There's an interesting writeup about Arizona State's quarterback situation at their Rivals.com website. Senior incumbent Sam Keller is back after a midseason hand injury. Keller started the season on a ridiculous tear, throwing for 1,434 yards, 16 TD and 2 INT through his team's first four games. He then cooled off, but was at over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns before his injury.
He was replaced by redshirt freshman Rudy Carpenter, who also went on a tear, winning four of five starts, and throwing for 2,273 yards with just a 17-to-2 TD/INT ratio. Carpenter even won ASU's bowl game against Rutgers, throwing for nearly 500 yards and four touchdowns. He finished the season #1 nationally in passing efficiency.
Unfortunately, this dilemma may already be solved, as the article states coach Dirk Koetter has a policy that injured players do not lose their starting jobs. Thus, Keller has been named the spring starter and is expected to hold onto his job into the season. Way to create a competitive atmosphere, coach. I understand loyalty but when a backup emerges as a team leader and competent player, it might be wise to consider a change.
So, what would you do? Personally, I'd hand the job to carpenter. I was enamored with Keller's performance through much of the year, but there were some red flags that he might not be the best fit. I'm sure many of you remember the USC/ASU game. Arizona State nearly ended USC's season before it began, but Keller wilted in the second half, tossing an astounding five interceptions. It was a horrible meltdown and signaled that he may not be a championship-level player. Keller had an exhausted USC team on the ropes and more or less handed the game over before a raucous home crowd. Yikes.
Of more anecdotal value, Keller's a bit of a wild man, running all over the field, making gestures to teammates and opponents, and otherwise showing an interest in the game. I tend to like that in quartebacks, but Keller's a bit over-the-top. He often reminded me of the psychotic Mel Gibson character from an episode of South Park where the kids went to his house to get a refund (they didn't like The Passion of the Christ) and he threw a bizarre tantrum. That kind of performance isn't something to aspire to. There are tolerable levels of excitement and then there's being a lunatic/hothead, and Keller's on field behavior sometimes leans towards the latter.
"Sam Keller's Crazy, Dude"
Additional signs of wildness include his signing with ASU. Keller grew up an intense Michigan fan, his Dad had played there and he'd been offered a scholarship to play. He verbally committed but late in the game changed his mind and ended up at ASU of all places. I'll get on Michigan's case from time-to-time on here, but it's more than a little bizarre for elite players to scorn the Wolverines, a traditional power, for a midlevel Pac-10 team. USC or UCLA? Maybe. But Arizona State? Odd.
For all we know Keller's simply an independent-minded, outspoken renaissance man of sorts. But his personality and performance may also be the devil's brew when he gets into tough situations like what happened against USC. I remain a Keller fan, but compared to his backup, I'd side with the backup.
There's a lot to like about Rudy Carpenter. Without any prior experience, he manged to put up just as impressive of numbers in his early starts as Keller, and without the fanfare and Heisman hype. He has a very powerful arm, and is fairly nimble. He was nearly flawless in an outing on the road against UCLA, throwing for well over 400 yards, and also impressed in the bowl against Rutgers. The bowl game showed me that he has a lot of poise, as he played with a shoulder injury and had to rally his team against an unexpectedly game opponent. It took the ASU defense nearly the entire game to recover from their shock and begin to make plays, but Carpenter had the offense in form much quicker. He showed poise and the guys visibly rallied around him in a stressful setting. Not bad. It didn't hurt that he made a handful of impressive deep throws---not just bombs, but stunning strikes along the sidelines and across the middle of the field to well covered receivers. It was great fun to watch because so few quarterbacks ever attempt let alone connect on several of the types of throws he made.
If there is a critique of Carpenter, it's that he has a funky delivery. I'm not a quarterback guru, but it's obvious that he knows how to make a wide variety of throws and very few of them are being deflected at the line, which is usually a symptom of poor mechanics. If we really want to get picky and snarky, the kid looks like former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough. Not that there's anything wrong with it, only the kid has a famous doppleganger with his own nightly television show on MSNBC.
So in the end, I'm apt to say, go with the younger, more cool-headed but proven Rudy Carpenter. The kid can play.
By the numbers:
- Keller, Sam-8 games: 155/264 (.587) 2165 yards, 20 TD/9 INT, 145.78 efficiency
- Carpenter, Rudy-9 games: 156/228 (.684) 2273 yards, 17 TD/2 INT, 175.01 efficiency