Boise State Football

Murphy: Battling QBs need to focus on selves, not derby hype

More than 20 years ago, Chris Petersen found himself involved in a quarterback derby, a fall battle to determine the starter at Sacramento (Calif.) City College.

Unlike this fall, when Petersen will make a decision on who will quarterback his Boise State team, Petersen had no power to choose a winner.

He was simply a player.

A player wasting his time on unimportant things.

"In my mind, I'm better than him, which is the case with every guy that plays," Petersen said. "It may or may not have been true. But I put all my focus on the wrong things - paying attention to the other guys, paying attention to what the coaches were saying - instead of being the best I could be."

Petersen went on to play some quarterback at Sac City.

But he took away something far more important: a lesson he's tried to impart on his players throughout a long coaching career.

Worry about yourself and things will take care of themselves. That's what he did at UC-Davis, where he again faced competition for the starting position. Once he let go of the external distractions and focused on getting better, Petersen said, he felt liberated and practice became more fun.

"There are not a lot of things I totally have ingrained in my brain from 20 years ago, but that's one of them," Petersen said.

It's a lesson that could come in handy again this fall, as four quarterbacks battle for the Broncos' starting job. Senior Bush Hamdan and freshman Kellen Moore are the leading contenders with junior Nick Lomax and sophomore Mike Coughlin also contending to replace Taylor Tharp.

Practice begins Monday.

Soon we'll be one step closer to an answer to the question that has dogged the program since the moment the Hawaii Bowl ended: Who is going to be the quarterback?

I can't go anywhere without that question eventually coming up.

Just imagine how Petersen feels. Or offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. Or, even worse, Hamdan and Moore.

Nothing stimulates debate like a great quarterback controversy and, for the second consecutive training camp, the Broncos begin fall practice without an incumbent or even a front-runner. It worked out pretty well for Boise State last season, with senior Taylor Tharp emerging in fall practice and putting together a fine year.

Harsin faced his own quarterback competitions, fighting for the position in 1997, 1998 and 1999 at Boise State. He never did earn the starting spot.

He, too, knows what Hamdan and Moore, in particular, will be going through this fall.

"You can feel the sense of urgency the coaches have. You can feel the sense of urgency from the media. Those are things that we talk about and they've got to deal with," Harsin said. "That's all part of it when you're competing at that spot."

There is not the same sense of urgency about right tackle or cornerback. Put it this way, not one person has asked me who will be starting opposite Kyle Wilson when the Broncos begin play on Aug. 30 against Idaho State.

Hamdan, who was involved in last year's derby, has more experience with that urgency than Moore, the talented freshman who has been undaunted thus far.

Hamdan was the leader entering fall camp but a hand injury and Tharp's emergence made him a backup. And after falling to fourth on the depth chart during the season, Hamdan worked his way back to No. 2 at season's end and into a dead heat for the starter's job entering fall.

Perhaps he learned the lesson the same way Petersen did 20 years ago - through experience.

"It's kind of a hard concept to grasp and understand and internalize until you've been through that. It's all about you and what you can do," Petersen said. "If you spend your time working and being the best you can be, even if it doesn't work out, you can hold your head high."

The player who can best follow that advice will have taken a big step toward being the Broncos' next starting quarterback.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444