As with many teams in the Mountain West Conference, the Boise State Broncos are trying to determine who will be the new starting quarterback entering the 2015 campaign. Many have been living under the assumption that redshirt sophomore Ryan Finley would assume that role.
Then April 25, 2015 happened. Finley was charged with two misdemeanors for supposedly being caught with alcohol (he's only 20 years old) and then running from law enforcement officers. Finley has since pleaded not guilty to both misdemeanors and his legal process is scheduled to begin in mid-June.
Head Coach Bryan Harsin has yet to comment publicly on the incident. It's plausible that he is waiting for the legal action to play out before making any statements.
Although it is not imminent, it would not be out of the realm of reality to assume that some type of suspension is ahead for Finley. It is very likely that even if a suspension occurs, it could be something as small as the first half of the opener on September 4th against the University of Washington.
We can debate the logistics of what a possible suspension looks like for Finley ad nauseam. However, the real question has been begged for we the fans and Coach Harsin alike: if Finley is suspended, who gets the start under center?
The Broncos enter a season in which a rather large and heavy hype follows them closely. They are returning 17 of last year's starters and are fresh off of a Fiesta Bowl victory. Many sports outlets are throwing the Broncos in their way-too-early top 25. Proper articulation is not needed to inform people of the high expectations the team faces.
Allow me to play the hypothetical game that I'm sure many other fans have done as well. Let's say Finley sees the first half of the opener taken away from him. Harsin has to choose his replacement purely on the talent he thinks is ready for immense pressure. Even with Finley, Harsin is tasked with selecting from a group of quarterbacks with either a scarce amount of live game experience or none at all. If a fill-in for the first half implodes and Finley is unable to dig them out in the second half, then the Broncos face a home loss on prime time television to open the season.
Now the Broncos will not only be vying for another New Year's Six Bowl selection in 2015, but will also be taking a real shot at contending for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff. Losing their home opener to start the season could see those hopes of a playoff vanish before anyone has a chance to truly process anything at all.
I'm sure nobody would like to be in the position that Harsin must face every morning he wakes up for the next five months. His decision must be scrupulous and will inevitably be the most important one he makes all season as the margin for error can't even be seen with the naked eye.
So who are the candidates? Is there enough talent available passed Finley that can actually inspire a wealth of confidence not only for Harsin, but for the city of Boise overall?
Let's take a brief look at the likely replacements if Finley is suspended (in no particular order) with some of their key achievements:
1. Thomas Stuart (redshirt sophomore): Stuart recently transferred from Butte Junior College in 2014. Although he doesn't posses great size for a quarterback (5-11, 194 lbs), he does have good athleticism. In 2013, he led the Roadrunners to the Junior College State Championship in California where he also garnered MVP honors. That season saw him throw for 1,927 yards and 29 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Stuart could be the safest choice to fill in for Finley.
2. Alex Ogle (redshirt freshman): Ogle has fairly good size at 6-3 and 196 pounds. He's a three-star recruit according to ESPN and 247sports.com out of Jensen Beach High School. For his career at JBHS he threw for 4,026 yards and 34 touchdowns. He has yet to field a snap as a Bronco but is a good talent that Harsin will probably be watching closely.
3. Brett Rypien (true freshman): All the hype will be around Rypien, whether this year or next year. He is a consensus four-star recruit out of Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Washington. Rypien is the nephew of Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien. Some of his key achievements in high school ball include: 13,044 career passing yards with 134 touchdowns, state single-season record of 4,552 passing yards during his senior year, threw for eight touchdowns in one game on two separate occasions (which is a record he shares with former Bronco Kellen Moore), and was voted Washington State Player of the Year by the Seattle Times and Tacoma News Tribune.
In an article a few weeks back, I made a bold prediction saying Rypien would win the starting job, which produced an array of different opinions. At this point, my prediction remains bold in nature. Finley received the majority of the first team snaps in the Spring game last month. Harsin may want to slap a redshirt on Rypien so he can learn the game and preserve a year of eligibility. However, Rypien is a very concentrated talent that hasn't walked onto the blue in quite some time. Harsin faces a tough decision even if Finley avoids a suspension.
Adjusting to a new quarterback is never inherently a comfortable matter, whether you're a fan or the coach having to make the decision. Mix in the predicament of your likely starter getting arrested and facing a possible suspension and worst case scenario may very well have surfaced. The good news in the case of the Broncos is they have some good talent passed Finley to fill in should he be taken away for x amount of time. On the contrary, I find myself in a lack of envy for Harsin's position. His decision is tough. For writers such as myself, I am grateful that speculation on a computer screen is the biggest pressure I face.
I've attached a poll on who should start should Finley be suspended. Please feel free to explain your reasoning in the comment section. You know you want to.