Monday kicked off the start of two weeks of pre spring training, and the subjects on most peoples mind is who will replace the great Kellen Moore!
I will address that shortly but first let’s be clear no team does what Boise State has done just on the shoulders of one man no matter how great. We forget the times the defense bailed out Kellen on those very rare occasion of putting the ball on the ground or into the hands of the opposing team and I won’t bring up the first quarter against Georgia for example ;) .
Every great QB needs a great team around them to make happen that 50-3 record and for me that record has started with the great offensive lines Boise State has fielded over that time and next year looks to be just as good if not the best O-line Boise State has ever fielded. That all being said as we learned this week 3 of 4 returning O-line starters will see limited action due to injuries, I know that sounds bad but really for center Cory Yriarte, guard Joe Kellogg and guard Jake Broyles I’m not to worried as most of these are war wounds from last year nothing that I believe will keep them out of the lead up to the opener against Michigan state. Charles Leno Jr. is the only starter to be 100% right now and for me this just means those that could see themselves playing the role of Chuck Hayes this coming season getting more reps in preparation to fill in for injuries that are sure to come, so for me this is more of a plus rather than a negative.
However the back field is a different story all together. Kellen was blessed with some of the most diverse back fields in Bronco history making the play action real, slowing down that pass rush. Certainly having D.J Harper back completing his first full season healthy in the last year is a big plus, but as we saw in D.J’s brilliant game against TCU last year you need more than one go to RB to carry the rock. While many see Drew Write as the second RB I’m not quite sure, in the Kellen Moore era we never really had much of a drop off between the backs, and I’m not sure Write is anywhere near Harper, I could be wrong on this but I see Jay Ajayi as being the one that can not only step in and carry the rock but as well bring something more to the game, I’m not only sure he will but the fact is Ajayi is the type of RB we’ve never really had at Boise State, a true fire burner with power and moves. The problem with all that is two fold one he’s coming back from a serious injury from last summer practice and is also one of the guys being held back during these spring practices. The other being the belief he’s in the dog house over some sweet pants. Lets be clear on a couple points here, the young man made a mistake, and though many like to throw stones I would ask who among us is without a brain fart moment I want to be equally clear what happened is not, nor does it truly reflect on this young man’s character by any stretch of the imagination. Ajayi has a track history of outstanding academic achievement, a member of the National Society of High School Scholars, I can also say from personal conversations with the young man he has not only humbled himself and is remorseful, not because of his personal image but those in which it has affected, this says much about him as a person. when he made his mistake he owned up to it, makes no excuses and shows his most concern for those around him who he let down, I can attest watch out Bronco Nation we have one very talented intelligent young man eager to erase your memories of Walmart. That all being said his injury is of the type that can take a full year to get back to 100% and much of that is because of the trust issues one has to overcome to have the complete confidence in one’s body to take what they dish out. For me it is imperative that Ajayi get to at least 95% by kick off to the MSU game for our Bronco’s to be successful.
Receivers are also no doubt very important to any QB’s success and while Kellen Moore had some great ones to throw to, the current crop of Boise State Receivers just might be the best group of ball catchers in all of college ball. The list of TE’s, WR’s and RB’s is just mind boggling. Olympic class speed in the Burroughs Brothers. Smooth as silk hands of glue with hop’s and towering heights to boot in Matt Miller, add in speed and heights in Garaldo Boldwijn with a chip on his shoulders, Kirby Moore will look to make his mark and carry on the family tradition, while Aaron Burks will look to break the lineup. Defensive coaches the nation over will find themselves in the fetal position after spending hours contemplating how to defend the onslaught that will be the Boise State receivers corps and I haven’t even brought up the TE’s yet! From Gabe Linehan, Chandler Koch,and Holden Huff, all of whom will be pressed by incoming J.C transfer Connor Peters and freshmen Hayden Plinke 6’4” 225lbs, and Armand Nance 6’1” 238lbs. Make no mistake while we all will be focusing in on the QB race I would say at the same time all over the defensive backfield there will be a Receivers corps battle going on like never before seen on the Blue Turf.
