TEMPE, Ariz. — It probably surprised the few fans still remaining for the final minutes of Arizona State’s season-opening victory over NAU on Thursday night to see junior quarterback Ryan Woods trot onto the field.
Woods transferred to ASU last season and doesn’t even have an official team bio, or a spot on the depth chart for that matter. Fans were probably expecting sophomore Mike Bercovici, the one-time favorite for the starting job, but coach Todd Graham said ASU will try to preserve a year of eligibility by redshirting Bercovici this season.
“Mike and I have talked; he’s a Sun Devil,” Graham said. “There’s no question it was a very close decision between him and Taylor (Kelly).”
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Bercovici was the backup to Brock Osweiler last season as a true freshman and concluded spring drills as the presumptive leader in a three-way battle to replace Osweiler as the starting quarterbacks. But Kelly and redshirt freshman Michael Eubank passed him during fall camp, in part due to ball-security concerns.
Bercovici could still play this season should Kelly get hurt or struggle when the schedule gets tougher.
As for Kelly and Eubank, the split of snaps Thursday was 38 for Kelly and 29 for Eubank, though Eubank attempted just two passes. The lopsided score may have had something to do with the split.
It came to light Thursday afternoon that senior receiver Jamal Miles would miss his second straight game due to a team rules violation. He also missed the Las Vegas Bowl last season for “personal reasons.” It was also announced that senior running back James Morrison would miss the season opener for not meeting team standards.
The issues, Graham said, were not recent, and both players will play against Illinois next week.
“We had some accountabilities from the spring,” Graham said. “We talked about (how) we’re going to have accountabilities and standards, and those guys have done nothing this fall but everything right.”
Graham said redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Sil Ajawara and redshirt junior cornerback Ronald Kennedy Jr. were also held out of the game for accountability reasons.
NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS
— ASU’s defense recorded nine tackles for loss Thursday, more than in any game last season. Junior linebacker Chris Young accounted for 2 1/2 of those while also leading the team with eight tackles.
— ASU also tallied fewer penalty yards Thursday (30, on four penalties) than in any game last year. None of the penalties came on defense.
— After a first-quarter fumble, recovered by NAU, senior running back Cameron Marshall sat out all of the second quarter and most of the third. Freshman running back D.J. Foster also fumbled and did not return for a while. Graham said after the game he was not punishing the players but taking opportunities to teach.
— ASU quarterbacks threw just 20 passes Thursday.
— How dominant was the ASU offense in a 42-0 first half Thursday? Punter Josh Hubner was not needed until the third quarter. Kelly did punt a ball on near the end of the half on fourth-and-long on NAU’s side of the 50.
— Senior receiver A.J. Pickens started in Miles’ place despite not playing with the first team offense in fall practice — at least not in portions of practice media was allowed to view.
— In just one game, junior tight end Chris Coyle nearly matched his yards total from all of last season. In 2011, Coyle caught six passes for 73 yards. On Thursday, his two catches amounted to 65 yards.