Mike Bercovici works to craft Jayden Daniels into the next great Sun Devil

Former ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici learns in his new role as the team's offensive graduate assistant

When the ASU offense is off the field, it is not uncommon to see offensive graduate assistant Mike Bercovici pull freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels aside for some mid-game advice.

He will often find a quiet spot on the bench where the two can examine the previous drive together, pointing out various coverage schemes and line techniques before typically passing him off to the headset and offensive coordinator Rob Likens.

Unlike the majority of his offensive coaching counterparts, Bercovici shuns the coaching box and instead prefers to stay down on the field — close to both the action and the players.

It's a fitting metaphor for this period of Bercovici’s football career as the former Sun Devil quarterback slowly transitions from player to coach. Still appearing young enough to suit up, Bercovici works to guide the next generation of ASU quarterbacks along in their journey, all while taking the next massive steps in his. 

As a first-time coach, Bercovici said his experience has been "awesome," adding that, "I can relate to those guys; the same way that I’m learning from coach Likens, they can learn from me. It’s been great, those guys, they keep us young.”

Bercovici provides valuable insight for an unusually young collection of quarterbacks, as Daniels is followed in the depth chart by fellow freshmen Joey Yellen and Ethan Long. While Bercovici works to instill good habits in his impressionable pupils, he is the first to acknowledge the level of self-regulation necessary among any good unit of quarterbacks. 

“They’ve been awesome,” Bercovici said of the quarterback group. “Jayden’s obviously been a natural leader of that room in his own way specific way, but I do my best to challenge the young guys behind him as well to approach every day like a starter.” 

As Daniels takes his lumps progressing through an eventful freshman season, Bercovici has been focused on imparting an elevated understanding of the position on the 18-year-old freshman. Despite Daniels', whose father doubled as his high school coach, advanced approach to quarterback play, Bercovici still sees avenues for improvement.

“I try to teach him that you have to be the coach of the offense,” Bercovici said. “You’ve got to understand it the same way we do, take the same ownership in it as we do, and he has a really natural ability to do that.”

As Bercovici pushes Daniels to be a better coach on the field, Likens is working to make Bercovici into a better coach off of it. 

“I let Mike just run the quarterback individual drills,” Likens said. “We do it together, and I’ll let him lead it because I want him to get experience coaching. ... They need to coach to be better coaches so that they can go on and move on, and he does a tremendous job.”

As the season progresses, Bercovici has identified two main areas of Daniels' game that are in the greatest need of improvement. The first lies with the freshman’s footwork, as Bercovici is committed to cleaning up some of the sloppier aspects of Daniels' drop back routine. By imparting a more nuanced understanding, Bercovici hopes to see an improved fluidity across the offense as a whole. 

“How we play as an offense, you got to get the ball out fast to get some opportunities in space," Daniels said on Bercovici’s advice. "So just quicken up my feet because the quicker you set your feet, the easier it is to see if you’re going to stay there or flip back to the next read.”

The second area that Bercovici has acknowledged needs improvement is Daniels' eye progression, something young quarterbacks are often unaccustomed to working on.

Daniels has talked at length about the vast differences between defenses in high school and college, as defenses in college have forced him to utilize more underneath and checkdown routes.

"That’s a daily battle with young quarterbacks when you put new plays on them, they want to show their arm strength or show their understanding of the play," Bercovici said. "It’s the easiest throw in football, it’s right in front of you, but it takes a huge learning progression and curve to get to that point. He’s learning, and he’ll get there no doubt.”

As Daniels looks to build off the worst performance of his young collegiate career, Bercovici has goals that extend well beyond just this season. In his mind, Daniels is a “special” quarterback prospect very capable of playing football well beyond his time at ASU.

For that to happen, Bercovici knows that Daniels' knowledge and feel for the game must grow substantially. So he has made it his goal to dive deep into each play with the freshman, providing him the next level of understanding necessary to "grasp what we're trying to accomplish on every play."

“The season’s going to go by fast: he has a lot stuff going at him, but he’s just got to peel back the onion from a lot of plays,"  Bercovici said. "We’re calling this play for these reasons, and if it’s not that — get us in the perfect play. It would be fun to let him be able to audible, check, do all those type of things because he does a good job of surveying the field.”


Reach the reporter at Jrosenfa@asu.edu or follow @jacobrosenfarb on Twitter. 

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