Ideal scholarship roster number: 4
Likely returning number: 3
2015 spring addition: 1 (Brady White)
2015 fall addition: 1 (Bryce Perkins)
Remaining ideal number: 0
The Skinny: ASU is sitting in an extremely healthy and competitive position as it transitions from longtime starter and graduating senior Taylor Kelly into the spring of 2015 and beyond, primarily due to the emergence of rising senior (all players are listed by 2015 eligibility) Mike Bercovici last season when Kelly went down with a broken foot during the team’s game against Colorado.
Bercovici performed more than admirably in three starts and some key reserve action in 2014 when thrust into the starting lineup for the first time against the gauntlet of UCLA, USC and Stanford, finishing the season with 1,445 yards and 12 touchdowns. He threw for an incredible combined 998 yards against UCLA and USC, the latter of which included five touchdown passes and was arguably the best performance by a visiting quarterback against the Trojans in history.
It was a performance that culminated with one of the most indelible memories in decades at ASU, the now-famous Hail Mary walk-off touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong that left Bercovici in a crying heap on the Coliseum turf no more than an hour’s drive where he grew up in the Los Angeles-area.
Bercovici gives the Sun Devils an added vertical component in the passing game and ASU coach Todd Graham said his ascendance to the starting job will give the team’s offense more of a rhythm passing game ability. Bercovici has the ball velocity and processing ability to cycle through progressions and deliver balls on time to secondary receivers without holding the ball too long.
"Bercovici can throw a [quick slant] with 100-percent accuracy," Graham said. "One, two, ball's out on three. [Defenses] can't get pressure. Play-action, is when we're really throwing it down the field. So much of our intermediate passing game last year was limited to running naked, running (bootlegs)."From a leadership standpoint, Bercovici is also excellent. The letter he and teammates wrote and delivered on the ASU athletics website was some of the best red meat any player has ever thrown to the school’s fans. Bercovici not only talks to the talk publicly, with media, and teammates though, he delivers results through determined action and marked by steady improvement that over the course of his career is remarkable.
In the last four years, Bercovici has transformed his body and substantially improved his athletic mobility, and thus, his versatility.
“Mike, ever since I walked through the front door, he's had an unbelievably strong arm, he could make every throw, he's kind of one of those gunslinger when I first got here,” ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell said. “I remember walking in to the first day of practice, he had the big front knee brace and everything, you know, 'I'm pocket guy,' and this and that. So to see his buy in to training and what he's done with [sports performance coach Shawn Griswold] and the way he eats, what he does in the training, the agility work, there might be one of the biggest changes in evolution of a player that I've seen and you know he just bought into the system.”
Some focal points for Bercovici from a developmental standpoint in the year ahead will be decision making in the read-option competition of the game and making sure he’s continuing to be diligent about accounting for zone defenders, particularly over the middle third of the field, as he has a tendency to at times get a bit over-excited and/or try to fit the ball into too tight of a window.What Bercovici proved last year not only makes clear that he has a chance to be one of the better quarterbacks in the Pac-12 in the year ahead, but also that ASU can be patient in developing its younger, highly esteemed backups, a group that includes redshirt freshman Manny Wilkins and high profile newcomer Brady White, a spring enrollee out of Hart High School in Newhall, Calif.
Competition will certainly ratchet up between the young players at the position in the year ahead and then likely go into hyperdrive a year from now as the team looks to replace Bercovici in the spring of 2016.
Wilkins and White will begin that competition, albeit in a bit of a preliminary fashion, in spring ball starting this month, while Gerhart will likely be limited or perhaps even largely unavailable during much of spring ball as he has been a starter for the baseball team as a true freshman.
White had benefited by starting his career early due to the extra spring ball he will get over Perkins, and also White has already gained 11 pounds according to ASU sports performance coach Shawn Griswold since he arrived a few weeks ago, now at 190 pounds.