America, meet Sam Keller - East Valley Tribune: Sports

America, meet Sam Keller

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Posted: Saturday, October 1, 2005 4:23 am | Updated: 9:55 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

You might have heard a little about him. Maybe you caught a highlight or two on ESPN.

Let me fill you in. He's the guy who replaced Andrew Walter at quarterback for Arizona State. A junior, he's 6-foot-4, 223 pounds, and boy, can he play.

When you watch the ASU-USC game today the first thing you'll notice is that he has a funky throwing motion. He releases the ball low and appears to push it out of his hand like a shot-putter.

It's not textbook, but let me tell you something. That ball knows where it's going and gets there in a hurry.

You probably haven't seen him play much, what with the time change and ASU playing mostly night games. I mean, unless you're an insomniac, you didn't stay up until 2 a.m. last Saturday to watch the Devils beat Oregon State.

You're probably wondering, then: Is Keller as good as his statistics?

The numbers are sick, aren't they? He's completed 88-of-147 passes (60 percent) for 1,443 yards, with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions.

He leads the nation in passing yards and touchdowns. Not bad for a kid who's made just five career starts.

It's true that Keller has the good fortune to be playing for coach Dirk Koetter, who loves to air it out and might have the most fertile offensive mind in college football.

USC coach Pete Carroll had a pretty good quote about that this week. He said, “That is a real statement about their program. He (Keller) is a program guy. He came up following Walter and when he had the chance he did well.

“That is really impressive that he can come on so strong, so fast, with no hitch at all. He has been great every game this year. It's the whole program and Sam is the beneficiary of it all. He also has been able to capitalize on it.”

Carroll wasn't dissing Keller, by the way. Just pointing out that the system has helped make the quarterback.

I have to tell you, though. Not every Tom, Dick and Harry could succeed at ASU. Koetter is notoriously tough on his quarterbacks, and he throws a lot at them.

Keller was the first quarterback he's had at ASU who wasn't initially overwhelmed by the complexities of the offense.

“That is where Sam has been just so impressive to me,” Koetter said. “The way he can run the show.”

A lot of us here had questions about Keller even after he lit up Temple in the opener. But it's been four games now, and he hasn't slowed down.

He was particularly impressive against Oregon State. For the first time all season he took some hard hits, but he hung in the pocket and threw four touchdown passes. You would have appreciated his toughness had you stayed awake. At one point, after being knocked to the ground, he waved off a referee who walked over to see if he was OK.

“I'm not scared to take a hit,” Keller said this week. “I don't get happy feet when the pocket breaks down. If you're not tough as a quarterback, just like if you're not confident, you have no chance.”

Confidence, by the way, has never been a problem with Keller. This is a kid who flexes his muscles after throwing a touchdown pass. I know what you're thinking. He plays in the Pac-10. The conference is soft. Everybody puts up big numbers. Well, last I checked, LSU and Northwestern aren't dues-paying members of the Pac-10, and Keller torched them for a combined 870 yards and eight touchdowns.

Everybody keeps talking about how today's game is a big opportunity for ASU. You know what? It could also be Keller's coming-out party.

He probably won't throw for four touchdowns, as he has every other game this season. This is USC, after all.

But don't be surprised if he puts a serious scare into the Trojans. He's that good.

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