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August 29, 2011

Bercovici to back up Osweiler for opener

Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson named freshman Mike Bercovici his No. 2 quarterback for the gathered media Sunday.

And then the media broke the news...to Bercovici.

"That is awesome," Bercovici said. "It is weird hearing this. I feel like I worked my tail off."

While Bercovici has the job for now, his spot on the depth chart is not etched in stone.

Though Erickson did not say whether both Bercovici and redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly would receive game repetitions against U.C. Davis on Thursday, Kelly indicated that he could get snaps as well.

"We've got to play and we have to see what happens as we go through the game," Erickson said.

Erickson confirmed what was obviously implicit in his decision -- Bercovici will not redshirt this year. It's likely that both players will continue to compete for game repetitions.

"Taylor will be the third guy," Erickson said. "But that can change. It is not like anyone has jumped ahead of anybody, so we feel good about both of them. They both got turns today. Mike will get a few more than Taylor. That will be something we will analyze every week as we see them practice."

The strong-armed, buggy-whip release Bercovici, who completed five of 10 passes for 64 yards in the most recent scrimmage, said he had made long strides in recent weeks.

"I definitely felt more of leader (from the spring)," Bercovici said. "I was just being louder and more confident in the offense. I feel like towards the end of fall camp I just started clicking with what our coaches expect."

Crediting former Notre Dame quarterback and current Carolina Panther backup Jimmy Clausen, whom won the starting job for the Irish as a true freshman, for inspiring him in eighth grade to get ahead academically and graduate early, Bercovici said the early repetitions were the key to winning the second-string job.

"I honestly feel like that at this level of Pac-12 football, it is almost impossible to compete for a starting spot or a second team spot for a fall competition if you come here in the fall," Bercovici said. "The coaches expect so much out of you as far as detail, that you need that extra spring practice in order to be able to compete in the fall. It is one of those things with the footwork, the timing and understanding the play calls; it is just so crucial."

Bercovici said that the team has made it clear that 'No. 17 is our starting quarterback', but that he treats each repetition in practice 'as a game situation.'

"Like I said to coach, I said, 'My mindset as being a back-up quarterback is if anything happens to the starter I don't want any setbacks to the offense.' I want to be as prepared as the starter," Bercovici said. "I feel like the offense is going to take us places this year that we haven't been to in awhile."

Bercovici's competitor, Kelly, showed significant growth from last year, staying seemingly neck-and-neck with Bercovici from the beginning of spring. While he's always excelled as a zone-read runner, he showed great touch on his deep-ball to go along with improved accuracy in the intermediate game.

Kelly was outstanding in the most recent scrimmage, completing all three of his passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.

"I was completing the ball most of the time, getting the ball out quick and focusing on my reads," Kelly said. "I just want to move the chains, keep the tempo with the offense and move the ball on third down."

Revolving Book Ends

A surprise to many who've closely followed camp, seniors Aderious Simmons (right tackle) and Dan Knapp (left tackle), who were seemingly locked in a competition at right tackle much of camp, both lined up with the first-team on Sunday ahead of previous first-team left tackle, sophomore Evan Finkenberg.

"Well (Knapp) has played there and we will make a decision on all of that at game time," Erickson said. We got some depth."

Knapp, who played right guard in the absence of redshirt senior guard Adam Tello (who returned to practice Sunday) said he feels most comfortable at left tackle.
"It's my instincts," Knapp said." I feel better and play better, and I kind of like the hype of playing the blind side."

The long-haired, headband-wearing Knapp, however, is willingly interchangeable at both tackle and guard spots.

"Because I am such a versatile athlete on the line I can play these multiple positions and be beneficial," Knapp said. "I can play where they need me. It just depends on who goes down. We've never had depth like this before."

It seemed, at least until Sunday, Finkenberg would be slotted for the opening game starting lineup along with one of the seniors, so to see both final-year players with the first-team was unexpected.

"I am a whole lot better than I was when I came," Simmons said. "A whole lot better, so I am excited about that and I am real grateful about that.(I feel ) Like a pro. Almost like a college pro. Like a college professional."

Simmons said that he has improved his recognition, and hand-placement to the point that offensive line coach Gregg Smith doesn't say much to him.

"If you know Coach Smith that is a good thing," Simmons said.

Simmons, the man with the long dreads, a subtle southern drawl and prototypical NFL tackle frame, said he is entirely focused on the present, but motivated by the potential of the future.

"(The NFL) is in the back of my mind, the front of my mind, the middle of my mind, the sides, everything," Simmons said.

While not everyone on the unit has Simmons' upside, they all seem to share a similar optimism.

"We could be the No. 1 offensive line in the country; the No. 1 offense in the country," Simmons said.


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