Boise State is coming off a 12-1 season in 2011 and finished the year ranked No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches poll and No. 8 in the Associated Press media poll. That was last season. Although less than three months ago, it's already ancient history in the fast-paced world of college football. It’s 2012 and a new season in the making. And Boise State starts spring ball Monday morning in preparation for their second year in the Mountain West Conference. All eyes will be on the quarterback race, a race that will decide a replacement after the departure of the Broncos All-American, record-setting QB Kellen Moore at the end of last season. With all the tremendous expectations by the Boise State fans, how would you like to be the quarterback to follow Kellen Moore? Well, there are no less than four gutsy quarterbacks that are eager to enter the arena in what promises to be a competitive race for the Broncos' vacated top spot. Two have played in actual games for the Broncos, and two haven’t. But all four are perhaps the most diverse, talented and well-prepared set of quarterbacks Boise State has ever fielded for spring ball. It will certainly be interesting this year.... Jonathan Smith, the offensive coordinator at Montana and the former quarterbacks coach at Idaho, has joined the Broncos as quarterbacks coach and it will be up to him to see who will be Moore’s replacement. Right now, sophomore Joe Southwick, 6-1, 183 lbs, is leading the charge after gaining experience as Moore's backup last year. And he’s favored to lead the herd after a good showing last year. One of his faults going into last year’s games was the need to reduce his turn overs from the 2010 season, and that he did. Last year he came in behind Moore with limited playing time that called for mostly handing the ball off. Yet, he still managed to complete 23 of 30 passes for 198 yards, with a TD and an INT. That is an average of 6.6 yards a toss. But Southwick will have freshman QB Grant Hedrick, 6-1, 185 lbs, to contend with. Last season Hedrick needed to expand his knowledge of the offense according to coach Chris Petersen said. Hedrick has had a full year to do that and had a snap or two each of six games last season. He completed 2 of 3 passes and rushed 8 times for 70 yards, averaging 8.8 yards a carry. But Hedrick was also sidelined during the UNLV game so he might need to prove his toughness if he wants to play ahead of Southwick. Freshman QB Jimmy Laughrea, 6-2, 197 lbs, wearing #14 and from Rocklin, California, was quiet last year after being fitted out with a redshirt. For that reason no one has been mentioning his name. But this year he will have his chance to get into the thick of things. Scout.com noted he was both accurate and a good decision maker. Those are qualities that belonged to Kellen Moore. Further, Laughrea might have the strongest arm of the bunch. When asked about it recently, Chris Petersen confirmed it: "No question---cannon."
All three have a very real shot at being the starting quarterback position with their experience and/or talent. But nothing is etched in stone and they might want to keep an eye on the latest QB to land on the Boise State roster: incoming freshman Nick Patti, 5-10, 185 lbs. He's already being touted as the next Kellen Moore. And he intends to be next in line. That's why he graduated from Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando early so he could get from Florida to Boise in time for spring training. And he's good. He just might be the real deal. Still, I pencil him in as a redshirt to give him time to learn Petersen’s extensive playbook. It’s a monster to learn.
Beyond the quarterback situation at Boise State I know there is a lot of other aspects of Bronco football we need to talk about. New coaches, for one, who have the ominous job of rebuilding a seriously depleted Boise State football program. Another is a discussion of a defensive line that lost four of its starters. Then there is the new offensive coordinator, Robert Prince, whose job it will be to oversee the task of filling up a backfield minus RB Doug Martin. But keep in mind that spring ball is just now getting under way. We will have plenty of time to discuss the huge job of rebuilding and reloading as we get further into spring practice. Head coach Chris Peterson said recently that revamping the offense means playing to his quarterback’s strengths. So it stand to reason that all other positions, from the offensive linemen to the tight ends and backs, the offensive strategy will be tailored around that all-important starting quarterback.
And looking ahead, is it too soon to look at the August 31t season opener with Michigan State? Maybe, maybe not. You have to think the whole team is certainly thinking about it. There is no doubt that all eyes will be focused on Boise State and their new starting quarterback from the first moment the ball is snapped. The Spartans are already ranked preseason at 12th in the nation, while the Broncos weigh in at 21st. This will be the opener for both teams and nationally televised on ESPN. Sound like a long time away?
That's only five months and change, if you're counting.