In spite of losing streak, time to develop Taylor Kelly
Lane Kiffin's ignorance was a little surprising but for the most part the trip to Los Angeles was as fruitless as expected.
ASU lost 38-17 to USC Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. There's some frustration and some positives.
The defense gave up 38 points. That sounds bad. But, if you were there or watched the game, you had to be blown away by the defensive success.
The turnovers were an epidemic for the offense. The execution of the kicking game plan was a hair above poor. These two factors created short fields for Southern Cal (always call them Southern Cal, they love that). Yes, they scored 38 points but limiting Marqise Lee to only one big play and making Southern Cal work hard for every point is a tribute to the defense. Combine that with the fact that ASU's defense even put up seven points on their own, and there's nothing negative about the defense.
The offense, however, is quickly becoming a serious issue. Taylor Kelly played better than he did against Oregon State but that's not much of a compliment since his game at OSU represented a season-worst performance. I'm not worried about Kelly from a talent perspective, but I am worried from a David Carr point of view.
Taylor Kelly has a wide receiving core that would dominate if Grand Canyon ever supports a football team and becomes ASU's chief rival. Unfortunately, they are not upper-tier Pac-12 compatible. As Kelly waits for anyone to resemble a play-maker down the field, the line isn't strong enough to hold their blocks.
ASU's offensive line isn't bad. The reverse is true as well, though. ASU's offensive line isn't good either. The receivers and the line combine for a handcuff that Kelly can't simply overcome.
In the past few weeks, defenses are shutting down the run because there's no respect for the ASU wide receivers. With the safeties up to stop the run, the opposing defense linemen aren't worried about gap integrity in the run game. With little responsibility to control the run game, the defensive front is only concerned with putting pressure on Kelly.
In the past four games, the hits Taylor Kelly takes seem to multiply by the week and are having a cumulative effect. Quarterback David Carr was the Houston Texans' No. 1 overall pick, but he played behind five matadors. Eventually, Carr was so disturbed by the pass rush he couldn't keep his eyes down field. We're not there with Kelly, yet. The last two games, however, Kelly is scrambling to save his own life, when he should be scrambling to create big plays.
Coaching is not immune from blame, either. I think Mike Norvell is a young stud in coaching so I give this opinion with caution. I have no idea if it's Norvell's idea to play Michael Eubank or not but it's a bad idea that must stop. Show me the play where Eubank explodes into a linebacker using his size to bury a tackler. Show me the play where Eubank drills an accurate pass in the soft spot of a zone. Keep looking because you won't find it.
If Eubank was the best option at quarterback, I would be demanding more playing time despite shoddy play, because trial-and-error could lead to a polished product. The problem is Kelly isn't a finished product. Every snap taken by Eubank is a moment in time lost in the development of Taylor Kelly. Kelly has two years and two/three games left in his college career. He's the one that needs to be developed.