Eubank comfortable in backup QB battle

While there's very little doubt about who will be the starting signal caller for ASU in 2013, the battle rages on for Taylor Kelly's backup. Five weeks of spring camp haven't determined the winner of that competition which will assuredly carry over into the fall. Nonetheless, Michael Eubank who played as a redshirt freshman is feeling more at ease both with his role and the offensive scheme.

It only takes no more than the proverbial eye test to see the appeal of Michael Eubank. At 6'6" and nearly 250 pounds, he's easily one of the most physically imposing players who don the Sun Devil maroon practice jersey each day. Yet, in terms of being a quarterback, he's also the most raw and unpolished of the trio scholarship players at his position.

Despite that ‘rawness' though, Eubank was the designated backup quarterback for the Sun Devils in 2012 and saw action in all 13 of the team's games. His performance was inconsistent, but that experience has only served to fuel his desire to attack the spring with rejuvenated focused motivation. Eubank feels that his steady growth will keep him him in the discussion for yet another offseason.

"I think for me, the spring has gone well," said Eubank recently after practice. "It's showed me what things I need to develop to become a better quarterback and also as a leader. I think it's been very humbling. Guys have shown me some things that I really need to work on, not just for myself, but for my teammates as well."

"My confidence is definitely higher now than it's ever been. I'm out here now, making the proper calls, understanding my protection, and knowing where the defense is. That was a big thing that I needed to work on. I did a lot of learning in those couple of months that we had off so my comfort with everything is high right now."

During spot duty last season, Eubank completed 34 of his 54 pass attempts (63 percent), to go along with four touchdowns and three interceptions. In an effort to increase his role within the ASU offense beyond just a running threat, Eubank has placed a stronger emphasis on improving his passing mechanics during the offseason workouts while already experiencing some positive results.

"Coach Norvell has been talking to me about setting the ball back before I throw it," he commented. "I was releasing it too low and balls were coming out slow. I can see that my completion rate has improved since last spring. Just focusing on becoming more of a pocket passer has helped me. I've completed a lot more passes this spring and it's helped my confidence going into the summer."

In 2012, Eubank rushed for 223 yards on 63 carries, finding the end zone four times, including the deciding one-yard score in last season's 41-34 win over Arizona in Tucson. Despite his large frame and his focus on playing more within the pocket, the run-happy quarterback acknowledges that his footwork and speed have also been an area of focus for spring.

In Tuesday's during team drills, Eubank escaped the pressure of a collapsing pocket before skirting down the sideline for a 35-yard rushing score, bouncing off a few helpless defenders along the way, demonstrating that unique quality that he holds over his competitors.

"Definitely my quickness and being able to move around in the pocket when things start to break down and make plays with my feet," Eubank described his strengths. "I think I can still improve on my footwork. Before I was getting caught within five yards when I'd try leaving the pocket. But I'm getting better with my quickness and my agility.

"Without a doubt, being able to get out there against teams like Oregon and Oregon State, and good teams like that, and being able to produce and make plays gave me that confidence and let me know that I'm here for a reason and that I can make plays."

A new addition to the Sun Devil offensive arsenal this spring has been the implementation of the pistol formation, which features the running backs lined up directly behind the ASU quarterback in an effort to disguise the play calling, while supplying Eubank and his QB teammates some control at the line of scrimmage.

"Knowing that they have schemes for me definitely puts my mind at ease, knowing that I'll get some playing time and get to enhance my skills," Eubank commented. "The Pistol is something that has been really beneficial to us, being that the defense can't really go off where our running backs are lined up. Sometimes when we've got the backs on our sides, the defense has been able to key in on what we're doing.

"Having the backs behind us has definitely opened up our offense more, and with our backs, that's pretty dangerous. We have a good group of running backs who have a good handle on what they need to do. Having explosive running backs like that, who can run and catch, helps us open up the offense. It's really been a nice addition."

With only one more practice left in the spring, the team will finish out the semester with finals later this month and then breaking for a few weeks before commencing summer workouts. While Eubank says he plans to return to Corona, Calif. for a bit to recharge, he doesn't plan on taking any time off. Not when the battle for backup is still in full swing.

"I'll be back home training every day," Eubank noted. "There's not a day off for me. I'll be back home training every day, trying to get better for the fall."

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