Question: What can we expect from the Quarterback position this year? What do you make of the backup position?
Derek - I think we can all agree that Grant Hedrick is the man this year. It would take either a major catastrophe or an incredible fall camp by either Ryan Finley or Tommy Stuart for anyone other than Grant to be under center against Ole Miss on August 28th. The real question is what kind of quarterback play will Hedrick bring to the field this year? Will his years in the program, and his familiarity with Harsin’s system turn him into an all-MWC type QB? Or with only half of a season under his belt will he simply do what it takes to keep the Broncos in the game and give them a chance to win? My opinion is that as the Broncos prepare for the MWC championship game in early December, Grant Hedrick will be the quarterback that everyone is talking about for offensive player of the year. I liked what I saw from him last year, and if he is given full control of the offense with nothing holding him back I think we will see great things from him. We saw many times last season, especially when he took over against Nevada, what he can do with his legs. He also made some incredibly good throws at times, and with a full year practicing as the number one guy, I think we will see him get even better. He may be the closest thing Boise State has had to a duel- threat quarterback in a long time…. (Jared Zabransky? Bart Hendricks?). With the weapons he has at both receiver and running back, and his ability to make plays with his legs and arms, I really think we may see a Boise State offense that is going to be incredibly hard to predict and defend this season. The two question marks will be can the offensive line give him time to make the plays, and can Hedrick’s propensity for turnovers (mainly fumbling) be limited. If we can get past those two weaknesses, Grant Hedrick will add his name to the long list of great Boise State quarterbacks.
The past couple seasons our main discussion when it came to Boise State’s quarterbacks was who is going to be the starter? We had social media wars with #TeamPatti and #TeamSouthwick, (was there ever a #TeamHedrick?) and we pretty much knew that the loser of the starting QB battle would be the back-up. Even in all of Kellen Moore’s years we knew each season who the clear-cut back-up would be – Hamdan, Coughlin, Southwick. So do we have a clear-cut back-up this season? Common sense says Finley has been in the program so he will be the man. I am going to go against common sense (which has gotten me into a lot of trouble in the past) and say Tommy “Football” Stuart is the man this year. I am not much into watching film, but there was something about watching Tommy’s recruiting videos that hooked me. Plus, all the kid does is win – in High School and Junior College combined he is 33-3, and was the MVP of the CCCAA State Championship game in Junior College and the MVP of the Maryland High School All-Star game (The Crab Bowl – Yum!). Grant Hedrick may be the starter, but put me on #TeamTommy for the back-up spot.
Heath - I might end up being the overly optimistic one in this conversation. But I ultimately think the situation is much better than people view it on the surface. I put a lot of faith in what Bryan Harsin has done in the past at Boise State. When looking back at Hedrick last season, I don’t think he was as bad as his lows, but I do believe he has the potential to be as good as his highs. Last season watching Hedrick, I felt like the offense was conservative and restricted to simple play calling. Which is saying something considering the offense we ran last year. However, despite that, Hedrick still threw 16 TD’s & only 5 picks. Hedrick is a Harsin guy – Harsin recruited Hedrick while he was at Boise State. I imagine during that time Harsin had a plan for Hedrick, who would have thought we would see that plan in action.
As for the backup spot, I have to say Finley is the guy and then everyone else. I think it is easy to forget how highly touted Finley was when he signed on at Boise State. He was supposed to be the next generation of Boise State QB’s. The size of a “prototypical QB” and the drive and mental fortitude of a “Boise State guy”. Stuart obviously has the excitement factor, and seems to be the right kind of guy. But I just have to imagine if Finley is healthy he has a major edge going into the season. If Finley still has lingering issues though, then we all better just cross our fingers Hedrick is an iron-man. Because I can’t imagine we have much success with Stuart or Ogle next year.
Jeremy – I think there should be a balance in expectations with Grant Hedrick. On one hand, we are scrapping the old new offense and returning to the multiple offense Boise State has been known for, a system Hedrick has experience in. He needs to be given some leeway, the entire offense is learning Harsin’s and Sanford’s approach. That said, Grant is also a 5th year senior. If any QB should make the transition quickly, you would hope it’s the experienced veteran. Ajayi returns, along with a talented WR group and a play-caller that we hope is more imaginative with this offense this fall. Cannot ignore the youth and lack of depth on the O-Line though. Grant’s judgement will ultimately be decided by the play of his teammates. Grant statistically was actually pretty decent in 2013, he just turned the ball over too much. Just my opinion, but I don’t think the Broncos can win the MW without Hedrick taking a step forward this season. He doesn’t need to be Kellen, but he does need to be a leader on this offense, and must lead by example. He threw for around 1800 yards, 16 TDs, and 5 INTs with a little more than half a season to work with. I think north of 2900 passing yards, 30 TD passes, and at most 11 INTs is what it would take to win the conference. It’s so hard to give a concrete expectation with all the uncertainty with the new staff, but I hope Grant goes all 2006 Jared Zabransky on us and follows up a turnover-laden season with a consistent but safe season. I go back and forth. One day I think he’ll surprise, the next I think it will be another season in which multiple MW teams have better QB play than Boise State. I will say this though: I’ll be sweating bullets if Grant goes down and Finley or Stuart have to pick up the slack.
