Boise State Football

As the QB derby begins at Boise State, history points toward a likely starter

As much chatter as the Boise State football quarterback competitions create, they rarely lead to much drama.

For two decades, the guy you thought was going to win the job going into fall camp won the job — except once. That was redshirt freshman Kellen Moore, who overtook senior Bush Hamdan in 2008 and became the winningest quarterback in college football history.

So while the Broncos technically opened fall camp Friday with five scholarship quarterbacks fighting for the chance to start Aug. 31 against Florida State, history says sophomore Chase Cord is the favorite if his body holds up.

Cord was the backup last season until he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in an October practice. He practiced for the first time since then Friday morning, sporting a brace on his right knee. And he looked comfortable, changing direction in drills and firing on-target passes.

“He’s very humble, but yet he has a little bit of that presence about him where he’s confident but in control,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Zak Hill said. “So the guys kind of look to him and feel comfortable with him. ... He’s got a great vibe about him.”

Cord will be eased into camp with limits on how many reps he gets, but he certainly appeared ready to compete. The other two quarterbacks practicing with the veterans were senior Jaylon Henderson, a junior college transfer who joined the program last year, and true freshman Hank Bachmeier, who arrived in January.

Redshirt freshman Riley Smith and true freshman Kaiden Bennett, another January arrival, worked out with the newcomers and select veterans Friday afternoon.

Each of the quarterbacks will get an opportunity to prove himself, coach Bryan Harsin said. That window might not open more than a crack, though. Harsin made that point with the quarterbacks coming out of spring ball.

“You’re going to get your shot, so you need to make your summer count,” he told them. “How long that shot lasts, that’s really up to you.”

The first five days of fall camp — four days of practice and one day off — will be critical for those quarterbacks. The team is split into two groups for those days, which means double the reps available to the quarterbacks.

Once the team comes together and the full pads go on Wednesday, the practice time is going to focus more on the leading contenders. That honing will intensify after the first scrimmage (Aug. 10), Harsin said.

The second scrimmage is Aug. 16, and Harsin expects to name a starter not long after that. He estimated the starter would be identified about 10 days before the opener.

“It’d be nice if somebody just separates (himself),” Harsin said. “It doesn’t usually work like that. I remember that, too, with Kellen and Bush. ... That was a tough one.”

Cord showed playmaking potential as a runner in limited action last season, with 109 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. But he also can throw the ball — he set an Arizona record with 137 career touchdown passes in high school.

He also has the benefit of spending two seasons learning from Brett Rypien, the former four-year starter now in the NFL with the Denver Broncos.

“(Cord) is pretty accurate,” Hill said. “He’s got the ability to make plays and extend plays. He’s done a good job preparing and understanding what we’re trying to do as an offense on each play. Having Brett as a mentor was huge. Brett prepares like no other I’ve seen. Chase followed him on a day-to-day basis, went and watched film with him. He really ate up a lot of that Brett Rypien stuff, which is going to be really beneficial for him in the long run.”

Henderson, whose career includes stops at UTSA and Trinity Valley Community College, replaced Cord as the backup last season and led the first-team offense in the Spring Game. He has improved greatly since he arrived.

Bachmeier is one of the most highly touted recruits in Boise State history, and his presence with the veterans Friday was a sign of the respect he’s already earned. He was rated as high as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback recruit in the nation with 13,150 career passing yards and 156 touchdowns.

Bachmeier’s quick understanding of the offense impressed Hill, who also noted an unusual study technique. Bachmeier had a “girl back home” who would quiz him on the phone, Hill said.

“You can see the urgency was there,” Hill said.

Bennett was a statistical marvel in high school (60 passing TDs as a senior) — and Harsin noted his summer progress. Smith’s work ethic also has been noticed. They’ll need to turn it on quickly to contend for the starting job.

One of the keys in August, Hill said, will be how each quarterback handles the inevitable adversity.

“They all understand — every single one of them has a ways to go in their development,” Hill said. “... Nobody is ready to be that starting quarterback yet.”

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