Boise State football fans will get three chances to examine senior quarterback Joe Southwick's offseason progress - the Spring Game on Saturday, the fall scrimmage in August and the season opener Aug. 31 at Washington.
Only one of them truly will show what he's learned.
"For Joe, we'll have to see how he plays," coach Chris Petersen said Wednesday, as spring ball winds down. "I think he's playing at a high level in practice, but it's practice - there's no do-overs when we play. But he's been around here a long time and he gets the concept of practice, that it may not be perfect, but it has to be at a really, really high level for that to carry over on game day. And I think there's been progress made there."
Southwick has carried the momentum of his strong finish to last season through the spring, quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith said. Southwick completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 888 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception in the final four games. He also rushed for career highs in each of the last two.
"You can see his command out there," Smith said. "I think he is playing with even more confidence and so that's been a really good thing. We're going to lean on him heavy. He's a senior and a returning starter at the most critical position. I think he's grabbed onto that and run with it."
Teammates say they see more confidence and a higher comfort level from Southwick.
That has translated to some solid performances by the offense in practice, including outperforming the defense in the first spring scrimmage.
"Being a returning starter at your position, especially the quarterback position, gives you more confidence," Southwick said. "The guys respond a little different. It's been really positive. I'm really pleased with where we're at."
It helps that Southwick is surrounded by most of the same people as last year. After playing for three coordinators and three quarterbacks coaches in three years, he has a second-year coordinator (Robert Prince) and a second-year quarterbacks coach (Smith). Four of the top five rushers and six of the top eight receivers return, too, as do the center and left tackle.
"The second year, you'd like to think you make that biggest jump of improvement," said Smith. "And we're hoping that pans out in the fall."
SPRING GAME FORMAT
The Spring Game will include four 8-minute quarters. The offense scores on touchdowns (six points), field goals (three) and PATs (one). The defense scores on TDs (six), turnovers (three), fourth-down stops (three), sacks (two) and red-zone stops (one). The quarterbacks will wear no-contact, red jerseys.
The winning side gets teriyaki bowls for dinner and use of the team showers. The losing side gets neither.
"I'm nervous right now talking about it, a good nervous, excited, the butterflies going," sophomore safety Dillon Lukehart said. "I'm kind of antsy and ready to go play."
The Spring Game begins at 5 p.m. at Bronco Stadium. Admission is $9. KBOI will broadcast live beginning at 3 p.m., and KKGL beginning at 4 p.m.
Gates open at 4 p.m. Parking in the west stadium lot is reserved. It's free in other lots, including the east stadium lot, beginning at 3 p.m.
GRASS PRACTICE FIELDS
A Boise State athletics donor contributed $300,000 to allow for the school's intramural field outside the Student Union Building to be rebuilt, said Bob Carney, associate athletic director for facilities and operations. Construction is under way. The football team will be the first to use the new field, for fall camp in August. The team also can use it in preparation for road games on grass fields, but otherwise it will be used by the campus recreation department and student-activity groups.
The old field, which the Broncos used for fall camp last year, had poor soil and was not able to withstand heavy use, Carney said.
The school is in the planning stages, Carney said, to build another grass field adjacent to the intramural field, between Bronco Circle and University Drive. A couple buildings would be demolished to make room. The plan is for the new field to be ready for fall camp in 2014, but the project still requires State Board of Education approval. The new field, a cooperative effort between athletics and the university, would be football-first but also available to campus recreation.
The football team has traveled all over the campus area for fall camp since losing its grass field north of Bronco Stadium when the Caven-Williams Sports Complex was built in 2005. The Broncos have held camp at the soccer complex and at East Junior High, before it was transformed into Dona Larsen Park.
The Spring Game is part of a busy day at Boise State. Here's the schedule of other events:
Beat Coach Pete Scholarship Run/Walk, 9:30 a.m. (a runner's bib gets you into the Spring Game for free)
Car show, 9:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m.
Craft fair, 9:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.
Optimist Youth Football Signups, 12:30-4:30 p.m.
Social media scavenger hunt, all day
"It's a good day," Petersen said. "A lot of activity. It goes very fast. It seems like we get a lot of work done, starting with the run in the morning and then a lot of activities on campus. We have recruits on campus. And then we get a chance to do the Spring Game. The best thing about the Spring Game is just having people in this stadium. It definitely changes things for the players. They haven't had that all spring, so to get some different energy in the stadium - performance anxiety goes way up. (That) changes everything."
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat