Ryan Kelley (© Greg Powers)

Signing Day evaluation: Four-star quarterback Ryan Kelley

Despite the departure of offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, Arizona State hung onto the commitment of four-star quarterback Ryan Kelley, one of the top passers in the West.


Ideal Scholarship Number: 4-5

Potential Returning Number: 4 (Manny Wilkins, Bryce Perkins, Brady White, Dillon Sterling-Cole)

Likely Returning Number: 4

2017 Commitments: 2 (Ryan Kelley, Blake Barnett)

Remaining Ideal Number: 0

The Skinny

The announcement by Chandler Basha High four-star quarterback Ryan Kelley last May that he had committed to Arizona State was significant on a number of levels.

Not only are the Sun Devils are getting one of the best regarded players at the position in the West, Kelley was a springboard locally who helped the program put together one of its best instate classes in history. ASU has three of the Top-5 instate recruits committed and could sign as many as 10 overall, which would tie a record. 

Building off what ASU was able to accomplish in the previous class, when it signed Chandler High Scout300 teammates N'Keal Harry and Chase Lucas, every additional high profile local commitment enables other such commitments to be a little more easily attained. 

On a more focused level, the quarterback position at ASU is becoming increasingly talented. Kelley's pledge gave the Sun Devils, for the first time ever, a four-star quarterback in four consecutive classes:  Manny Wilkins (2014), Brady White (2015), Dillon Sterling-Cole (2016) and now Kelley (2017). Later in the cycle ASU also landed former 2015 class five-star quarterback and Alabama transfer Blake Barnett

Such a development is essential for increasing the odds of predictive success. Quarterback is unquestionably the most important position on the field and if programs have more talented, high profile recruits to choose from for the starting job, it provides a greater chance at being able to put at least one really good player on the field to lead its team. A coaching staff's job is to have four or five well regarded prospects in the fold and to let the players sort out who is the best. 

For ASU, this is a huge development and especially with a new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Billy Napier coming into the fold, and after last season when the Sun Devils didn't have anyone separate himself from the pack at the position.

At the time of the Kelley commitment, it was an early coup for then-offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey because Kelley flipped from Oregon, which had a Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall NFL pick in 2015, Marcus Mariota, at the position to use as bait to lure in players at the position. After Lindsey's departure ASU had to hold on, but did a good job with its staff, as head coach Todd Graham went to see Kelley on the final day before the dead period. 

One of the advantages that played out in ASU's favor according to a Kelley family source was how local players are able to train with colleges after they've signed a National Letter of Intent. While Kelley isn't going to be a mid-year graduate, he's planning to set his schedule for the spring up so that he can workout with the ASU football team in the strength and conditioning program and even at times sit in on position meetings and attend practices. Other local recruits have taken advantage of this in recent years, with redshirt freshman Cade Cote gaining upwards of 40 pounds last year. 

Looking at Kelley as a prospect, he possesses an extremely high developmental ceiling because of the tools he has to work with. At 6-foot-4, Kelley is a bit thin now but will have no problem weighing 210 pounds in a couple years. He's no different in that regard than the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Jared Goff. They are similarly sized guys in terms of height and frame at the same stage. Gaining the size won't be an issue. Brady White is several inches shorter and no broader and went from 180 pounds to 200 pounds in his first year at ASU. 

Kelley has good mobility, particularly for his height, and a plus arm. He throws a very live football, more so than any of the quarterbacks currently on the ASU roster. He can currently throw the full route tree at the NFL level. If anything, there are times when Kelley needs to ease up on his throws, as he'll overly pump the ball on shorter situational passes that require more touch. At this stage of his development, Kelley is prone to some vertical axis accuracy inconsistency issues, particularly when rolling out of the pocket in the same direction as his throws. Some of this is footwork related. 

In the pocket Kelley operates from a good base platform and even though he doesn't have the most graceful of releases, the ball jumps out of his hand and he gets on top of it. His big play shots down the field are a signature weapon in his arsenal because receivers don't out-run his arm in a way that happens a fair amount even at the college level, and Kelley puts a lot of air under the ball to lead the target. From the pocket Kelley is quite accurate down the field, with a combination of touch and spin consistency. He also feels the pocket very well and has shown a capacity to really survey the field at the high school level in a way that hints at success in one of the most important areas for success as the competition gets tougher and the game gets faster. 

This is quite a good athlete ASU's getting for the type of size and arm Kelley has. He ran a laser mid-4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a 4.4 second shuttle -- which is harder for taller players -- and a 32 inch vertical jump. That's good testing for this type of quarterback prospect and it translates to the football field. We've seen a decent amount of designed quarterback runs from the Sun Devils in the spring and Kelley can handle that and the read option component of the team's offense with no trouble at all as well as be somewhat elusive in the open field. He's more of a gathering speed type player than someone who is laterally quick and agile, but nobody would think of him as an average or worse athlete for a quarterback of his size. 

The game comes very easy for Kelley at this stage and sometimes there are some lackadaisical throws and decisions as a result. He has a tendency to not always get underneath himself and utilize a good base leg foundation to drive throws from in a way that enhances release point consistency and vertical axis accuracy. When he misses throws this is often the reason, but when the mechanics are sound he does some extremely impressive things throwing the football, including on the move. This is really a tremendous get for the Sun Devils. He can do everything in the ASU offense and projects to do it all at a high level. 

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