Payson, Ariz. — Head coach Todd Graham said this week he’d like to leave Camp Tontozona on Saturday with a starting quarterback.
He also said this week Taylor Kelly was leading that competition.
Whether or not the redshirt sophomore can beat out teammates and good friends Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank for the job will be known sooner rather than later.
“Not really,” Kelly answered when asked if he’s feeling any pressure. “I’m just going out there and having fun, just competing and doing my very best on every play.”
In the spring, Kelly was regarded as the third-best quarterback out of the three.
Yet now — despite having only two games under his belt, he has put himself in position to be the one under center when ASU opens the season August 31 against NAU.
“Going out of spring ball, I challenged him,” offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said. “I wanted to see an increase in his rhythm, the timing of getting the ball out of his hands. Obviously, I told him I wanted to see a little bit more in his arm strength.
“He spent his summer working his tail off. Everything I asked him I wanted to see improved, he’s improved. He’s put in a ton of work.”
The work is paying off.
“He’s really throwing the ball well,” Norvell said, “throwing the ball on time and being able to hit, execute on the vertical shots down field.”
Kelly displayed the stronger arm in practice Thursday.
With the ball at the one yard line, Kelly dropped back and from his own end zone fired a pass 50 yards up the left sideline to wide receiver Rashad Ross, who caught it and took it the rest of the way to complete a 99-yard touchdown.
Bercovici’s arm is stronger. And Eubank has perhaps the most potential with his 6-foot-5, 242-pound frame. But it’s the 6-foot-1 Kelly who may go from scout team quarterback in 2010 to starting quarterback in 2012.
“It’s putting us in a position to be successful,” Norvell said of Kelly’s ability to manage the offense better than the other two. “It’s limiting the times you’re putting the ball in jeopardy.
“He really has a good understanding of what we’re doing. He makes plays when he’s out there.”
Kelly, though, again is not getting caught up in the competition. He knows nothing has been won, not with a scrimmage to end camp coming up this weekend.
“I got to stay confident and stay focused,” he said. “That’s the big thing for me, just going out every play and just doing it how I do it.”