ASU In Good Hands At Quarterback

Sept. 21, 2005

Of all the stars who left the college game after last season, none has been as easily replaced as Andrew Walter.

Andrew who?

That's what Arizona State fans might be saying about the three-year starter who left school as the Pacific 10 Conference's all-time leader in touchdown passes (85) after watching Sam Keller the past three games.

Keller, a junior who started for the injured Walter in the Sun Bowl last season and re-established his grip on the job during pre-season camp, has been that good.

Walter's spot in the lineup wasn't even cold before his former teammates elected Keller a co-captain and he started slinging balls around the field like he'd been doing it for years.

'I'm very, very impressed with this kid,' said Northwestern coach Randy Walker, whose team plays at Arizona State on Saturday. 'He's come out the blocks this year and he's making all kinds of plays,'

Through two games this season, Keller has completed 61.3% of his passes (49 of 80) for 669 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. The bulk of his statistics come from a 461-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 35-31 loss to then No. 5 Louisiana State last weekend.

'He came in and just put the ball in perfect spots,' senior receiver Derek Hagan said. 'It's the best thing that can happen for a receiver. We are out there running routes and when we turn around, the ball is right there.'

At this stage of the season, the college landscape is filled with rising stars whose worth has been inflated by big games against inferior opponents. Keller isn't one of them. He had just 208 yards in a 63-16 victory over Temple.

And when you take into consideration his start against Purdue in the bowl game, Keller has completed 60 of 101 passes for 831 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions against top 25 teams.

Transitions usually don't go so well so soon.

At Auburn, coach Tommy Tuberville is working through a four-man rotation in search of replacements for running backs Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown.

And at Oklahoma, coach Bob Stoops has already demoted junior quarterback Paul Thompson, the heir-apparent to former All-American Jason White, in favor of redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar.

But in fairness to them, none of the aforementioned players walked into a situation as good as Keller's.

Five starters, including pre-season All-American center Grayling Love, return to the offensive line, and freshman Keegan Herring and sophomore Rudy Burgess have the potential to make a good 1-2 punch at tailback.

In the passing game, Keller's top target is Hagan, the Pacific 10's second-leading receiver last season. Keller also has a more than capable tight end in sophomore Zach Miller, a second-team All-American as a freshman.

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