Vying for the upper hand, gunning to maintain the No. 1 spot, it’s nothing new for Boise State quarterbacks Brett Rypien and Ryan Finley.
“We’re really good friends. We do a lot together. We go golfing together, always playing pool together, just always competing,” said Rypien, a sophomore.
“You name it, anything, shuffleboard, it doesn’t matter,” added Finley, a junior. “If it’s scored, then we compete at it.”
On the practice field, they’re after the same thing: the starting job.
Coach Bryan Harsin said before spring practices began that Rypien remains the starter, but Finley will get his opportunities after yielding the job to Rypien when he broke his ankle in the third game last season.
“Brett’s handling it great. So is Finley,” quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Zak Hill said. “They’re both battling, having a good time with it. ... Everybody wants reps — I want reps — but obviously you’ve got to do a good job on the sideline getting mental reps.”
For Finley, it could be an awkward situation, losing the starting job to a younger player, then returning from injury and being the backup again. After Rypien threw for 3,353 yards and 20 touchdowns to eight interceptions in 11 games, Finley said he gave no thought to finding another place to play.
“It’s about the unit. It’s about making each other better,” Finley said. “I love Boise State. This is where I want to be.”
Rypien said once he took over as the starter, and while Finley was rehabbing his injury, “he was really helpful to me” in the film room, on the practice field and after games.
“It wasn’t easy for me, but it helped, I think, that Brett and I are so close. We’re such good friends off the field,” Finley said. “I was very happy for Brett and how he was playing, and I was focused on getting back at the same time.”
Two weeks into spring practices, the pecking order hasn’t changed, with Rypien often getting the first snaps, working with the No. 1 offense. But Harsin said he’s making it a point to mix Rypien, Finley and junior Tommy Stuart with different combinations on the offensive line or at the skill positions to give them all slightly new things to work on.
“It’s exactly how they described it. They’re not worried about who is going with the first team or the second team that day. They’re just out there competing, trying to get better as a player. ... They’re doing a great job,” junior tight end Jake Roh said.
As Rypien and Finley push one another, both are focusing on improving different aspects of their games.
For Rypien, he’s working on mechanical issues he noticed while reviewing his games from last season.
“My big focus this spring is being more accurate with my deep ball, getting on the same page with all our guys, making sure if a guy comes in he knows what he’s doing so we don’t have any issues if a guy gets hurt,” he said.
For Finley, who completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 485 yards with one touchdown to four interceptions, it’s “just being more decisive. Looking back, I think you can always prepare better, could’ve got more prepared for the looks I was going to see. Thinking about that BYU game (where he threw three interceptions), some costly turnovers, just the importance of taking care of the ball.”
Even if the depth chart holds with Rypien the starter and Finley behind him, the Broncos feel the competition will improve both, along with Stuart, the most mobile of the group, who Harsin said “had his best offseason.”
Having not one, but likely three quarterbacks the team feels comfortable trotting out onto the field, will give Boise State plenty of options in the fall.
“We want to push and see where we can go,” Harsin said.
Broncos on a break
▪ Boise State has had six spring practices and is off this week for spring break.
▪ Spring camp resumes March 29.
▪ Open scrimmages at Albertsons Stadium are scheduled for 5 p.m. on April 2 and April 9, the latter being the annual Spring Game.