The Arizona State Sun Devils found success ahead of schedule under first-year head coach Todd Graham in 2012. A major part of that was the emergence of quarterback Taylor Kelly. After seemingly coming out of nowhere last fall to win the starting quarterback job for ASU, Kelly went on to have one of the most efficient seasons for a quarterback in the country. With a full year of experience under his belt and the offensive playbook opened up to him in 2013, could he take his game to the top and win the Heisman Trophy?
During his sophomore season, he certainly showed flashes of his elite ability. He threw for 3,039 yards, completing 67.1 percent of his throws with 29 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Kelly also flashed a bit of athleticism, rushing for 516 yards and a touchdown. He accomplished all of that without a real pass-catching threat at wide receiver. Despite that, he carried the ASU offense throughout the 2012 season. In the team’s eight wins last season, Kelly completed 71.2 percent of his passes and threw 21 touchdowns with no interceptions. In their five losses, Kelly completed 61.2 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.
As Kelly goes, Arizona State goes and Kelly should be going to new heights this season. He sees the return of his most dynamic playmakers from last season in running backs Marion Grice and D.J. Foster along with tight end Chris Coyle. He’ll also enjoy the arrival of junior college phenom Jaelen Strong to the mix at wide receiver who comes to ASU highly touted with very big expectations attached to him. Offensive coordinator Mike Norvell is expanding the playbook with these weapons and an experienced quarterback under center, so the entire offense should see an uptick in production.
Kelly will also have an early opportunity to show that he is worthy of the Heisman spotlight. Non-conference games against the Wisconsin Badgers (in Tempe) and Notre Dame Fighting Irish (in Arlington at AT&T Stadium) will give Kelly a marquee platform to show what he’s capable of. The Sun Devils first two conference games, on the road against the Stanford Cardinal and at home against the USC Trojans, will also provide an opportunity for Kelly to distinguish himself early as a legitimate contender for the Heisman.
The stage is set for Taylor Kelly to take a run at college football’s highest individual honor. A talented offense and opportunistic defense behind him, a slate of high-profile matchups early in the season and a coaching staff that believes he can carry the offense. Will he put it all together and bring the Heisman Trophy to the desert this December?