While everyone else watched Kellen Moore dissect defenses the past four years, the Boise State football coaching staff quietly stockpiled an impressive collection of talent at the quarterback position.
Now its time to find out what that talent can do.
The No. 22 Broncos open fall camp Saturday with a difficult-to-handicap, four-way race for the starting job featuring junior Joe Southwick, sophomore Grant Hedrick, redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea and true freshman Nick Patti. Southwick is the favorite based on experience, but this is the first time in recent memory that every quarterback on the roster is a legitimate candidate to start.
One to four, it probably is as good of depth as weve had there in practice, said coach Chris Petersen, who joined the program in 2001. It all changes when we put them in a game.
Ah, but which one?
That is the defining question of August for the Broncos, who begin the season Aug. 31 at No. 13 Michigan State a team that boasts one of the nations top defenses.
Petersen preaches patience in the quarterback derby, wanting to give the less-experienced players time to develop and put them in as many situations as possible.
Usually, he doesnt make a decision until about a week before the opener.
We take this very serious, Petersen said. Were not thinking that weve got it all figured out and weve got all the answers. Were trying to do the right thing and hopefully our experience as coaches and doing this a long time leads us to the right conclusion.
Year: Redshirt junior
Size: 6-foot-1, 192 pounds
Hometown: Danville, Calif. (San Ramon Valley High)
Key attribute: Experience
Boise State experience: Two-year backup is 40-of-54 for 400 yards and two TDs with one interception (144.81 efficiency). However, nearly all of his action has come in a mop-up role. He was the Offensive Scout Player of the Year in 2009.
High school highlights: He led San Ramon Valley to the section semifinals as a senior, throwing for 3,781 yards and 36 TDs in 13 games and completing more than 60 percent of his throws. He also rushed for eight TDs. He threw for 35 TDs as a junior. Hes going to do a phenomenal job at that level, Brad Bowers, who coached against Southwick, said in 2009. He knows how to keep plays going. It was crazy trying to corral him.
Recruiting evaluation from Scout.com (class of 2009): No. 32 QB; three stars. Good strong arm and quick feet. A gamer with that leadership quality. Decently mobile but his game is in picking apart defenses.
Coach Petersen says: Sometimes its really hard for a backup quarterback to really show what hes all about. But I could feel Joe take a step forward and thats what were asking for.
In his own words: It will be cool that theres going to be a lot of people who kind of push Boise State aside with losing so many headline guys. Ive got to get this team going in the right direction, and I plan on doing it. Southwick, in a December 2011 interview
Did you know? He is the two-time, reigning champion of the home run derby at the teams charity softball game.
Year: Redshirt sophomore
Size: 6-foot, 191 pounds
Hometown: Independence, Ore. (Central High)
Key attribute: Speed
Boise State experience: He ran a wildcat package for the Broncos last season, utilizing his speed and feel for the run game. He carried eight times for 70 yards and a TD while completing 2-of-3 passes for 19 yards. He was the Offensive Scout Player of the Year in 2010.
High school highlights: He was named The Oregonians 4A Offensive Player of the Year as a senior and made the all-conference first team three times. Playing for his dad, he completed 65 percent of his passes as a senior with more than 2,500 yards, 34 TDs and just one interception. He also rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 17 TDs. He made throws that only the receiver was going to catch over the right shoulder, the right angle, dropping it in over our defensive backs, Sean McNabb, who coached against Hedrick, said in 2010. You dont see high school kids doing that all the time just putting the ball wherever they want it.
Recruiting evaluation from Scout.com (class of 2010): No. 57 QB; three stars. A gifted dual-threat quarterback, Hedrick is a strong-armed passer whos even more valuable when he tucks it and runs.
Coach Petersen says: To me, he is pretty. Hes got great mechanics. He can run. Hes got pretty good instincts out there. Hes just got to continue to learn our system. Theres just so much to it.
In his own words: (The coaches) kind of like that having another part of my game that they can work with is nice. Hedrick, in January 2010, on his running ability
Did you know? His dream was to play tailback in college until he realized he wasnt fast enough.
Year: Redshirt freshman
Size: 6-foot-1, 201 pounds
Hometown: Rocklin, Calif. (Rocklin High)
Key attribute: Arm strength
Boise State experience: He redshirted and ran the scout team in 2011, earning the Offensive Scout Player of the Year award.
High school highlights: He was named to the All-Sierra Foothill League first team as a senior. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards and 22 TDs. He also rushed for 327 yards and six TDs. The Broncos offered a scholarship after then-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin watched Laughrea throw during a practice moved into the school gym because of rain. I knew they were on the edge, but once they saw him they decided to pull the trigger, Rocklin coach Greg Benzel said in 2010.
Recruiting evaluation from Scout.com (class of 2011): No. 52 QB; three stars. Very good footwork and good athleticism. Can run and makes good decisions with the football, knowing when to tuck it and run and when to keep the play alive as a thrower.
Coach Petersen says: Jimmys got an arm like weve never had an arm at Boise State, in terms of how the ball jumps out of his hand. But again, he has to learn the system. Hes making up ground.
In his own words: The main thing for me was the coaches message: We expect you to do good in everything, not just football. We expect you to be a good person, a good student, and then on top of that to be a good football player. That was a big factor for me and for my family. Laughrea, in a June 2010 interview, after committing to Boise State
Did you know? His parents didnt let him play football until eighth grade, when he tried out at wide receiver. A neighbor who had seen him throw suggested the coaches move him to quarterback.
Year: True freshman
Size: 5-foot-10, 189 pounds
Hometown: Orlando, Fla. (Dr. Phillips High)
Key attribute: Poise
Boise State experience: Graduated from high school early and joined the team in January to go through spring drills.
High school highlights: He won the 8A (largest division) Player of the Year Award in Florida as a senior and participated in the Elite 11 quarterback camp in summer 2011. He threw a school-record 66 TD passes in his career, including 23 last season, and posted a 34-4 record. He passed for 2,114 yards and rushed for 626 last season. He has played quarterback since he was 6. All he does is win, Dr. Phillips coach Rodney Wells said in January. Ever since Ive seen him as a little kid, hes been the quarterback of his team. Hes a leader. Just somebody that you can trust, is the biggest thing about Nick.
Recruiting evaluation from Scout.com (class of 2012): No. 39 QB; three stars. The states top QB on the field, Patti has a terrific mind for the game and can make every throw. Being 5-10 scared a lot of teams not Boise State, however, and it is a good example of why they are winning.
Coach Petersen says (after Spring Game): (Patti) might be the most impressive guy in the quarterback race right now just from being around such a short time and just throwing as much as we did (at him).
In his own words: (Petersen) was who I wanted to play for. Their success jumps out at you. Their program fit my career perfectly kind of the underdog guy that was looked over as too short or whatever. Patti, in a January interview
Did you know? Rich Rodriguez, who helped turn Pat White (West Virginia) and Denard Robinson (Michigan) into household names, recruited Patti for Michigan and his new school, Arizona.
NOTE: Boise State quarterbacks have not been available for interviews this year and are off-limits for fall camp, too.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat