Graham in no rush to name starting QB

BY foxsports • May 8, 2012

Arizona State football's spring practice season ended with plenty of questions to be answered, chief among them who would be the Sun Devils' starting quarterback.

While the three-man race appears somewhat wide open, ASU coach Todd Graham said Tuesday the reality of the situation is probably much different than perceptions.

"We're a lot closer (to narrowing the field) than probably what it appears from the outside," Graham said.

Participating in the Pac-12 spring football coaches teleconference, Graham did not get into specifics of Mike Bercovici, Michael Eubank or Taylor Kelly. He noted all three have different strenghts but did not offer which qualities might make for a favorite.

ASU used all three quarterbacks this spring and refrained from any competition to narrow the field as the quarterbacks, none of whom have never started in college, learned Graham's offensive system.

"It's very difficult to (practice with) three guys," Graham said. "I was very impressed that we were able to install the amount of the offense that we did install and do it with three different guys."

As for a timetable, Graham insists there's no hurry. The race will presumably be reduced to two early in fall practice, but after that it seems Graham is willing to let the competition go about as long as possible.

"When we come out of Camp Tontozona, we need to have a starting quarterback," Graham said. "So that's kind of our plan."

ASU has tentative plans to train at Camp Tontozona from Aug. 14-18, meaning a starting quarterback would be determined about two weeks before the first game of the season with Northern Arizona.

The fundraising campaign to return to Camp Tontozona near Payson for the first time since 2008 continues through June 1. It was announced last week that the White Mountain Sun Devil Club Alumni Chapter would match each dollar donated to the campaign beginning May 2.

As of May 1, the campaign had collected $40,669. Since, the total has grown to $48,249. Including the matching contribution, the total would be $55,829 as of the close of business May 7, making the campaign roughly 37 percent of the way to its $150,000 goal.

Asked Tuesday about suspended defensive end Junior Onyeali, Graham sounded optimistic about the junior rejoining the team for the fall practice season.

"He's making progress," Graham said. "He did a great job this spring, improved all his academics and has a plan of improvement. He's on course, if he takes care of everything, to be reinstated in the fall."

Onyeali was suspended by former coach Dennis Erickson after a verbal altercation and missed the team's appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl. Graham suspended Onyeali in January for not meeting "high standards of the Sun Devil football program."

Graham said Onyeali still has some things to do, such as community service, but it appears likely he'll be back come fall.

"He's done nothing since I've been here except everything we've asked him to do, so we've been impressed with him so far, but he still has some work to do," Graham said.

Nearly every coach on Tuesday's teleconference was asked about a proposed playoff system for college football. Opinions on the specifics varied, but most seemed in favor of a change.

While his former boss at West Virginia and new rival at the University of Arizona, Rich Rodriguez, supported a four-team playoff, Graham took issue with that particular setup.

"If they're going to do a playoff deal, I'd be for going eight teams, having six conference champions and two at large" Graham said. "I'd just hate to see a four-team playoff and you've got two teams from the same conference. I'm hoping we don't have that."

The details of a proposed college football playoff to determine the national champion are far from finalized, and such a system would not go into effect until 2014. The plan being floated now would see four teams in the playoff, with two semifinals and a final.

"I'm not big on the voting," Graham said. "I think that if you have the four-game playoff, one of the prerequisites should be a conference championship."

Graham also stressed that the Rose Bowl carries great importance to ASU and its fans, as well as the rest of the Pac-12, so he would want to see the tradition preserved within any new system.

Graham on his team's conditioning: "We've got a long way to go to get ourselves in shape mentally and physically to be able to handle the pace and tempo at which we go. But that wasn't a surprise to me. I figured we obviously had a lot of work (to do) there because our tempo is so different."