Tami – The ideal situation is to have a mature, stable starter with a deep and thorough understanding of the new offense. He should be accurate, hopefully have a cannon, and be able to extend plays with his legs when the situation requires. It is a rare quality for a quarterback to be able to only scramble when it adds to the quality of the play, not just out of desperation. I don’t want to see our starter getting huge running yards because the routes aren’t hooking up or because the offense is predictable. I want to see the yards come from designed run plays and recognition by the QB that they are open and should take off and make us drool over a true, Andrew Luck style dual-threat. Grant Hedrick is probably the guy. Senior leader, works extremely hard, smart kid, got some quality minutes last year. The past is in the rear view. His success is going to depend on his commitment to conditioning this summer, how well he picks up the new offense, how many reps he gets with the receiver corps, and the offensive line. Too many question marks for those who long for the stability that surrounded this program a few years ago, but we’re in ATF mode round here now.
As far as backups, Finley looked like a pretty clear 2 at the spring game, and rightly so. Tommy Stuart captured my imagination though. I think that is going to be a big battle going into fall camp, with Finley coming out ahead. Imagine a world in which we get to see an inventive small ball package with Stuart, Shane Williams-Rhodes, Dallas Burroughs, and Devan Demas. Yee!
More than likely though, there will be problems to solve. Grant did have issues hanging on to the ball last season. The defense looked fantastic at the spring game – are they that awesome or were the receivers really having THAT hard of a time getting open? None of this is going to be solved before the end of fall camp, and we’re going to find out the answer in the most nerve-wracking way possible: In Atlanta, vs. Ole Miss, in the heart of the SEC, playing the prime time game on ESPN. Here’s hoping for a game more reminiscent of VT and less of UGA 2005.
Noel - This is definitely as not-as-exciting of an off-season when it comes to the quarterback position that we expected at the start of 2013. This was supposed to be a big battle between Grant Hedrick and Nick Patti for the future Kellen-ness of the program. But, since Joe went down, Grant got the nod, and Nick left for his home state, it’s all but Hedrick’s starting job. So we’re all set with the starter.
Our most intriguing look is going to be the back up spot. We know how important that can be especially after last year. I think Finley has the major advantage to be the #2 since he’s been around the program a bit longer. As long as he’s fully recovered, he’s the guy. Tommy Football has some major upside though and showed it during the spring game. It would be a major coup to have him move up to #2 after fall camp.
Look. Do I expect this to be 2007 or 2010? Probably not. But I expect our quarterbacks to be useful. With a QB coach as a head coach and an amazing coaching staff backing him up, our young quarterback groups should be able to handle their business.
Gage- I’m swinging the pendulum to the opposing side–putting on the villain cape and thus forgoing my usual homer like tendencies. Simply put, the faith I have in Grant Hedrick is washy. Last year was a dismal season as a whole. Compare it to habitual Boise State standards and well, no, don’t do that. The record (8-5) speaks for itself and although not horrible (On the bright-side, our “friends” up north might do some unspeakable things for that record) still, FAR…..far…….. far, from what Boise State fans have grown accustomed to.
Quarterback play was not the kryptonite nor was it better or worse than pedestrian. Grant’s season stats weren’t eye-popping, but at first glance someone could pose the question ‘really, just average?’ His line (mentioned above by Heath) was formidable. 1,800 passing yards w/ 16 TD’s, 5 INT’s and a completion percentage of 69% (Only started 7 games–bowl game included) Where lies the problem?
From my expert analysis (ha ha ha) I saw a quarterback who struggled to be consistently accurate on mid-to-deep throws and lacked the big play ability (7.5 yards per attempt, #51 in the country). Grant scuffled in critical situations, completing only 59% of his attempts on 3rd down and throwing four of his five total interceptions. #9 commonly looked unsure of himself and never seemed comfortable in his surrounding; Grant’s reads and/or play progression were sporadically precise, but more frequently forced. Lacked the awareness to feel the pressure of pursuing defenders and would commonly hold the ball longer than needed. Most frustrating being that he often neglected his biggest asset–speed & athleticism. YET, I give him a partial pass because of the following: 1. He took over mid-season and has never had an off-season to prepare as the clear-cut starter 2. Receivers lacked explosion and were atrocious on reeling-in deep balls 3. Offensive line was consistently inconsistent 4. Last year’s offense was in disarray, a sloppy-jumbled-quickly-sewn-together-concoction of what was supposed to appear as a Boise State offense but lacked the usual prowess and creativity. The mastermind was (now gone, phew) offensive coordinator Robert Prince.
To piece it all together, I just think Grant is more average than he is exceptional. I believe he what is called a “game-manager.” A QB without elite talent who won’t lose you a game, but won’t win you one either. He is not the guy you say – We need a first down here, give the ball to Grant. None of which means he is impossible to win with.
All in all, if the new regime is able to input a systematic approach that allows Grant to utilize his strengths (arm and mobility) and use them to feed off the potentially strong running attack, I foresee success. If not, I’m concerned. I hope my fear is erroneous.