Taylor Kelly

Arizona State announces three captains for 2015 season

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Who’s ready for some actual football talk?

Senior quarterback Mike Bercovici, senior wide receiver D.J. Foster, and senior safety Jordan Simone will serve as Arizona State’s captains for the 2015 season, the club announced Tuesday.

Bercovici played in all 13 games a year ago, filling in for starter Taylor Kelly during an extended mid-season stretch, completing 115-of-186 passes for 1,445 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Foster led the Sun Devils in rushing a year ago with 194 carries for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns while grabbing 62 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns. He figures to see an increased role in 2015 after the departure of Jaelen Strong and a spring injury to Cameron Smith.

Simone ranked second on the team in tackles with 100 stops, 4.5 TFL, one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and two passes defended.

The Sun Devils also designated senior cornerback Lloyd Carrington, senior center Nick Kelly and junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola as co-captains. And for the first time under head coach Todd Graham, Arizona State named special teams captains, with junior kicker Zane Gonzalez and sophomore defensive back DeAndre Scott winning the honors.

Marcus Mariota headlines NFF Hampshire Honor Society list

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In yet another case of Marcus Mariota being a disgustingly wonderful human being, the former Oregon quarterback took home one more honor the day before he officially leaves college football and joins the NFL.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner led a list of 817 players on the National Football Foundation’s Hampshire Honor Society list for 2015 – basically the Dean’s List for college football at large.

“The Hampshire Honor Society plays an important role in highlighting that college football players clearly play a leadership role in the classroom as well as on the playing field,” said NFF president and CEO Steve Hatchell. “We congratulate each of these young men for their commitment to excellence.”

To join the Hampshire Honor Society a player must carry a 3.2 grade-point average throughout their college career, be a starter or significant contributor in his final year of eligibility and meet all NCAA or NAIA eligibility requirements.

“We have honored nearly 6,000 student-athletes in the last nine years thanks to Jon Hanson’s generosity,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “We are grateful for his passionate belief in the scholar-athlete ideal, and the Hampshire Honor Society allows us to showcase the names of tomorrow’s leaders while inspiring future generations to follow in their footsteps.”

Among the other big names joining Mariota on the list (which can be seen here in full) are former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, former Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly, former South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson and former Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

Oh, and did we mention Mariota is establishing a four-year scholarship at his former high school in Honolulu? This guy is just the worst.

Arizona State’s offense will resemble the New England Patriots in 2015

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Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici isn’t Tom Brady, but that doesn’t really matter.

Bercovici primarily played in four games last season, and the Sun Devils finished 2-2 in those contests. However, head coach Todd Graham is prepared to change the team’s offense to fit his new signal-caller’s strengths.

“We have a quarterback that’s fixing to be able to do things that we’ve never really been able to do,” Graham told AZCentral.com’s Doug Haller.

Graham’s ideal offense is an up-tempo system operating a breakneck pace. The next step is fashioning its passing attack after the reigning Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. Graham will mold a quick-passing attack around Bercovici.

“What we want to see is – 1, 2, ball’s out on 3,” Graham said.

“Getting people off of you is what they do with their quick passing game, and we’ve got a guy who has a lightening release. I mean, this guy can throw the football. We’re obviously adapting everything to that.”

Graham may be building around Bercovici, but tight end Kody Kohl and wide receivers Cameron Smith and Gary Chambers will benefit the most from the shift in philosophy.

Arizona State ran the ball 53 percent of the time in 2014. That number is expected to drop since the more athletic Taylor Kelly no longer behind center.

Plus, Bercovici’s ability to get the ball out quickly will help mask a rebuilt left side of the offensive line after Arizona State lost Jamil Douglas and Tyler Sulka to graduation.

Offenses struggle in Shrine Game as USF kicker wins MVP

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If you thought yesterday was the first Saturday without college football since August, then you were not paying attention to the college football all-star schedule. The 90th East-West Shrine Game was played in St. Petersburg, Florida, with the East team winning by a score of 19-3. As the score might suggest, there was not a whole lot to be seen in this one, but it served as an opportunity for some NFL-hopefuls to show what they can do to NFL Scouts.

