Strong-armed QB comfortable with high expectations

Updated: August 11, 2003, 7:43 PM ET

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Andrew Walter has gone from backup to big shot in one heady season.

That's what throwing for 3,877 yards, breaking Danny White's 29-year-old Arizona State record despite just 10 starts, will do for you.

Entering his junior year, Walter is mentioned among the top quarterbacks in the country, and his strong, accurate arm is the main reason the Sun Devils expect to contend for the Pac-10 title.

"I feel I've definitely paid my dues," Walter said Monday at Arizona State's media day. "I feel like I'm definitely up there among the quarterbacks in college. That's just my personal opinion. Everybody else can talk and say what they want. My goal is to win games."

That doesn't necessarily mean as many yards passing, though.

Coach Dirk Koetter's offense is as wide-open as any in college football, but he said that if Walter throws for as many yards this year, it will mean the ground game hasn't come though.

"There's a lot of speculation about Andrew, that he threw for 3,800 yards in nine starts or whatever it was, he should easily be able to throw for 4,000 yards," Koetter said. "But typically if a quarterback's throwing for that kind of yardage, you're probably not winning."

A statuesque 6-foot-5, Walter looks like the prototype quarterback. He was one of Arizona State's prize recruits, out of Grand Junction, Colo., in 2000. He sat out that season as a redshirt, then had to adapt to a new system and a demanding new coach when Bruce Snyder was fired and Koetter replaced him.

Walter started two games in 2001, but Koetter wasn't sold on the quarterback's mechanics or leadership ability. Walter worked hard on the former. His leadership abilities were a bone of contention.

"Andrew always told me that he had the intangible side of playing quarterback," Koetter said. "I didn't always believe him. But I remember this very clearly. He said to me `It's hard to demonstrate that when you're not the No. 1 quarterback.' Since he's become the No. 1 quarterback, he has demonstrated it more and more each week."

Walter finally was named the starter the fourth game of last season, at San Diego State, but was sidelined by a knee injury that week in practice and found himself on the bench again.

With the Sun Devils trailing by 22 points at halftime, Walter came on to throw four touchdown passes in a 39-22 victory, their biggest comeback ever.

The offense was his for good. He threw for more than 400 yards four times, including a Pac-10 record 536 yards at Oregon.

"It was hard for Andrew to be Andrew in a backup role," said receiver Skyler Fulton, his close friend. "Once he became the starter, he just embraced it. It was where he belonged."

Now, Walter and Koetter are clearly together as the leaders of an offense that should be one of the most potent in college football. They were seated side by side at the media day news conference.

Koetter talked about how much Walter has improved in his throwing mechanics and knowing how to adjust it, how he has learned the offense and is good at making checks at the line of scrimmage, and how his interaction with teammates is so much better.

"When your quarterback knows what's going on, it's like having another coach on the field," Koetter said.

And there's that incredible arm.

"The thing that impresses me the most about Andrew is how he can throw the ball 60 yards on a dime," Fulton said. "I mean, a lot of guys can throw the ball 60-70 yards. But he can throw the ball off-balance 60 yards on a dime where we can catch it in stride, which is ridiculous."

Walter has gained 10 pounds to about 224 during an offseason weight program designed specifically for ASU's quarterbacks. Elected co-captain, he wants to be more vocal as a leader.

Koetter, known at times to be a bit short with the media, said Walter has been outstanding in dealing with the attention.

"He's done a great job. He's going to do all my interviews," the coach joked. "After today, I'm boycotting the press and Andrew Walter will be the face of ASU football."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index