Bronco Beat

QB race will dominate spring for loaded Boise State football team

Sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley, the backup last year and the only Bronco with major college experience, will open spring ball with the first-team offense Monday, coach Bryan Harsin said Friday.

That’s a nod to Finley’s experience, not his status in the quarterback race that will dominate the spring story lines.

Any assumptions about a front-runner, offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz said, are just that – assumptions.

“It’s what they do starting Monday that sets the tone,” Drinkwitz said. “... They all have the talent to be here.”

The quarterbacks are Finley, redshirt sophomore Tommy Stuart, redshirt freshman Alex Ogle, redshirt freshman walk-on Anthony Upshaw and prized recruit Brett Rypien. Only Finley has been on campus for more than 14 months.

Rypien, who arrived in January, is the subject of huge hype and expectations from the fan base. Harsin tried to temper those Friday.

“He does have a lot of hype from the outside, which he earned from his stats and the way he played,” Harsin said. “Now here’s a guy who’s in the building at 7:30 in the morning and he’s preparing. ... Is he mentally ready? I don’t know. Is he physically ready? I don’t know. I wouldn’t expect him to come out and operate our system like he’s known it for years on the 9th. ... You have to keep in mind that he’s a senior in high school right now. He’s coming into a group of guys who have played together, have played well, have had success, and he’s at one of the most high-profile positions there is. For us and him, keep it in perspective. You have to compete, you have to earn it and you have to take advantage of your reps.”

Drinkwitz’s message to the quarterbacks:

“Never settle for second while first is still out there.”

The coaches have developed a plan to split snaps for the first three days. All of the quarterbacks will get a chance to run the first or second team, coaches say.

Drinkwitz doesn’t expect to have trouble identifying the starter.

“It will be pretty obvious,” he said. “Somebody is going to step up.”

Other highlights (videos to come):

– Junior Tanner Vallejo will focus on middle linebacker this year. He played nickel most of last season because of depth issues in the secondary. He was the defensive MVP of the Mountain West championship game and Fiesta Bowl. “Hopefully we can just focus on him at linebacker at that (middle) position,” Harsin said.

– Senior cornerback Mercy Maston and sophomore safety Kam Miles will compete at nickel.

– Sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols will be limited for the first half of spring ball because of hernia surgery.

– Sophomore Dylan Sumner-Gardner, last year’s hyped early arrival, will open the spring with the first team at safety alongside Darian Thompson.

– Defensive back Zavior Hoxie, a scholarship recruit in the 2014 class, is no longer with the team.

– This was testing week for the Broncos’ winter conditioning. Players hit a cymbal each time they set personal bests. “It’s been loud throughout the building the whole week,” Harsin said.

– The Broncos will hold two closed scrimmages in addition to the Spring Game. One scrimmage is before spring break; the other is after spring break.

– On offense, the Broncos hope to improve their tempo this spring. “We’d like to be faster at executing our offense,” Harsin said.

– On defense, forcing turnovers and red-zone stops will be emphasized. On special teams, kickoff return is the focus.

– Harsin on starting over in 2015 despite returning 18 of 24 starters: “You look at (last year’s success) and learn from it but move on. That’s really what the ninth represents for us – we’re moving on. ... The one humbling thing that we can always show is the film. We won games but we didn’t win them as well as we would have liked.”

– Harsin’s role won’t change with Drinkwitz coaching QBs for the first time at the college level. “I’ll be as involved as I’ve always been with the quarterbacks,” Harsin said. “That’s the position I gravitate toward. I’m in the meetings. I’ve run meetings. This will be no different. At the same time, coach Drinkwitz is our quarterback coach.”

– Harsin took note of what Ohio State was able to do at quarterback, developing three stars on the same roster. “We’d like to have that type of competition,” he said.

– Harsin learned some of what Finley is about during his relief appearance against Air Force and in how he handled himself as Grant Hedrick retained the starting job. “He’s into it. He’s smart, he’s bright and he’s very competitive,” Harsin said. “He did what any great backup would do – he kept preparing.”

– Harsin on the tailbacks: “We’re going to have to build that group back up. I don’t know if coming out of spring we’re going to have this great answer.”

– Defensive tackle Tyler Horn is expected to play tackle primarily but line up on the outside in certain situations. He is a former end.

– Wide receiver Rick Smith remains the roster but won’t be with the team for spring ball. He reportedly was injured in a locker room fight. “We’ve dealt with it internally and we’re moving on,” Harsin said.

– Drinkwitz on the coordinator transition: “The DNA of this offense hasn’t changed because its the DNA of our head coach.”

