ASU offense taking shape under OC Mike Norvell

“Left lane, hammer down!”

It’s a phrase Arizona State head coach Todd Graham has used time and time again to describe his offense.

Another commonly used work in Graham’s vocabulary is “tempo.”

He’s preached since taking over the program nine months ago he wants his fast-break offense in full attack mode, pressing the issue and not allowing the opposing defense to rest or make personnel changes between plays.

The person Graham anointed to spearhead it all is offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Norvell who worked on Graham’s staff at Tulsa and Pitt.

Sans a sluggish start and finish in a close road loss to Missouri, Norvell’s offense has consistently moved the ball up and down the field and the Sun Devils (3-1, 1-0) have scored no less than 37 points in their three victories this season. He’s doing it all with two young, raw quarterbacks in redshirt freshmen Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank. Both play, but Kelly starts and has produced after being named the starter at the conclusion of fall camp.

“He’s a young man with great character,” Norvell said of Kelly to Brad Cesmat Monday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “He’s an extremely hard worker…he busted his tail this summer. He’s gotten himself into a great position right now. He can keep plays alive when things start to break down. He’s got great mobility. Over the last few weeks he’s been able to extend plays and make things happen.”

Kelly has thrown for exactly 1000 yards in four games with six touchdowns. He’s completed 72.5% and most importantly only thrown two interceptions.

Another unknown coming into the season was at wide receiver where Graham’s staff had to replace a handful of veteran, productive receivers including Gerell Robinson who had 77 catches for 1,397 yards as a senior last season. This year’s group hasn’t been as consistent to this point as the coaches may have wanted, but the effort to improve is certainly there.

“They’re all good kids,” Norvell explained to Cesmat. “They want to do well. They obviously are all learning. When you lose as many receivers as we lost from last year’s team the lack of experience…is something you have to build to. We’ve challenged those guys in practice to be more consistent, to have a greater focus, to bring that same intensity they have on game day to each and every day in practice.”

On paper, the obvious strength heading into the season was at running back, hi-lighted by the return of All Pac-12 Player Cameron Marshall. While Marshall has been slowed a bit due to injury, ASU has gotten production junior college transfer Marion Grice and coveted former Scottsdale Saguaro High star D.J. Foster who said no to some of the best programs in the country before signing with the Devils earlier this year.

“He’s so dynamic in the things that he can do and his skill set,” Norvell said of Foster. “We want to make sure he’s a prime option. Whether it’s handing it to him, him running a route out of the backfield, lining him up in the slot because when he gets his hands on the ball great things usually happen.”

The Devils next test comes Saturday when they invade the Bay Area for showdown against Cal (1-3, 0-1). will be in Berkeley starting Friday morning with complete coverage throughout the weekend.