CAMP TONTOZONA — As a former quarterback, Rick Neuheisel can see what others cannot.
“I think he’s the forgotten one,” he said referring to Arizona State junior Taylor Kelly. “It’s only those who don’t do it all the time that forget him.”
Neuheisel is the lead college football analyst on the Pac-12 Networks, which is visiting every school during fall camp. It was ASU’s turn Wednesday.
Neuheisel, after spending some time with head coach Todd Graham, paced the sideline, paying particular attention to Kelly and the quarterbacks.
“I expect (Kelly) to have a great year, if he can just keep from getting hurt in walk-throughs,” Neuheisel quipped.
Kelly, three days removed from taking an inadvertent elbow to the forehead during a handoff drill, was full-go, taking part in both individual and team drills. He provided the highlight of the day: A 47-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Richard Smith.
“Rick is the most improved guy on offense,” Graham said. “He’s going to be a dynamic receiver; home run shot today. If you’ve been around here for the last year-and-a-half, you ain’t seen a lot of those. That’s encouraging. I like that ball getting thrown deep down there like that.”
Coaches are high on Smith, who caught 14 passes a year ago. Thus far in camp, he’s seen first-team reps lining up next to newcomers Ellis Jefferson and Jaelen Strong.
“If Jaelen Strong turns out to be what I think he can be, I think they’re going to be tough to stop,” said Neuheisel, who believes ASU beats Wisconsin on September 14.
The offense received an added attraction when freshman linebacker Chans Cox, Graham’s biggest 2013 in-state recruit out of Lakeside Blue Ridge High School, practiced at tight end.
“The coaches just wanted me going over there just a few times to get some reps in, so if they ever need me to switch over, I can go over there and do that,” Cox said. “I just want to be out playing on the field. Whatever is best for the team is what I’ll do. I like both sides of the ball, so just whatever the coaches want.”
Graham, however, indicated it was a one-day only experiment.
“He might play a few plays over there, on some special packages and that’s it,” he said. “Right now, he’s still playing defense.”
Neuheisel, meanwhile, like many is expecting ASU to contend for the Pac-12 South title.
“First of all, you work to gain expectations, so you can’t look at them as a negative,” he said. “Now, it’s just a call to arms — and certainly (Graham) has the attention of the team; a call to arms of the leadership saying, ‘okay, are we going to man up and meet them? We’ve worked to earn them, now what are we going to do about it? Is that enough or are we actually going to fulfill the dream?’ And that to me is where they are right now.”