By Charles Wulf
TEMPE, Ariz. — In 2014, Arizona State learned the importance of depth at the most important position on the field: quarterback.
When senior quarterback Taylor Kelly went down with a broken foot against Colorado, Mike Bercovici was ready to step up.
“I went to bed last year and I didn’t worry about anything,” Coach Graham said after practice on Friday. “I should’ve, because my quarterback broke his foot the third week. I didn’t worry because of the guy we had behind him.”
Now Kelly is on the sidelines as a quarterbacks coach for the Sun Devils and Bercovici is the starter. But what happens if the Devils lose their starting quarterback to an injury in 2015?
Aside from Bercovici, ASU does not have much experience at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Manny Wilkins and freshmen Brady White and Bryce Perkins are the only other quarterbacks on the roster. As a redshirt freshman, Wilkins has a better knowledge of Mike Norvell’s offense than the newcomers, but he has yet to see any game action. Both Perkins and White were highly touted recruits, but they will need time to absorb the ASU offense.
Graham said after practice that experience at quarterback is a concern for him after what happened with Kelly’s injury in 2014.
“The biggest focus better be on those guys that are behind Mike [Bercovici] and it’s not clear. That tells you that they’re not ready,” Graham said. “They better be approaching every day like they’re the starting quarterback because you never know what’s going to happen. That’s an area that concerns me. We have got some great players there with very little experience.”
Coach Kelly will be expected to get the new guys ready and who better to coach them than the guy who started in Norvell’s system for three seasons?
“I just try to go out there and do my job and execute what I need to get done in practice,” Kelly said. “Help these young guys improve and get better every single day.”
Kelly and the rest of the coaching staff know all too well how quickly an injury can change the season.
“Coach Norvell always tells these guys, ‘You’re one play away,’” Kelly said. “He said that today. Guys have got to be ready, you’re one play away from getting out there and playing. That’s how important a backup or third string quarterback is.”
Both Kelly and Norvell have been working with the young quarterbacks. Ensuring that they are mentally and physically ready to step up if their number is called. Kelly said that although they are a very talented group, they do not have a complete understanding of how to play quarterback in ASU’s system.
“They’re young, they lack experience and you can’t coach that,” Kelly said. “The thing that Coach Norvell and I are really focusing on is the discipline stuff. Your alignments, your reads, your footwork, your drops, making sure that it’s perfect on every play.”
Kelly and Norvell will continue to work with Wilkins, White, and Perkins as Fall Camp continues. In a perfect world, ASU wouldn’t need to worry about an injury to their starting quarterback but this is football. Players get injured and the guys behind them are expected to step up.
With less than a month until the first game of the season the young quarterbacks will have to learn quickly. Kelly is confident they will be ready.
“You have to prepare yourself like you’re the starting quarterback,” Kelly said. “That’s what Coach Graham and Coach Norvell harp on and they do a great job and these guys are going to be ready.”