BURBANK, California – The current “dynamic” of college football, according to Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici, is one in which “people leave, transfer.”
Bercovici is an exception: a quarterback who bides his time as a reserve without transferring. He’s set to earn the bounty for his patience in 2015 as the Sun Devils' starting quarterback.
Bercovici was in the spotlight at Thursday’s session of Pac-12 media days at Warner Bros. Studios after four years of playing understudy to Brock Osweiler and Taylor Kelly.
“Little things like, ‘I’m going to be a redshirt senior and go to Pac-12 media day,’” Bercovici said was his motivation for remaining in Tempe as Kelly’s reserve for three years.
Alright, so maybe chatting with reporters wasn’t the sole motivation keeping Bercovici a Sun Devil.
“I used to think, when [head] coach [Todd Graham] first got here [in 2012] and changing up offense, it’d be normal for a kid like to me leave,” he explained.
Indeed, Bercovici faced two quandaries. He was a recruit of Dennis Erickson’s staff, which, in Bercovici’s redshirt season, featured Noel Mazzone at offensive coordinator.
Bercovici introduced spread and zone-read elements to the Sun Devil offense, but his NFL background worked with a traditional pocket-passer of Bercovici’s mold.
Graham’s arrival brought offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, whose “high octane” take on the spread flourishes with a mobile quarterback. Kelly offered that.
Still, Bercovici remained.
“When I really thought about going to a different school, wearing a different helmet, putting on different colors, nothing felt right about it,” he said.
As he stayed, fellow reserve quarterback Michael Eubank departed. Eubank was used occasionally in goal-line and short-yardage packages. He transferred to FCS program Samford after the 2013 season.
Eubank’s departure made Graham’s decision a whole lot easier last September when Kelly suffered a foot injury at Colorado.
His absence from the lineup gave Bercovici two starts against UCLA and USC.
Graham said those glimpses at Bercovici’s talent helped prompt interest from the NFL, and one of the elements of the quarterback pro scouts like is his loyalty.
“It means a lot to [scouts] that when they talk about the character that that takes to do that, because most people thought he would not stay,” Graham said, adding one important deviation: “Except him.”
If it seems like Bercovici is comfortable with his new-found spotlight, it’s because his stint as starter thrust him front-and-center.
The “Jael Mary” — named for wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who came down with Bercovici’s Hail Mary toss to beat USC on Oct. 4 — endures as one of the quintessential highlights of the 2014 season.
“If Mike Bercovici had taken his toys and went somewhere else, he’d have missed on making the greatest play in Arizona State history,” Graham said.
Strong is gone, which leaves a sizable hole in the Sun Devil offense. But Bercovici will have plenty more opportunities to make more Arizona State history with explosive D.J. Foster moving from running back to wide receiver.
Safety Jordan Simone compared Foster to Heisman Trophy finalist and new Oakland Raider Amari Cooper, capable of breaking big plays on a single move. But the receiver Foster likes is Golden Tate (h/t Thomas Lenneberg of the Arizona State sports information department).
Bercovici may have opted for patience over instant gratification, but he’s relishing his time on center stage.
In addition to appearing before reporters at media days, Bercovici was a viral video sensation, throwing passes to his girlfriend and Arizona State dance team member, Jaylee Merrill.
Consider it Bercovici paying his celebrity forward.
“Coach Graham loved her,” Bercovici said. “And anytime she can get that cheerleading team out in the forefront of the media, she loves it.”
He may have had to wait for it, but Bercovici’s time has come. He’s making the most of it.