Head in the game: Extra preparation with coaches paying off for Boise State QB Hedrick

ccripe@idahostatesman.comNovember 14, 2013 

Boise State junior Grant Hedrick has bridged the gap between belief and confidence in his nearly three full games as the Broncos’ quarterback.

Hedrick has led the Broncos to two wins and accounted for 10 touchdowns, including six in the most recent game at Colorado State.

He’s subbing for injured senior Joe Southwick, who broke his right ankle on the first offensive play Oct. 19 against Nevada but is expected to return by the end of the month.

Hedrick will make his third start — and first at home — Saturday at Bronco Stadium against Wyoming (8:21 p.m., ESPN2).

“Gaining confidence was a big thing for me,” Hedrick said Wednesday, coming off a bye week and a quick trip home that allowed him to digest all that has happened in the past month. “I knew I could play. Just actually going out and doing it really helped my confidence. And you mature with every rep you take on the field, which has helped me a lot.”

Since assuming the starting role on the second play of the Nevada game, Hedrick has completed 62-of-90 passes (68.9 percent) for 687 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions for a 150.56 rating. He has added 25 carries for 169 yards and four touchdowns.

His efficiency rating is almost identical to that of Southwick, who posted a 149.89.

“His preparation has been good all year and it’s showed in his play,” quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith said. “We’re really pleased with the way he played (against Colorado State) and felt like his command was there. He was playing with some confidence. So far, so good — we’ve just got to keep on getting better.”

Hedrick’s preparation included a new wrinkle this season — weekly, one-on-one meetings with Smith. The meetings every Thursday, after the practice week was completed, included additional work on the whiteboard, film study or an exercise during which Smith gave Hedrick a stack of dominos and asked him to demonstrate the Broncos’ plays.

Smith also held the 30-minute meetings with redshirt freshman third-stringer Nick Patti, who is now the backup.

“They can ask questions if anything comes up that they’re a little shy to ask in front of the whole group,” Smith said. “I think it’s been good. I don’t think it’s anything, rocket science, that has changed their game.”

Hedrick, though, says the meetings have had a “huge” impact on his command of the offense — the key trait that separated Southwick from his backups.

“When you know what everybody is doing, all 11 guys, you can use your voice to command and tell people where to go,” Hedrick said.

That’s important for Hedrick. Teammates describe him as “mellow,” and he admittedly needed to work on his vocal leadership going into this season.

Now he’s in charge of an offense that starts five seniors, plus a junior (wide receiver Matt Miller) who is as experienced as any player on the team.

“(Hedrick) is always going to be that same mellow guy,” senior left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “He has accepted his role. He has to be our leader right now at the quarterback position, and that’s what he’s been doing.”

Hedrick’s running ability was a known commodity. He has operated a package of run plays since the first game of his redshirt freshman season.

His passing ability, which was inconsistent in practice and rarely looked good in open scrimmages, was an in-house secret. Even Hedrick admits some surprise at how well he has thrown the ball — particularly the deep balls, which repeatedly have come down in catchable spots.

“That’s been the one throw that has stood out,” Hedrick said.

He still has significant room for improvement. His three turnovers in three games are too many, he hasn’t been aggressive enough as a runner the past two games and he has missed some open receivers, particularly on rollouts.

That’s to be expected for a guy who hadn’t played a full football game in four years until Southwick was injured.

“You just kind of find that rhythm in a game,” Hedrick said. “I’ve never felt that before since high school, so it’s nice to get three full games under my belt. Now you know what to look for.”

Said Miller, who is Hedrick’s roommate: “He’s definitely relaxed a lot more, and the game is slowing down for him. You can definitely see that. He’s making more the throws we see him make in practice.”

Hedrick also is enjoying his moment. He understands that it may not last the entire season.

“You kind of go out every day like you’re going to be the guy, like I have been forever, and just take advantage of every opportunity you have,” he said. “This is why I came here from the beginning. Like I said (earlier this season), if I never had started a game here, I still would be working as hard as I am and doing the same things I am. But it still is nice to have that cherry on top.”

The only negative? Fame.

“I don’t really like that part,” he said. “… (Students and fans) talk to me a little more. I like to be kind of incognito a little bit.”

It’s too late for that. His success this fall stamps him as the favorite to win the starting job in 2014.

“He’s got a bright future,” Smith said.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service