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Arizona State Football Spring Practice Preview: Finding A Quarterback

Sophomore Taylor Kelly (above) is among three players vying for the Sun Devils' starting quarterback job. Last season, he appeared in two games and completed four passes.
Sophomore Taylor Kelly (above) is among three players vying for the Sun Devils' starting quarterback job. Last season, he appeared in two games and completed four passes.

Begins: March 13

Spring game: April 21

Arizona State, much like in-state rival Arizona, is getting a makeover this spring.

The laundry list of who has left Tempe, Ariz., remains rather extensive. Gone are head coach Dennis Erickson, along with his staff, starting quarterback Brock Osweiler and hard-hitting (or should I say late-hitting?) linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Erickson is likely playing golf. Osweiler and Burfict, as well as other starters from a season ago, are off preparing for the NFL. So now, Todd Graham takes over as head coach after just one ho-hum season at Pittsburgh.

And here's a wild guess: Graham and new offensive coordinator Mike Norvell are going to emphasize the ground game in the fall. One reason: the return of senior running back Cameron Marshall, who rushed for 1,050 yards and a school-record 18 touchdowns last season. Marshall headlines an offensive unit that, otherwise, has a lot to sort out this spring.

With Osweiler headed to the professional ranks, the Sun Devils begin the search for yet another starting signal caller for the fifth time in the last five years. And nobody -- at least according to what Graham has noted publicly -- has a decisive advantage. Though the Sun Devils do appear to have some options in sophomores Mike Bercovici and Taylor Kelly and redshirt freshman Michael Eubank, who coincidentally was recruited by Graham at Pittsburgh.

A quick rundown: Bercovici and Kelly each appeared in two games last season -- though they threw just a combined seven passes. Eubank, by comparison, remains the more intriguing prospect with his 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame and ability to scramble, eliciting a handful of Cam Newton comparisons (note: theirs not mine, exactly).

What might complicate their development, though, could be a dwindling receiving group. The Sun Devils will enter spring practice without their top three wide receivers from last season in Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie, who caught a combined 157 passes in 2011.

But to some extent, most of the personnel issues come secondary to other lingering problems that have plagued the program as of late, mostly notably, a lack of discipline. A season ago, the Sun Devils were the most penalized team in the Pac-12, flagged 104 times. And the locker room was largely a mess. Players called out coaches. Burfict allegedly punched a teammate during training camp in August.

It never exactly subsided, either.

"The coaches kind of messed me up, like, I didn't know if I was going to start a game, I didn't know if I was going to be benched," Brufict said rather recently at the NFL Combine last month.

For a new coach in Graham, his top priority will be to fix that divide between the players and the coaching staff. It's a bit of an odd task considering Graham's recent history and brief stint at Pittsburgh, along with his controversial departure, but it will be his most important task this spring: change the culture.

Arizona State needs a quarterback this fall, sure, but more than anything, it needs to mend fences.

Follow Joey on Twitter @joeyrkaufman