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Pac-12 Notes: Quarterback flak

Utah can’t settle on one, while ASU’s Kelly in for red-hot Bercovici

PULLMAN – Two of the Pac-12 South’s best teams will likely employ dual quarterbacks this weekend and while Arizona State coach Todd Graham is happy to have the option of doing so, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham considers it a hindrance. Whittingham said that he will likely play both Travis Wilson and Kendall Thompson against USC this weekend, although the back-and-forth of the last two weeks “wasn’t by design” and that he’s “waiting for somebody to separate themselves and really take ownership of the position,” during Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches teleconference. For now Wilson will start and Thompson will replace him. The two have each played in portions of Utah’s last two games, both wins despite just 162 total combined passing yards. Wilson has been steady if not exceptional completing 63 of 111 passes for 833 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. The Utes longtime starter hasn’t been the playmaker that he was last season, but he also hasn’t been the erratic QB that threw six interceptions in one game against UCLA. Thompson has proven to be a more erratic passer, completing 28 of 47 passes for 301 yards and two interceptions to go with two touchdowns, but is the more dynamic runner with 164 rushing yards. While the Utes are trying to figure out which quarterback can better complement a top-20 team that has gone 5-1 on the strength of its running game and defense, Graham had to choose between two players that have proven capable of leading the Sun Devils to a win. Taylor Kelly will start and took over first-team reps during Tuesday’s practice according to The Arizona Republic. As Graham said, “I’m not a head coach to change quarterbacks very often, especially not one I’ve won 22 games with.” But he added, “We’re not the same team we were before Taylor got hurt, I think we’re better because of Mike and I think we will use him, but this is Taylor’s football team and he’s earned that.” The Devils have been Sun-hot with Bercovici behind the center, beating then No. 16 USC behind his 510 passing yards and knocking Stanford out of the Top 25 by scoring 26 points, the most allowed by the Cardinal defense all year. Playing against three ranked opponents Bercovici completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,243 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. Kelly started 30 consecutive games for ASU but hasn’t played since Sept. 13 because of an injury to his right foot. He threw for 28 touchdowns last season and was named second-team All-Pac-12. Squally leaves WSU Freshman running back Squally Canada has left the Washington State football program, coach Mike Leach announced on Tuesday. Canada’s departure means the Cougars will have just two returning running backs next season, three if redshirting freshman Keith Harrington plays in the backfield instead of at wide receiver. While the Cougars appear set at running back for the near future with Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks both playing well, the Cougars don’t have much depth behind the two redshirt freshmen. However, the success those two players have had early in their careers could possibly have contributed to Canada’s decision to leave the program, given the stranglehold they appear to have on carries in the near future. “Our plan’s not going to change,” running backs coach Jim Mastro said. “We just want to bring guys in here that aren’t afraid to compete and try to beat those guys out.” Boise State transfer Aaron Baltazar was expected to play for WSU but never arrived on campus and junior Teondray Caldwell left the program after switching to safety. High school running back James Williams from Burbank, California, is expected to sign with the Cougars in February but is unlikely to be immediately ready to contribute because of a knee injury. Harrington was recruited as a receiver and has seen reps at both inside receiver and running back, the position he played in high school, on scout team and during underclassmen scrimmages. Running backs coach Jim Mastro has indicated that he would like Harrington to play running back full-time, a switch that may make sense with Canada’s departure.
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