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November 5, 2013

Cerebral Kelly leading ASU offense to rare heights




Junior quarterback Taylor Kelly is well on his way to earning a bachelor's degree in business at Arizona State but his head coach thinks he's already deserving of a master's in football.

"He (Kelly) is like having an offensive coordinator on the field," Todd Graham said. "He utilizes the components he has and doesn't try to do too much and he's gotten better every single week."

To go along with the play calling of offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, Arizona State's most lethal weapon on offense is Kelly's intelligence.

"Taylor (Kelly) has played incredible," Graham said. "Obviously you know we coach him -- we want perfection and he really is a great student of the game. He has as good as a grasp as some of our coaches have."

Kelly, named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after his performance against Washington State on Thursday night in which he accounted for seven touchdowns, is described as teammates as a natural leader on and off the field.

"Coach Graham always turns to him, all the coaches respect him," junior offensive guard Jamil Douglas said. "The defensive coaches, offensive coaches…he's the quarterback so everybody turns to him and we depend on him to win us games."

Dougalas and Kelly share a home with teammates Deantre Lewis, a junior running back and Carl Bradford, a junior Devil backer, and sees all his quarterback's hard work away from the practice fields.

"He's a great leader," Douglas says. "I can tell you that the guy watches game film at home, basically does everything that he needs to do to be successful. Our offense looks at him as a leader."

While needing to be a commanding presence on the field, Kelly's selfless attitude is part of what makes teammates gravitate to him.

"He's the last one to be the leader in the house," Douglas said. "I think I'm the leader and then Carl (Bradford) and then maybe him or Deantre (Lewis) comes last, but he's first and foremost a great guy."

With an average of 313.9 passing yards per game, Kelly ranks No. 4 in the Pac-12 and No. 12 nationally. It's one of six categories in which he's among the Top-15 nationally. Others including touchdown throws, completions per game and total offense.

"He's a very difficult quarterback to defend because he's efficient," Graham said. "Every so often he'll make a mistake or two and we got to make sure down the stretch we have to minimize those, but he learns from them. Very humble guy, very genuine and I think our team really follows him and he's a great leader. The intangibles are so much more important. Great decision-maker."

With Kelly ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 in total offense at 353.2 yards per game, one would think the pressure to perform game after game is a constant worry.

Not for Kelly.

"He's usually calm," Douglas said. "When he feels like he doesn't do enough, he'll be like 'I need to watch more film' and then he'll go into his room to watch more film. He handles it well."

In addition to his passing numbers, the zone read option play has become one of the main reasons for Kelly's success on the ground. Kelly has 315 rushing yards this season and five rushing touchdowns so far, two of which came last week against Washington State.

For Kelly to be successful both on the ground and in the air, it adds a whole new dimension to the offense, causing opponents to prepare for both the rushing and passing attack from Kelly.

"To win a championship, you have to have a quarterback," Graham said. "I know I used to not say that, I used to say 'One person doesn't matter that much.' Yes they do. You have to have a quarterback, period. If you don't have one then it's pretty tough to win a championship."

Notes

  • Senior cornerback Osahon Irabor was in a green non-contact jersey but participated fully during the portion of practice observed by media.

  • Sophomore running back D.J. Foster practiced in the gold jersey, signifying no contact, but worked with the first-team in the 11-on-11 tempo period.

  • Sophomore defensive tackle Jaxon Hood and senior defensive tackle Davon Coleman split first-team reps during the install period but Coleman was with the top group in the team period.

  • Redshirt freshman safety Viliami Moeakiola was shadowing senior linebacker Anthony Jones at the Spur position. Graham said they want to get him more reps there as opposed to field safety, where he started against Washington State. Senior linebacker Steffon Martin practiced at the SAM instead of Spur, where he worked Sunday.

  • Senior safety Shane McCullen practiced with the second team at the field safety position during the team tempo period.

  • Senior wide receiver Richard Smith got first reps as the punt returner over senior cornerback Robert Nelson.


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