercovici’s strong arm and ability to fit the ball into tight spaces. Some like Kelly’s game-management skills. Some like Eubank’s running, play-making ability and size.
“If you ask me my opinion right now, we’ll probably wind up using more than one quarterback,” ASU coach Todd Graham said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “But we’ll have a primary guy, and we’ll let you know who that is on Monday.”
Given the amount of reps Kelly and Eubank have taken the past week, it’s safe to assume those are the guys Graham is referencing. Both showed well on Saturday, with Kelly leading three touchdown drives and Eubank two. But while Kelly is the assumed leader in this race, we’re going in the other direction.
ASU should start Eubank in Week 1 and never look back.
Here’s why: No matter which QB stands behind center for ASU this season, he’ll have little or no experience. No matter which QB starts, the Sun Devils offense will endure growing pains.
Why not go with the guy who has the most growth potential?
“I’m ready to play,” Eubank said.
The redshirt freshman said last season’s backseat view helped him prepare for this moment.
“I got to see the speed of the game. I got to see the tempo. I got to see the leadership qualities of a quarterback,” he said. “I got to see a lot of different things that I’m glad I saw.”
It would be one thing if one player had separated himself in this race, but that is clearly not the case since Graham and Norvell are considering using two. Bercovici’s turnover issues are a significant deterrent. But the thing that strikes us most when coaches discuss Kelly is the manner in which they discuss him.
When you define a player by what he doesn’t do — i.e., turn over the ball over — rather than what he does do, you’ve got a problem. Kelly tossed a beautiful ball to Rashad Ross down the left sideline for one of his two touchdown passes Saturday, but his deep balls often lack zip because he just doesn’t have much arm strength.
Can Kelly really beat teams with his arm down the field or past the sticks, or is his best quality that he won’t beat his own team?
Eubank is raw, to be sure. Although he had more success with these throws earlier in the week, he missed three deep balls Saturday and needs work on his accuracy. But he has a big body (6-foot-4, 242 pounds), he can make plays with his feet and the staff will tell you privately that they still think he throws the best deep ball when you factor in ball security.
Remember: Graham recruited Eubank while he was the coach at Pittsburgh. He saw plenty he liked, and that feeling still exists throughout the staff.
“When you look at that specimen walking down the hallway, you sometimes forget that he’s a freshman,” Norvell said. “That’s something that no matter how bad you want to put it on him, he doesn’t have the number of reps that some guys do.”
That would matter if Eubank were competing with a more experienced player. He is not. Kelly and Bercovici are nearly as green and young.
Eubank has the biggest upside. Eubank is the future of this program. No time like the present to start planning for that future.