After calling an audible and naming Rudy Carpenter his starting QB, Arizona
State coach Dirk Koetter is taking heat
State coach Dirk Koetter has a reputation for offensive creativity, his latest
innovation--the quarterback reverse--likely isn't one he's eager to add to his
playbook. Two days after naming senior Sam Keller the Sun Devils' starting
quarterback on Aug. 18, Koetter announced he had made the wrong choice and
handed the job to sophomore Rudy Carpenter. The switch prompted a miffed Keller
to transfer to Nebraska, where he will redshirt this season.
about-face left his team, a projected Pac-10 contender, in upheaval heading
into its opener on Thursday against Northern Arizona. Instead of having
enviable depth at quarterback, the Sun Devils are now paper-thin; true freshman
Danny Sullivan is Carpenter's backup. And suggestions that Koetter caved in to
pressure from some of his players in switching from Keller to Carpenter have
raised larger questions about the coach's leadership. "It's like a little
Peyton Place," Keller's father, Mike, told The Arizona Republic before his
Keller, who began
2005 as the starter, threw for 2,165 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine
interceptions before a right-thumb injury ended his season in the seventh game,
when Arizona State was 3--3. Carpenter took over and led the Sun Devils to a
4--1 finish as a starter, including a 45--40 Insight Bowl win over Rutgers. He
had 2,273 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and his 68.4
completion percentage made him the nation's passing-efficiency leader.
at the start of preseason practice that the job was up for grabs. After an
intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 18, he declared the 6'4", 230-pound Keller the
starter based on his seniority. The next afternoon Koetter met with members of
the Sun Devils' leadership council, an informal group of about 15 players, for
more than an hour. That evening the coach informed his two quarterbacks of his
change of heart. Those involved in the meeting have been tight-lipped about
what was discussed, but it's clear that the majority of the players present
felt Carpenter deserved the job. "The players didn't make the decision; I
made the decision," Koetter says. "They gave good input as to what was
best for our team. I'd be foolish not to listen to that."
opinions may not have been the only factor that persuaded Koetter to change his
mind. Carpenter, who has three years of eligibility left, acknowledged last
week that he had considered transferring after he was initially named the
Now Koetter and
Carpenter must make sure the season doesn't become a referendum on whether the
coach made the right choice. "With any quarterback competition there is
always a split," Carpenter says. "It's natural for people to choose
sides. But guys have been telling me that they're behind me all the way.
Everyone realizes that we have to get past personal preferences and do what has
to be done to win games."
207-pound Carpenter can begin mending whatever rift exists by leading the Sun
Devils to a fast start. With a wealth of returning players on offense, an
improved defense and a forgiving early schedule, they could challenge four-time
defending Pac-10 champion USC.
meanwhile, will spend the season learning Nebraska's West Coast offense.
Although current Cornhuskers starter Zac Taylor is a senior, Keller will have
to compete with three returning quarterbacks next season. "I hope Sam goes
to Nebraska and tears it up," Koetter says. "I wish him the best. But I
can look myself in the mirror and know I did the right thing for ASU