In the last week, during ASU’s spring practices, there has been some talk about backup quarterback Mike Bercovici. More talk than usual. And it’s all been positive.
Bercovici has been performing quite well in drills and live reps against the defense. His performance has been good enough that coach Graham has had to answer questions about him; his improvement, his opportunities, his place.
It is unlikely that there is actually a legitimate quarterback controversy with this ASU team. But there is a competition. It’s a given that under the Todd Graham regime, playing time is earned and competition for positions is ongoing. This may not be anything more than a backup QB trying to get better and forcing the coaches to take a good look at him.
Every coach will tell you that healthy competition is good for a team and good for an individual player. Returning starting QB Taylor Kelly and Bercovici appear to get along and respect each other. But they both are no doubt well aware of the strange, unspoken understanding that Bercovici wants Kelly’s job.
Several experts and even some of the coaches have made the observation that Mike Bercovici actually throws the ball better than Kelly. That he has more velocity and more accuracy when throwing the ball. But those same coaches argue that Kelly is a better athlete, has more speed and can execute the zone read more effectively. Bercovici got that message last year and has lost some weight in order to be quicker and more of a threat to run the ball.
There are, of course, other factors that go into choosing a starting quarterback; leadership, reading coverages, adjusting pass protection and decision-making. One would have to assume that the coaches prefer Kelly’s ability to display those skills.
As the off-season unfolds, this quarterback competition may end up just being an interesting conversation and nothing more. However, it may end up being more than that. Two years ago, Taylor Kelly himself went into the summer as the #3 quarterback on the depth chart behind Michael Eubank and oddly enough, Mike Bercovici. Everyone knows what happened next, during fall camp, Kelly jumped both to become the starter and hasn’t looked back.
This move demonstrates that coach Todd Graham and offensive coordinator Mike Norvelle are keeping their options on the table. It also demonstrates that their constant assertion to “keep trying” to their players is not just talk. They will play whoever is performing the best.
In all likelihood, Taylor Kelly’s job is probably quite safe. Unless he really goes into a funk and plays terribly, he should be the starter. But Bercovici’s emergence is giving the coaches the confidence to make a change if they feel it is necessary. That’s the way it’s supposed to be and it should be interesting to watch.