Carpenter now Sun Devils' starter; Keller might leave

Updated: August 21, 2006, 3:19 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

TEMPE, Ariz. -- In an abrupt change, Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter has decided to make sophomore Rudy Carpenter the starting quarterback.

"I talked to so many people about this. This has been weighing heavy on my mind for a long, long time and I'm the one that screwed it up. I have to live with it. I'm also the one who has to fix it."
-- Dirk Koetter

Senior Sam Keller, named the starter on Friday, was excused from the Sun Devils' practice Sunday night and is considering transferring to another school.

"It's simple. I made a mistake on the quarterback situation and I'm changing my mind," Koetter said after Sunday's workout. "We're going to start Rudy Carpenter. I've excused Sam Keller from practice to consider his options."

Koetter said he couldn't sleep on Friday after naming Keller the starter. He said he then sought out advice from his athletic director, coaching staff, senior players and "unity group" on Saturday.

Koetter said he decided to make the switch on Saturday and told the quarterbacks of his change of mind later that day.

"Coach Koetter just said 'Hey, I'm going to do what's best for the team. I'm going to do what the team wants,"' Carpenter said. "I think the decision is going to affect the team in the best way and this is what we're going to do.'"

According to the East Valley Tribune, several players requested a meeting with Koetter after the initial decision and told the coach they believed the job should go to Carpenter.

Neither Koetter nor Carpenter would confirm that the meeting took place.

"I talked to so many people about this," Koetter said. "This has been weighing heavy on my mind for a long, long time and I'm the one that screwed it up. I have to live with it. I'm also the one who has to fix it."

The team was told at a meeting Sunday afternoon.

"There's a lot of things that have happened," Carpenter said. "I'm not going to go into details about it, but with the quarterback situation like this, sometimes those things just happen."

The 24th-ranked Sun Devils open their season Aug. 31 at home against Northern Arizona.

Keller has a redshirt season available, or he could transfer to an NCAA Division I-AA school and play immediately. Koetter said Keller is welcome to stay. The Sun Devils' next practice is Tuesday.

"I know the rumor is flying around there that he's been booted off the team. That's not true," Koetter said. "If Sam wants to come be our No. 2 quarterback, then we'd love to have him."

If Keller leaves, freshman Danny Sullivan, who had planned to redshirt this year, would become Carpenter's backup.

Carpenter was asked if he had thought of transferring after Koetter's initial decision to go with Keller.

"I'm not going to say I was considering leaving," he said, "but when you're put in that situation and you're frustrated and you're upset and you're angry, I think all your options weigh on your mind and they weigh heavily. Sometimes you've just got to do what's best for yourself."

Keller started the first seven games last season before going down with a hand injury. Carpenter came on to lead the country in passing efficiency, yards-per-pass attempt and touchdowns-to-interception ratio.

His performance led to a tight battle for the job going into this season.

Koetter had indicated that neither quarterback had outplayed the other in practice and that Keller largely was chosen because he was a senior. The coach said he had proposed going with a two-quarterback situation, but neither Keller nor Carpenter wanted that.

Last season, Keller completed 58 percent of his passes (155-for-264) for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns, with nine interceptions. Carpenter completed 68 percent (156-for-228) for 2,273 yards and 17 touchdowns, with just two interceptions.

On Friday night, Keller said he was "humbled" to get the starting job.

"It's a dream to be a senior and be able to play for all the marbles," Keller said at the time. "I'm very humbled by it because the other guy deserved it as much as I do."

ESPN's Joe Schad contributed to this report.

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