Its impossible to know what will happen when the Joe Southwick era begins Friday night at Spartan Stadium.
You cant simulate the pressure, joy, and adrenaline that will flow through Southwick as he leads the No. 24 Broncos against the No. 13 Michigan State Spartans and their quarterback-crushing defense.
Its far easier to know what kind of person will be inside that No. 16 uniform.
Competitive. Calm. Confident. Enthusiastic. Smart. Those are the words people use to describe Southwick.
They are the words you want to hear about your quarterback.
I dont think the stage is going to be too big, Boise State offensive coordinator Robert Prince said. Hes ready for it. Hes got his teammates back, and theyre going to play for him.
Said Dave Kravitz, Southwicks coach at San Ramon Valley High in Danville, Calif.: Hes been waiting for this moment.
For how long?
It was Oct. 29, 2010, when Boise State announced it would open the 2012 season in East Lansing. Wide receiver Kirby Moore, who roomed with Southwick the past three years, was with the quarterback that day. Both are redshirt juniors now.
He was really excited, Moore said, because he knew that could be an opportunity for when he became the starting quarterback.
Southwick replaces Kellen Moore, the four-year starter who posted a 50-3 record, set the NCAA record for career wins and became the schools first Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010. He studied under Moore the past three years a strong relationship that helped Southwick learn the value of preparation and patience.
He put in the time and effort through the last few years, Kellen Moore said. Hes earned it. Im really excited for him to have that opportunity. Hes just going to be smooth. Just operate.
HES A PERFECTIONIST
Southwick (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) will have to do more than just start a game for the Broncos to become the most accomplished athlete in his family.
His dad, Jeff, is a tennis pro at Orinda (Calif.) Country Club and a former Division II All-American player. His mom, Mitzi, was a standout softball player in high school. His sister, Aubree, was a three-time all-conference goalkeeper on the San Diego State soccer team. And his maternal grandfather, Gerry Gatzert, played in the 1952 mens basketball Final Four for Santa Clara.
Its no wonder that the first quality nearly everyone mentions about Southwick is his fiercely competitive nature.
Hes a perfectionist, Jeff said. Some people think he gets mad at other people, but hes mad at himself if things dont go right.
Southwick is so competitive that coach Chris Petersen called it one of his strengths and one of his weaknesses. Petersen demands and fosters that quality in his players and yet theres at least some concern that Southwick carries too much fire onto the field.
He will wear his emotions on his sleeve more so than maybe some of the other quarterbacks that weve had here, Petersen said. So I think its important as he grows to continually possess that calm demeanor with that competitive fire so the rest of his teammates can feed off that.
Said Prince: We dont want him to lose his edge. There is a line. If he crosses it, well let him know.
Kravitz, who watched Southwick start for the San Ramon Valley freshman, JV and varsity (two years) teams, doesnt expect that conversation to happen often, if at all.
Southwick was advanced enough in his skills that Kravitz spent time coaching him on the less tangible aspects of the position, too.
(Southwick) is demanding of himself, Kravitz said. He was demanding of his teammates as well. And thats part of the maturation process from a high school coachs standpoint with a quarterback is to teach them where that line is, because you dont want to go too far. He picked up on those cues right away, and it paid off for us.
THE MENTAL EDGE
Southwick began playing football in fifth grade. He was a running back and defensive end for a year before moving to quarterback.
He also played baseball and basketball.
People asked me what he does best and Id say, Hit a baseball, Jeff said. But it became boring.
The diamond and its three at-bats per game couldnt compete with the gridiron and its electricity. Southwick worked with former California head coach Roger Theder, a Bay Area quarterback guru, throughout high school and attracted interest from the ACC, Big East and Pac-12.
Having success early in high school at the position, I think your competitive nature says I want to keep doing this, Southwick said. I played a lot of sports at the time. There was probably a bigger thrill playing quarterback.
He excelled on the freshman and junior varsity teams and, like college, knew that his junior year would be his chance to win the starting job. He went head to head with a senior, the varsity backup from the previous season, and beat him.
Southwick threw for 3,781 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior. He led San Ramon Valley to the section title in 2007 and the semifinals in 2008.
Hes like a Fran Tarkenton, Kravitz said, referencing the Vikings great who was legendary for his scrambling ability.
Kravitz often sent Southwick to the huddle with two plays and let him choose. About 90 percent of the time, Kravitz said, he was right.
The mental aspect of the game for Joe is what made him special, Kravitz said.
That trait followed Southwick to Boise State, where in the shadows he learned the details of the Broncos complex offense. He has completed 74 percent of his career passes (40-of-54), a sign of his comprehension.
The Broncos will have the full playbook at their disposal this season.
There are plays weve gone back to the archive and looked at and Joes been familiar with them, Prince said. With him knowing those plays, when we put in new stuff its not such a burden.
A LEADER EMERGES
Teammates have seen the high school star Kravitz describes since the Broncos regrouped in January.
Southwick said in December that he planned to lead this team through the transition forced by the loss of six NFL Draft picks and Kellen Moore and to embrace the resulting underdog role.
Hes definitely become more of a leader on the team, said senior left guard Joe Kellogg, who lives with Southwick, and thats definitely shown since January.
Southwick plays and leads with a different style than Moore. He shows more personality, plays with more swagger, uses his voice more.
Hes going to let you know when you do something good in the huddle, wide receiver Matt Miller said. Hes very demanding and takes control of the huddle. Kellen did the same thing. He was just a little more subtle about it.
Southwick also adds a wrinkle that was missing from Moores playbook: mobility.
That, like his competitiveness, is a touchy subject. Coaches want Southwick to scramble, but not too soon. They want him to gash defenses with his feet, but not take a beating.
Hes relying on his teammates a little more and not on his feet, Prince said. Joes a little more mobile than the guy we had last year, and well try to take advantage of that. Weve just got to be smart with him.
Southwicks success will hinge on his ability to make those decisions amid chaos. On his ability to control his emotions under pressure. On his ability to use the physical tools that made him a three-sport star in a precise fashion.
Hes got his moment. The question is whether hell seize it. Those who know him think he will.
Hes just become more confident on the field, Kirby Moore said. He knows what hes seeing. Theres no second-guessing and hes putting the ball on the money.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,