USF kicker Marvin Kloss won game MVP honors with his display of field goal kicking. Kloss notched field goals from 47 yards, 39 yards, 30 yards and a short 19-yard field goal to lead the way for the East team’s victory.

Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason was the most consistent of the quarterbacks in the game, completing seven of eight passes for 71 yards for the East. Duke’s Anthony Boone completed four of his eight passes for 49 yards and Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke struggled with just two completions out of nine passes and an interception. Louisville running back Dominique Brown scored the game’s only touchdown late in the fourth quarter and he was the game’s leading rusher with 70 yards.

Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly was the leading passer for the West, completing seven of 13 passes for 65 yards. Kelly also led the West in rushing with 23 yards. Nevada’s Cody Fajardo and South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson combined to complete three of 12 passes for 10 yards. Both Fajardo and Thompson were intercepted as well, with each intercepted by FAU safety Damian Parms. The West offense was held to just 93 yards of offense, and completed just three of 133 third-down conversion attempts.

The offenses for both teams clearly struggled, which helped the defenses look even better in the all-star game. Kentucky defensive end Za’Darius Smith came away as one fo the more impressive defensive standouts in the game with his ability to bring pressure on West quarterbacks.

One of the most dazzling plays in the game may have been pulled off by Colorado punter Darragh O’Neill. O’Neill leaped and snagged with one hand a high snap in the back of his end zone before getting off a punt. It was quite the effort, and a cause for celebration for punters everywhere watching.

With the Shrine Game now in the books, as well as the NFLPA Bowl that was played at the same time out west, the focus now shifts to the Senior Bowl this week. The Senior Bowl is the top-level college all-star game with the best of the best, so the level of play should be a little more entertaining that what the Shrine Game had to offer this season. The Senior Bowl will be played Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.

No. 15 Arizona State overcomes furious Duke rally for Sun Bowl victory

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It was not pretty, but No. 15 Arizona State (10-3) found a way out of El Paso with a victory in the Hyundai Sun Bowl Saturday afternoon. To do so, the Sun Devils needed to respond to a nearly storybook ending by Duke (9-4), with the Blue Devils taking its first lead late in the fourth quarter, only to see Arizona State steal it right back and intercept a last-ditch effort in the end zone to seal the 36-31 victory for Arizona State.

Arizona State started to let the game slip out of their hands late in the first half, but the Sun Devils came out strong in the second half. Taylor Kelly completed a touchdown pass to Demario Richard inside the red zone early in the third quarter to regain a double-digit lead and Zane Gonzalez later padded that lead with a 47-yard field goal, his third field goal of the afternoon. Going to the fourth quarter, Arizona State led 30-17, but just as they did at the end of the first half, the Sun Devils were unable to close.

Duke scored twice in the fourth quarter to gain its first lead of the game with just over five minutes to play. Anthony Boone completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Johnell Barnes early in the fourth quarter. Duke pulled a trick put of the bag later in the fourth quarter when receiver Jamison Crowder tossed a touchdown pass to Isaac Blakeney to give the Blue Devils their first lead of the game, 31-30 following the point-after. The thrill of owning the lead was short-lived, because getting the first bowl victory since the 1960 season certainly not could come so easy for Duke.

Kalen Ballage returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to the Duke four-yard line, and it took Arizona State just one play to move across the goal line. Kelly flipped a pass to Richard for the four-yard score, and the lead. Arizona State was stuffed on a two-point conversion, which gave Duke a chance to take one more lead.

Boone hit a deep pass down the middle fo the field to Crowder, who earlier in the game returned a punt for a touchdown, as the Blue Devils pushed inside the red zone with time dwindling. With 45 seconds to play, Boone threw a fade pass to Crowder on the right side of the field, but it was picked off by Kweishi Brown of Arizona State.

For Duke, it was another tough pill to swallow in a season that has seen a handful of them. But this should not take away from the tremendous amount of growth the program has seen in the past few seasons under head coach David Cutcliffe. It has to sting coming so close to a bowl victory not once, but twice in the final five minutes.

Arizona State missed out on a chance to play for a Pac-12 championship this season, but the season ends on a high note for Todd Graham‘s program. Arizona State should be expected to be another strong contender in the Pac-12 in 2014 as well after back-to-back 10-win seasons.