After missing a little more than a month with a foot injury, Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly returned to the starting lineup for the Sun Devils last week, throwing for 180 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-10 win over Washington.
The senior quarterback has 805 yards and eight touchdowns to just one interception — which he threw in his return.
However, Kelly took a large hit late in ASU's win and questions began on his status for the game against Utah on Saturday. While AZ Central reporter Doug Haller reports that ASU coach Todd Graham said Kelly was "fine" on Monday, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged the Utes will prepare no differently in the scenario that Kelly doesn't start.
That's because the Sun Devils have found a capable quarterback behind Kelly in junior Mike Bercovici. Bercovici went 2-1 as the starter. He has thrown for 1,322 yards, 10 touchdowns and has completed 62 percent of his passes, while throwing just two interceptions in 163 attempts.
"Both quarterbacks are very good," Whittingham said during Monday's weekly team press conference. "There's really not a mark of difference ... Whichever guy plays, they run essentially the same type of offense. They've both got good numbers, they're both quality quarterbacks and whichever quarterback is in there, really doesn't affect our approach."
Utah safety Brian Blechen said the team will likely do extra film study to see any possible differences in the quarterbacks. He added, much like Whittingham, that both are similar enough that preparation for Saturday's game would not be affected by either quarterback playing.
"There's slight differences, but as far as the schemes, what the line is doing, the plays, the route-running, that's all the same," he said. "We just have to really work on our film study, be ready for any quarterback and make sure we're really locked into what we're doing and whoever it is, try to make it difficult for them."
Kelly was a thorn in Utah's side last season. Though he threw for just 144 yards and a touchdown against the Utes, it was his fourth quarter magic that thwarted a home victory for the Utes.
The Arizona State quarterback, then a junior, ran for a score and threw another with less than three minutes left in the game to stun Utah, 20-19.
"I've had first-hand experience with Taylor Kelly, scrambling and really making big plays when the pass wasn't there, with his legs," Blechen said. "(He's) right up there with the best. He's really athletic. He's got kind of just a gamer experience or mentality about him."
However, the Utes aren't taking Bercovici lightly either.
"I've watched Bercovici. He's smart and he knows how to move out of the pocket and move around it as well," Blechen added. "I'd say top speed is the only difference (between Bercovici and Kelly), but Bercovici — he uses what he has well. It's not like he's somebody you can just drop everybody and think he won't run because he'll get the yards when they're there as well."
The Utes haven't just had a schedule chock-full of difficult teams, but one with unique and complex quarterbacks as well. Blechen said having the experience against quarterbacks like UCLA's Brett Hundley and Michigan's Devin Gardner will bode well, especially in preparing for Kelly.
"The Pac-12 is full of quarterbacks that obviously pass well and are smart play callers, but I think with the pass rush all around the Pac-12, quarterbacks are forced to learn to make plays with their legs and (Kelly) does a good job of that."