Barring an unforeseen development between today and Aug. 31, quarterback Jared Zabransky will open the season under center for Boise State.
How long Zabransky remains there will depend on how quickly the senior can translate offseason talk into on-field performance. With three capable backups pushing for playing time, the Broncos' incumbent signal-caller will not be afforded the same long leash as last season.
Nor should he.
These Broncos don't have time to wait for Zabransky to recapture the magic of 2004, when as a first-year starter he guided BSU to a magical 11-0 regular season. They don't have the patience to sit tight through another campaign, like last year's up-and-down year. And head coach Chris Petersen can't let uneven quarterback play doom his first season.
It's time for Zabransky to deliver on the promise he showed as a sophomore. It's time to prove that's not as good as it gets for him.
And if he doesn't, the Broncos better be prepared to move on.
It sounds as if they are.
Petersen made it clear this week that Zabransky must improve if he is to keep his position. While expressing confidence that his senior quarterback is quite capable of having a good, productive season, Petersen didn't hide his disappointment in Zabransky's last year.
"We talked last year about him taking the next step there, and that didn't happen for whatever reason where we wanted him to. Did he get better? He did," Petersen said during a frank appraisal of Zabransky's situation after Monday's spring practice. "He got better on occasion, but he wasn't the consistent guy that we needed."
No one would dispute that.
Zabransky least of all.
Perhaps a little tough love is what it will take to get Zabransky performing closer to his 2004 level.
A repeat of last season just won't cut it. After a summer of hype — potential Heisman candidate? — Zabransky threw an interception on the Broncos' first play from scrimmage against Georgia.
Zabransky took the play, one of the easiest passes in the Broncos' arsenal, and made it infinitely more complicated, passing up an open receiver in hopes of making a bigger play.
Bye, Heisman. Bye, undefeated season. Bye, confidence, which never returned.
In the MPC Computers Bowl, a game in which Zabransky played well, he threw an interception on BSU's final offensive play, ending a comeback attempt. He attempted to force a pass into coverage.
It was a terrible decision, especially given the circumstances.
The bookend interceptions defined his season and gave rise to questions about his ability to handle the pressures associated with the high-profile nature of the job.
Though his numbers (59.1 percent completion percentage, 2,562 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions) weren't that far from his 2004 campaign (63.0 percent completion percentage, 2,927 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions), the high-profile nature of his mistakes — and the lack of growth in the position — magnified his shortcomings.
Zabransky is keenly aware of the perception. In fact, he shares it.
"I'm trying to re-establish myself and prove last year was a fluke," he said.
He admits that the pressure on him, from external forces and from within, made him press last year. He is working on not allowing that pressure to influence his decision-making on the field — a tough task, indeed.
"I needed to keep it simple, not overanalyze anything. There was a couple things I needed to do and I'm working on that," Zabransky said. "Whenever I press I don't play as well. I've been really concentrating on relaxing and letting my guys help me out."
It's a lesson Petersen has been preaching to him from Day One.
And they're still there. Still hoping and not quite certain that Zabransky has gotten the message. At this point, that's all Petersen can do.
Well, that and be prepared for a quarterback change.