By: Charles Wulf
Would you let Taylor Kelly marry your daughter? Arizona State head coach Todd Graham would.
“It’s hard to put your finger on it. It’s just the ‘it’ factor,” Graham said at Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles. “I want him to marry my daughter. He’s a guy that you totally depend on.”
There’s no doubt that going into this season Kelly will be the leader of not just the offense but the entire team. “His first year he led the ten other guys on offense,” said Graham. “Last year he took over midway through and started leading the team. He’s the most respected person in our building.”
But despite throwing for over 3600 yards and 28 touchdowns last season en route to a 10-win season, Kelly and the Devils are flying under the radar. The preseason Pac-12 poll had the Devils third in the South division behind UCLA and USC.
“I like being under the radar. It makes me work harder,” Kelly said. That work includes studying the play of other Pac-12 and collegiate quarterbacks, “I pick out things that they do that are their weaknesses and I add them to my strengths.”
With the defense losing starters like Will Sutton, Carl Bradford, and Aldon Darby, Kelly and the offense will likely have to be the support system for the Devils. But that shouldn’t intimidate Kelly. The redshirt senior is used to the pressure. He was a bit of a race car driver before prematurely retired by Graham.
Every race car driver needs a solid pit crew and Kelly has that in guys like Jaelen Strong, DJ Foster, Jamil Douglas, and of course, deputy head coach Mike Norvell. Like a race car, the Sun Devil offense is extremely fast and powerful and Taylor Kelly is right where he likes to be: in the driver’s seat. In his two years as a starter Kelly has led the Devils’ offense to two 60 point performances. He’s also been very efficient, completing 62% of his passes last season. Everything is in place for Kelly to have a monster year.
Losing in the Pac-12 Championship last year has left the Devils with a bad taste in their mouth. Kelly and his teammates are hungrier than ever, “We have a chip on or shoulder. We’re hungry. Even though we did win the Pac-12 South we lost the Pac-12 Championship game. That was one of our goals so we’re even hungrier to attack that.”
There will be plenty for the Sun Devils to “eat” when you look at their schedule. Games against Stanford, UCLA, Notre Dame, and USC will really show if Arizona State is ready to take the next step and win the Pac-12.
If you ask Kelly, he and the Devils are ready for the challenge. Flying under the radar is exactly where ASU wants to be and Todd Graham wouldn’t want anyone else leading his team to victory, son-in-law or not.