So the big question who is going to be the one pulling the strings?
In the only presser since the start of practices on Monday not much was revealed.
For Joe Southwick coach said.
"He's been here a while and he's done a great job grinding and learning,''
"He's done a great job of preparing. But I also feel that with all these guys. These guys are ready to compete, which is awesome, because for us to do what we want to do on offense we've got to have a big-time player there.''
It’s been reported that Nick Patti completed every pass but one and that one was a drop, as for the competition between the four Joe Southwick, Grant Hedrick, Jimmy Laughrea and Nick Patti this is all coach had to offer in regards of where he sees the progress at this early point.
"We just don't know who it's going to be right now,''
"When you've got four guys, you know it's just going to take some time.''
All four of these young men have stronger arms and are more fleet of foot then Kellen every was, but the big question is do they have the coolness under pressure that Kellen displayed, do they have the knowledge of the game to read defenses to make the right throws and though Kellen didn’t have the rocket arm he did have the ability to put touch on the ball to throw catchable balls, this more than anything else might have accounted for his high career completion percentage.
When you look at these four you see much in common and some differences
Joe Southwich has more than just more experience than the others, if you have ever watch the sidelines much Joe has shown himself a leader on the sidelines always greeting the team as it comes off the field whether it be after a failed drive a scoring drive or a time out. Clearly Joe has some natural leadership skills. Joe might not be the speediest of the group but he does have the arm to make all the throws and should have the largest understanding of the play book and defensive reads, this should put him ahead of the group and is why most see him as being the winner of this spring and summers battle.
Grant Hedrick is a bit faster then Southwick and that is why regardless to how this battle turns out he will be seeing the field this season like he did last. But don’t count him out Grant is a competitor with a large skill set and a nice arm with two years himself under his belt, with the toolage of Coach Pete .
Jimmy Laughrea is the wild card as far as I see it, the most physical of the four and certainly has a monster arm and leg speed which is becoming more and more a part of any offensive game plan. While Jimmy won the offensive scout team player of the year and people want to draw a comparrision to Kellen doing the same his red shirt year, well guess what so Has Handrick, and Southwick and if Patti doesn’t win the starting job this year he certainly will win it next year!. That being said Laughrea is quite the player and may shock the world and win the spot.
Nick Patti, reminds me of Doug Fluttie and not because of his height, but because of the plays he makes with his feet and his arm. No doubt Nick is a talented player as well it’s been reported he’s grown a couple inches which wouldn’t hurt but I doubt that plays as big a role as some might think. Many see Nick as the future of Boise States QB legacy though many point to the fact even Kellen red shirted his first year and expect Nick to the same. I don’t not believe Nick is high on that idea, he’s way to smart to buy into that, history doesn’t always repeat it’s self as well the pool of talent is different than when Kellen came up. Nick knows full well he’s in a war and his war isn’t just with Joe and Grant but his bigger war is with Jimmy. Jimmy win out this off season and preforms during the season Nick will at most be looking at a single season to be the man. This is a make or break off season for Nick Patti with Coach Pete’s strategy of recurring a QB ever year doesn’t leave much room for error and if Jimmy is able to shock Bronco Nation and win the start against MSU it will be game set match for Patti. Patti has the skill set and certainly the desire and if you have ever heard him speak and answer questions he is no dummy.
If it comes down to a Nick, and Jimmy battle when you compare the two from what little film there is from their high school days there is one major major difference, when scrambling of which both do very well as both are quick of feet, and while they both look down field making plays throwing the ball down field, Jimmy keeps his head up the whole time while Nick appears to duck his head and run before popping back up. Jimmy’s arm appears to be much stronger as well and certainly it could be the fact that Jimmy is 4 inches taller than Nick might lead to my impression of Jimmy looking taller while scrambling in the end I don’t so much believe it will come down to physicality so much as finesse. I think it will come down to who handles the pressure of competition, displays knowledge on the field and the execution of the plays called.
We have a long way to go and I think it would be way too premature to even guess who will be starting against MSU and wouldn’t be surprised if coach doesn’t come to a decision until game week if not game day..
May God Bless the Bronco Nation!