The first-ever early signing period for football recruits couldn’t have worked better for Boise State, minus one glaring omission — a high school quarterback.
Between Dec. 20 and 22, the Broncos signed 20 players, including junior college quarterback Jaylon Henderson. But when high school prospect Zach Wilson, committed since June, opted to pursue other options Dec. 13, Boise State was forced to start all over again.
“A lot of schools got their quarterbacks signed, so it’s left some of the teams out of that top tier like Boise State having to scramble a bit,” said Brandon Huffman, the national college football recruiting editor for 247Sports.com. “Guys have signed, so they can’t flip them from other schools, but the positive is it’s crystal clear who exactly is available.”
Huffman said because of the new rules, the talent pool is thinner than usual in January with most top passers locked up, but that allows the Broncos to maybe find a player who didn’t truly blossom until his senior season.
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“Those guys are getting a lot of attention because the schools that need a quarterback have a shallower pool to pick from, and they can focus a lot of energy there if most of their class is already signed,” Huffman said.
Boise State’s efforts for Feb. 7’s signing day seem to be focused on two quarterbacks: Brock Purdy and Riley Smith. Both are visiting in the coming weeks, and both have some ties to Boise despite coming from Arizona and Florida, respectively.
A 6-foot-1, 195-pounder from Perry High (Gilbert, Ariz.), Purdy led Arizona’s big-school classification with 4,405 yards passing (completing 65.1 percent) with 57 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He also rushed for 1,017 yards and nine more scores.
“I didn’t have many options as that first signing day came, so I wanted to wait, and it’s been a pretty good decision,” Purdy said. “When some schools didn’t get the guy they wanted, that opened a lot of doors for me.”
Purdy was offered by Boise State on Dec. 18. Kansas, UCF, Iowa State and Colorado State since have followed suit. He also has a walk-on offer from Alabama.
“The fact he’s 6-foot or so is the reason he wasn’t a bigger recruit,” Huffman said. “He was outstanding on the camp circuit, had a huge senior year. He should’ve been recruited more. He just seems like the type of player Boise State gets and makes other schools regret it.”
Plus, Purdy has a bit of a Boise tie, as his father, Shawn, pitched for the Boise Hawks in 1991 and 1993. The family will visit Boise State this weekend, followed by UCF the next weekend and Alabama the week after. But those other visits may not happen if he is wowed by the Broncos.
“My dad loved it when he played there, and with it being so much bigger now, and everyone glorifying football like they do, I’m sure it’ll be fun,” Purdy said. “They’ve always had a winning culture, too. I wanted it to be my first visit.”
One attribute Smith clearly has is patience. A 6-foot-5, 210-pound prospect from Bartram Trail High (Jacksonville, Fla.), Smith split series evenly throughout high school with Auburn signee Joey Gatewood. He also was confident his recruiting would pick up if he waited.
“It’s started blowing up,” Smith said with a laugh. “At first, I struggled with it a bit, but it’s been coming in handy lately.”
Smith was offered by Boise State on Jan. 4 and plans to visit next weekend. He will take an official visit to Rice this weekend and, like Purdy, check out Alabama the last weekend of January. Western Kentucky, Tulane and Ivy League schools have offered.
As a senior, Smith threw for 1,495 yards (63.9 completion percentage) with 18 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He ran for 633 yards, something he said Gatewood played a big role in, as he helped the athletic Auburn signee with his pocket presence and Gatewood aided Smith’s mobility.
“He’s a really intriguing recruit,” Huffman said. “He split series with Gatewood throughout high school, there’s unselfishness there, and he may have been overlooked because of Gatewood, but people are figuring out why he saw just as many plays.”
Smith’s father spent most of his childhood in Boise, so there is some familiarity despite being on the other side of the country. He knows he’s in a unique spot with Purdy visiting first, and the first to commit will be the guy.
“If I love it, I could make the decision then and there,” Smith said. “Everything about Boise appeals to me. I want to go where I’m wanted, so to have an offer, those are the places I’m focused on.”