Boise State QB Hedrick 'an unflappable individual'

Grant Hedrick is the experienced leader with a group of young up-and-comers on the roster.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comMarch 16, 2014 

  • QUARTERBACK UPDATE

    • Tommy Stuart: The sophomore transfer from Butte College is a playmaker with a history of winning championships. He made coach Bryan Harsin chuckle last week in practice when Stuart didn't know the audible or the player's name, so he made an adjustment at the line of scrimmage by yelling "tight end, tight end." The play went for a touchdown. "We don't over-coach Tommy," Harsin said. "Just let him go out and play football. … I like the way he's operating out there. I like the way he's seeing certain things."

    • Ryan Finley: His shoulder rehab has gone well enough that he was cleared to take snaps in team situations beginning Friday. "We've basically taken the training wheels off," Harsin said. Finley tried to ease his way through fall camp last season to protect his throwing shoulder, but it wasn't enough to prevent surgery.

    • Richard Hoppe: The walk-on was added last year because of the Finley injury. He isn't a factor in the backup race.

The Boise State football team's quarterback room hasn't seen this kind of upheaval since Bryan Harsin was a freshman walk-on in 1996 and only two quarterbacks suited up for spring ball.

Emerging from the recent chaos, fittingly, is the unflappable Grant Hedrick - the unassuming coach's son from Oregon who was overlooked by most of Bronco Nation until he was pushed into action last season.

Hedrick, who played most of the final seven games and started five of them, is the clear favorite to win the starting job in Harsin's first year as the Broncos' head coach.

"It's been kind of a whirlwind, but that's kind of college football," Hedrick said. "… It's been a little crazy."

In the past 11 months:

• Reserve quarterback Jimmy Laughrea transferred to UC Davis, where he briefly was the starter but has since left the team.

• True freshman quarterback Ryan Finley arrived for fall camp in August with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery.

• Senior Joe Southwick sustained a broken ankle against Nevada in October, the first significant injury to a Broncos starting quarterback in 11 years.

• Southwick returned for a ceremonial start on Senior Day and was expected to start the Hawaii Bowl before he was sent home for violating team rules. He told KTVB he was wrongfully accused of urinating off a hotel balcony.

• Nick Patti, a former Florida player of the year and one of the most-hyped recruits in school history, left the program after the bowl. He is sitting this semester before transferring.

That leaves Hedrick as the only quarterback on the current roster who was on the team at this time last year and the only one who had taken a practice snap with the first-team offense before spring ball began Monday.

"He's really an unflappable individual," offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said. "The ups and downs of going through what he did last year, that hardened him in a good way."

Harsin and Sanford reloaded at QB with last-second commitments from off-the-radar recruits Tommy Stuart (Butte College) and Alex Ogle (Palm City, Fla.) in January. Stuart and Finley, who was cleared to take team snaps beginning Friday, will compete through the spring for position behind Hedrick. Ogle arrives in the summer.

Hedrick must set the tone for the overhauled group.

"He's a unique kind of leader in the fact that he's not a rah-rah, jump-up-and-down guy," Sanford said. "I just like the way that he works. He has a good way about him, a good demeanor."

Hedrick, who was recruited by Harsin during his stint as offensive coordinator, lists leadership as No. 2 on his list of spring priorities.

"I need to be a big leader for this team," he said.

No. 1 on his list: Protect the football.

Hedrick accounted for 2,102 yards and 22 TDs in roughly seven games last season - an average of 300 yards and more than three touchdowns per game.

But he also tossed five interceptions and lost four fumbles - an average of 1.3 turnovers per game. Most notably, he threw a pick-six in the fourth quarter of the loss at San Diego State (in fairness, the receiver slipped) and allowed a 3-yard fumble-return touchdown in the bowl loss to Oregon State.

Oregon State also scored on a fumble by wide receiver Troy Ware in a 38-23 victory.

"Turnovers are a big deal," Hedrick said, "especially that last game. If we don't turn it over those few times, it's a whole different ballgame.

"… It kind of makes you hungry. We were so close to having that game go in a different direction. We've kind of got to forget about that, but it does motivate you in the offseason."

Harsin and Sanford say they like Hedrick's tools: strong, accurate arm; solid mechanics; explosive running ability. His challenge this spring is to learn the new offensive scheme and refine his playmaking.

"I want to see him execute," Harsin said. "… You start to hear him coach himself back to you, basically - as a senior quarterback, that's where you get to be. 'I saw this, I saw that, so I checked it down.' He's not there yet, but that's really what you hope to come out of spring with."

Coaches were hesitant to use Hedrick's running ability last season because of injury concerns.

Harsin has no such qualms, which increases Hedrick's value.

"That's part of who we are - we utilize our quarterback in different ways," Harsin said. "One thing about Grant: Grant's a tough guy."

And fast.

Just ask Nevada, which surrendered 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Hedrick in his first extended action last season.

Or his teammates, who say Hedrick could be the fastest player on the team in pads.

"He's a great leader. He brings a lot of energy," junior tailback Jack Fields said. "And he's just a playmaker. Throwing the ball, he's got great touch. He's got a great arm. And everybody knows when he tucks it, that's six (points).

"He's positive, and everybody gravitates toward him."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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