Keller starts scrimmage; offense plays well
On a day when Sam Keller was named Arizona State's starting quarterback, both he and Rudy Carpenter looked very sharp playing in front of a large crowd numbering well into the thousands at Friday's evening Camp-ending scrimmage at Sun Devil Stadium.
Keller completed 20-of-29 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns and he did most of his damage throwing the ball to Terry Richardson, who looked better than he has all camp and had 11 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns to go along with his 85-yard punt return for a touchdown.
"We looked sharp," Keller said of the offense. "First team and second team did well, as did the running game. The defense kicked our butt at camp. We just need to stay healthy and stay motivated and play hard."
A number of the incomplete throws delivered by Keller were simply dropped balls or nice plays made by defenders. On the whole, he forced maybe once ball at most on the evening, but more often than not he smartly threw the ball away after going through his progressions. He looked as good as he has all camp, perhaps more relaxed now that he's been named the starter.
"I feel really good. I'm excited," Keller said after the scrimmage. "I'm happy and I'm really humbled by it. It's an honor to be able to play for this team as a senior. It makes me appreciate it so much more since I had to work that much harder for the position. That guy (Carpenter) is a special guy and I have a lot of respect for him and because of him I got better.
Carpenter also played very well, going 12-of-21 for 342 yards and five touchdowns. Most of his yardage came via easy, deep touchdown passes thrown to open receivers that had burned coverage but he did have arguably the throw of the night to a streaking Ryan Torain up the middle for a 25-yard score.
"Obviously it's tough for me," Carpenter said about not being named the starter. "I give Sam a lot of credit. I think I got a fair shot; they split the coaches up 50/50. It was a loyalty issue.
"I'm just going to try to be a good teammate and do what I did last year. I'm not going to wish bad upon Sam. If the opportunity comes up where I need to step in again, I'll be ready."
Torain may have had the best performance of the night by any player other than Richardson. He ran extremely hard; bouncing carries outside when there was nothing available in between the tackles and he hit the hole hard when there was one to go through. He had 10 carries for 42 yards and one touchdown and showed great versatility.
The effectiveness of the offense was no doubt aided by the fact that numerous key defensive players were not participating in the scrimmage, including defensive ends Loren Howard and Tranell Morant, linebacker Robert James and safety Josh Barrett.
Several defensive linemen had individual performances that ranged from above average to good, especially Kyle Caldwell, Michael Marquardt and Jordan Hill, but on the whole, the group didn't appear to be very effective getting enough of a push, a similar problem to that which plagued the team last season. On balance though, the defensive line has looked much better when looking at the camp in its entirety.
Players that stood out to us in the back seven were Beau Manutai, Derron Ware and Justin Tryon, each of whom had a very productive evening. Manutai didn't start at MIKE in the nickel package but he was great in the base defense, coming up and making plays against the run. Ware was blitzing and covering a lot of ground. Tryon has a chance to become the best corner at ASU in years in our opinion.
Other cornerbacks had a very tough time in the scrimmage, especially Chris Baloney, Chad Green and Grant Crunkleton. All were toasted deep on plays where they made big mistakes.
With several key receivers out of action including Michael Jones, Jamaal Lewis and Jeff Gray, Keller primarily relied upon Richardson, while Carpenter targeted Nate Kimbrough to the tune of four catches for 156 yards and one touchdown, and Chris McGaha, who also had four catches, for 144 yards and one touchdown.
But while Kimbrough had one of his better performances of camp, McGaha actually had a very average evening. Normally sure-handed, he struggled to catch relatively easy balls after putting himself in position to do so with some nice route running.
In the running game, Torain looked great, and starter Keegan Herring got some limited work in, tallying 21 yards on four carries, though he did fumble when reaching for an extra yard as he was being tackles to the ground. Sophomore Shaun Dewitty continued his solid week by running well inside and finishing with six carries for 36 yards and two touchdowns.