For the first time in four years, the Boise State football team opened spring ball Monday at Bronco Stadium without a question mark at starting quarterback.
Or did it?
"I think there is a question mark," coach Chris Petersen said. "The question is: Are we going to be the same or are we getting better?"
Sophomore Kellen Moore, the reigning WAC Freshman of the Year, set a school record for completion percentage and led the Broncos to a No. 11 national ranking last season.
It was a fantastic start to his career. The key word, though, is start.
"Hey," Petersen said, "there's always room for improvement."
In addition to refining the areas in which he already excels - like accuracy and decision-making - Petersen and offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin listed three ways Moore could expand his impact in 2009.
® 1. Go deep. Moore completed 69.4 percent of his passes, tossed 25 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions and ranked 12th in the nation with a 157.12 rating.
"He was so efficient at what he was doing," Harsin said. "That was fine."
But as Petersen and predecessor Dan Hawkins often say, the offense's job is to score as fast and as often as possible. That means deep balls - the one weapon often missing from the Broncos' arsenal last season.
Some of that was the way defenses approached the Broncos. Some of it was the loss of game-breaking wide receiver Titus Young, who looked sharp Monday in his first practice with the team since the middle of last season. And some of it was Harsin's coaching, which emphasized the safe play over the big play.
Harsin's approach will change this year.
"There are some looks in there where you don't want to (throw deep), but they gave it to us," Harsin said. "É I need to do a better job of showing him these things on tape, getting him to go, 'OK, I see that. They should have it covered here but they don't.'
"With a year of experience, he can understand that and maybe be a little more aggressive."
Sometimes, that means taking a deep shot on a play that isn't even designed for it just because it's there. Other times, it means throwing into a tighter window - windows Moore proved he could hit.
Either way, Moore will have more "free reign," Harsin said.
"There are some plays where during the game maybe you were hesitant and thought, 'Let's not do this,' " Moore said. "You watch the film and think, 'Let's give it a shot.' We've got some stud wideouts. Why not let Titus, Austin (Pettis) and those guys go get it?"
® 2. Lead the way. As a returning starting quarterback on a young team, Moore quickly ascends the leadership ranks. He organized the offense during the winter player-run practices.
Petersen is curious to see how his low-key quarterback handles the added responsibility this spring.
"You feel a little older since there's only five seniors," Moore said.
® 3. Move under center. Moore (6-foot, 187 pounds) spent much of his freshman season operating out of the shotgun. That helped him see the field better, but Harsin wants him to become more comfortable under center and better at dropping back.
"He does a great job from the gun," Harsin said.
If Moore lines up under center more often, that could help the Broncos' running game. Running out of the shotgun is difficult - the prime reason Nevada coach Chris Ault developed the pistol.
"(Spring) is a great time to work on some things that maybe weren't as successful during the season or that we want to expand on," Moore said. "É You always try to get back on your five-step (drop) quicker and get through your progressions a little bit quicker."