Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly torched USC’s defense last season and led the Sun Devils to a rout of the Trojans.
So USC was not exactly looking forward to facing the talented senior on Saturday at the Coliseum.
Kelly sat out last week’s loss against UCLA because of a foot injury, and Arizona State Coach Todd Graham on Thursday told reporters in Arizona that Kelly would not play against the Trojans in the Pac-12 Conference South Division game.
Mike Bercovici will start for Arizona State for the second consecutive game.
Graham told reporters on Sunday that Kelly was “pretty questionable.” On Tuesday, he said Kelly was doubtful.
Earlier Thursday, USC Coach Steve Sarkisian reiterated that his philosophy was to prepare for an opponent’s scheme rather than an individual quarterback who might or might not play.
“You assume it, really, that he is going to,” he said. “And then if he doesn’t, it’s, ‘OK, let’s get on to what we’re going to go do.’ ”
Bercovici, a fourth-year junior, started for the first time against UCLA.
The Woodland Hills Taft High graduate completed 42 of 68 passes for 488 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, in a 62-27 defeat.
“Mike’s a little better athlete than probably people are giving him credit for,” Sarkisian said this week. “He can really throw it down the field.”
Freshman receiver Ajene Harris will be sidelined Saturday because of a hamstring injury, so Steven Mitchell could play extensively for the first time.
Mitchell, a redshirt freshman, was regarded as one of the most dynamic playmakers in USC’s 2013 recruiting class. But the former Mission Hills Alemany standout suffered a knee injury during summer workouts that required surgery.
Mitchell rehabilitated his knee, but he was also slowed by a sports hernia that required two procedures.
“He’s a really good slot receiver,” Sarkisian said. “It’s just developing the confidence with him.”
“Coming off a couple different injuries, it’s the confidence in your own body, that you can go make those plays and you’re playing at full speed. Because when he’s at full speed, he’s a dynamic athlete.”
Sarkisian said Mitchell would be challenged to get into the flow of the game.
“I don’t know if he’s exactly back to where he’s capable of being, but I think he’s a lot closer,” Sarkisian said. “He’s healthy and ready to go.”
Back in the fold
After going two games without a reception, tight end Randall Telfer appears to be taking on a larger role.
The fifth-year senior caught two passes for 35 yards in USC’s loss at Boston College.
He made two catches for 29 yards in the Trojans’ victory over Oregon State.
“It was cool to get the ball in my hands,” Telfer said, “and feel like I contributed to the team.”
Sarkisian said he had not yet spoken with Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker, who questioned USC’s blocking technique on plays in which two Beavers players suffered knee injuries in last week’s Trojans victory at the Coliseum. On Wednesday, Sarkisian denied that USC players had done anything questionable and said that he would speak with Banker to “clear the air.” Sarkisian said that because of the daily schedule he would make that type of phone call on a Thursday or Friday.