Quarterback Ryan Finley and wide receiver Rick Smith — the two Boise State players whose availability has been much debated this offseason — will enter the 2015 season eligible to play, coach Bryan Harsin said Wednesday.
Finley, the sophomore front-runner for the starting job, hasn’t been suspended and Harsin doesn’t expect to deliver any further discipline as the quarterback’s misdemeanor case works through the court system.
Smith, the junior transfer from Arizona State, rejoined the team this summer after leaving for the spring semester. He was injured in a locker room fight with a teammate. Smith should be cleared for contact by mid-August and has received a medical absence waiver from the Mountain West to remain eligible, Harsin said.
Both players could serve key roles for an offense that lacks experience at quarterback and proven depth at wide receiver.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman
Finley will open fall camp Aug. 6 well ahead of sophomore Tommy Stuart. True freshman Brett Rypien and redshirt freshman Alex Ogle were jockeying for the No. 3 spot when spring ball ended.
Finley was the backup last year and is the only candidate who has played in a game for the Broncos.
“It was a big gap in spring,” Harsin said. “Ryan’s played. Ryan has the most experience. Ryan understands what we’re doing better than the other guys. ... I think that gap has closed. I hope that gap has closed. It should have closed.”
Finley’s status for the Sept. 4 opener against Washington had been a mystery since April 25. He was arrested early that morning on charges of minor in consumption of alcohol and resisting arrest. His pretrial conference has been delayed twice to Sept. 28.
Unless new information surfaces, Harsin has dealt with the issue.
“I know the story,” he said. “That’s the one thing about my position — you’ve got to make difficult decisions based off the information you’ve got, based on the person, the player, and how you feel about it.”
According to the Boise Police arrest report, Finley ran when officers approached a vehicle in which he was riding. He was found crouched in a nearby back yard.
“We don’t want any of that,” Harsin said. “It’s disappointing. ... I feel comfortable with what he’s done with what I’ve asked him to do, with how he’s responded. I can’t ask him to do any more than what he’s done and I’m proud of him. ... When guys make up for their mistakes, and I believe he’s done that from our standpoint, then we’re good.”
Senior safety Darian Thompson said Finley has improved on and off the field since the incident.
“I definitely see an improvement in him,” he said. “I feel as if he’s become more confident taking snaps and running the offense. He’s making better decisions now. That just comes with experience and snaps. Obviously he had a little mess-up, but that’s something that probably in the long run will work out for the best because it humbles him and lets him understand to be a leader you have to make sacrifices. He’s bounced back fine.”
Smith, meanwhile, rejoined the locker room where he was injured in February. The Idaho Statesman has reported that tailback Jack Fields, a senior on the team, was the second participant in the fight. The second participant hasn’t been suspended, Harsin said.
“It’s something we now look past and we don’t have to bring up,” Thompson said. “Some things that happen on a team everybody understands and knows are wrong. There’s no need to bring it back up and talk about it again.”
Harsin declined to provide any specifics of the incident involving Smith or his injuries. He did say the media report that indicated Smith would be out of athletic activities deep into the fall and need speech therapy was “inaccurate.”
“That’s one of our team issues — we don’t talk about those things,” Harsin said. “I can say this: We’re happy that Rick’s back.”