TEMPE, Ariz. -- As expected, an Arizona State quarterback is transferring this offseason in search of another opportunity.
That player, to the surprise of most, is not Mike Bercovici.
Last week, Michael Eubank—the 6-foot-6, 240-pound redshirt sophomore—announced that he would leave Tempe in search of program that could offer him a better chance at a starting job. Since he had already used his redshirt, he would either have to burn a year of eligibility should he transfer to an FBS school, or move down to the FCS ranks for at least one season.
Those constraints were not in effect for Bercovici.
As a graduate, Bercovici would be free to enroll at any FBS school and play immediately for two full seasons, as long as that school offered a graduate program that ASU did not .
For a talented player like Bercovici, who has the skills to be an effective starter at the FBS level, that prospect did prove enticing.
“I’ve heard it from all facets of life,” Bercovici said of the transfer talk. “I take all of that as positive feedback because people are just trying to look after me. Over the last few years, it has been a thought. But being able to graduate after three years and to pursue a Master’s degree in whatever I decide to do is one of the decisions that went into it.”
Ultimately, Bercovici opted to stay at Arizona State, in part to honor his commitment, but also to remain close to the teammates and friends he has made over his time as a Sun Devil.
“My relationship with my teammates is the strongest. That’s the reason I’m deciding to stay here”, said Bercovici of what compelled him to stay. “It’s my loyalty to the school. I committed here when I was 17 years old to Coach Erickson. I love it here. They were the first school to offer me, and for it to be a Pac-12 school was a blessing. I have my best friends here in Jordan (Simone) and D.J. (Foster). There’s really no other place I want to be.”
While the off-field elements were all resoundingly in ASU’s favor, the prospect of playing time is not. Barring a serious injury to starter Taylor Kelly next year, Bercovici’s best-case scenario will be to take over as the Sun Devils’ starter for the 2015 season.
Would just one year at the helm be satisfying for his career?
“Oh yeah. At this point in my career, any playing time is good playing time,” Bercovici said. “If one year is what it is, then that’s what it is. I’m blessed to have any opportunity I can get. I saw Brock do it in one year.”
While some quarterback depth charts possess an air of resentment between the players, that is not the case between ASU’s No. 1 and No. 2 quarterback. Over their time together, they have become friends who push each other to be better every day.
“I’ve known Taylor since I came here out of high school,” Bercovici said. “He’s one of the most respectful guys you’ll ever meet in your life. It’s been a really good relationship, as I’ve been working out with him. We work on the same platform all of the time. He’s a lot different than me personality-wise. He’s really calm, cool, and relaxed, and I’m more of a hyper kind of guy. He’s a championship-level quarterback. He really works hard every single day, day in and day out.”
Bercovici will also have his other mentor in place, as ASU recently retained offensive coordinator Mike Norvell with a promotion. Beyond his capacity as the team’s offensive mastermind, Norvell is also the quarterbacks coach, and has been instrumental in Bercovici’s development.
“He’s been great to me. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever met in my life,” said Bercovici of Norvell. “It’s nice to know that I’ll be keeping a two, three, four-year relationship with him, and I know that he’s going to work his tail off for me, and he treats me with a lot of respect. But, he doesn’t take it lightly on me.”
It has been in Norvell’s offensive system that Bercovici has really elevated his game.
When Norvell first arrived with Todd Graham’s staff in December of 2011, Bercovici , a traditional pocket passer, was seen as a awkward fit in an offense that required a large degree of mobility from the position. During Norvell’s first year in 2012, Bercovici fell to the No. 3 spot on the depth chart and redshirted.
Over the last year, Bercovici has worked hard to improve his mobility, while continuing to learn and refine the other aspects of the position. Watching him in practice throughout the season, one sees a much improved player, a quarterback who gives his team a great degree of confidence whenever he steps onto the field. Quite simply, Bercovici now has a command of the system.
“Having the ability to use your legs is huge in this offense. I’ve learned that these last two years and developed that in my mindset of the quarterback position,” Bercovici said. “This offense is pretty dangerous to a lot of defenses. We have answers for almost everything that we’ve seen from every school. It all rides on the quarterback in this offense. If the quarterback position can get rolling, this is a championship-level team.”
It has been a long and winding road for Bercovici over his three years in Tempe, and with his commitment to two more in the maroon in gold, he looks to continue his growth as a person and as a quarterback.
“I’ve grown so much. I’ve learned so much, football-wise, being through two different coaching staffs,” said Bercovici. “I’ve learned a lot going against Coach Graham’s defenses. You get so much knowledge with that. Experience is everything. I feel really confident being able to play as a Sun Devil, being in that stadium more and more often. It’s been great to see what this team has been able to do.
“I’m ready to go. I’m ready to step in at any time and take this team to the next level.”