– Drinkwitz on his new role: “I had a moment yesterday when I was talking to the staff of, ‘Wow, I’m really the offensive coordinator here at Boise State.’ You shake your head and you’re kind of in shock that you’re actually doing that. It was a cool moment.”

– Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates will emphasize discipline this spring. “I thought we gave up too many big plays,” he said. “I thought we played hard. At times, we played smart. But to me we just need to stop so many big plays. It was either great defense or really bad defense.”

– The Broncos’ goal is to rank No. 1 in the Mountain West in defense. They finished fourth in total defense and fifth in scoring defense. Yates also wants to hold opponents to fewer than 20 points per game. The average last year was 26.8. “Our No. 1 goal is to be the best defense in our conference and we weren’t there,” Yates said. “These guys know that. They have that chip on their shoulder. They know we’re a better defense than we played as a whole last year.”

• • • 

Returning starters

Offense (9): WR Shane Williams-Rhodes (sr.), WR Thomas Sperbeck (jr.), WR Chaz Anderson (jr.), TE Jake Roh (so.), LT Rees Odhiambo (sr.), LG Travis Averill (jr.), C Marcus Henry (sr.), RG Mario Yakoo (jr.), RT Steven Baggett (jr.)

Defense (8): DE Kamalei Correa (jr.), DT Sam McCaskill (jr.), DT Armand Nance (sr.), LB Tanner Vallejo (jr.), LB Ben Weaver (jr.), CB Donte Deayon (sr.), CB Jonathan Moxey (jr.), S Darian Thompson (sr.)

Specialists (1): P Sean Wale (jr.); also, long snapper Kevin Keane (sr.)

Lost starters

Offense (2): QB Grant Hedrick, RB Jay Ajayi

Defense (3): DE Beau Martin, LB Blake Renaud, S Corey Bell

Specialists (1): K Dan Goodale

Returning statistical leaders

Passing: Ryan Finley 12-for-27, 161 yds., 2 TDs, 1 int., 111.57 rating

Rushing: Shane Williams-Rhodes 15 att., 179 yds., 0 TDs; Devan Demas 25 att., 173 yds., 2 TDs; Jeremy McNichols 17 att., 159 yds., 1 TD

Receiving: Williams-Rhodes 68 rec., 585 yds., 7 TDs; Thomas Sperbeck 51 rec., 877 yds., 3 TDs; Jake Roh 35 rec., 408 yds., 2 TDs; Chaz Anderson 21 rec., 456 yds., 2 TDs

Tackles: Tanner Vallejo 100, Darian Thompson 71, Ben Weaver 62, Tyler Gray 61, Kamalei Correa 59

Sacks: Correa 12, Gabe Perez 3.5, Elliot Hoyte 3.5, Vallejo 3

Tackles for loss: Correa 19, Vallejo 16.5, Perez 7.5

Interceptions: Thompson 7, Deayon 6

• • • 



3 Tommy Stuart, 5-11, 193, R-So.

15 Ryan Finley, 6-4, 190, R-So.

18 Alex Ogle, 6-3, 203, R-Fr.

16 Anthony Upshaw, 5-11, 187, R-Fr.

11 Brett Rypien, 6-2, 185, Fr.


21 Jack Fields, 5-9, 203, Sr.

26 Devan Demas, 5-8, 174, R-Jr.

35 Charles Bertoli, 5-11, 200, R-Jr.

37 Ryan Wolpin, 5-8, 194, R-So.

13 Jeremy McNichols, 5-9, 195, So.

31 Skyler Seibold, 6-1, 185, R-Fr.

10 Cory Young, 5-10, 185, R-Fr.


Raymond Sheard, 6-1, 200, Fr.


20 Terrell Johnson, 5-9, 174, R-Sr.

14 Troy Ware, 6-2, 183, R-Sr.

1 Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 158, Sr.

29 Rick Smith, 5-9, 174, R-Jr.

19 Taylor Pope, 6-0, 178, R-Jr.

6 Chaz Anderson, 5-10, 182, R-Jr.

82 Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 173, Jr.

Brock Barr, 6-3, 195, Jr.

80 D.J. Dean, 6-1, 195, R-So.

83 Tanner Shipley, 6-1, 181, R-So.

39 David McKinzie, 6-0, 166, R-So.

24 Dusty Fisher, 6-2, 179, R-So.

28 A.J. Richardson, 6-0, 199, R-Fr.

8 Sean Modster, 5-11, 189, R-Fr.


Akilian Butler, 5-10, 180, Fr.

Bryan Jefferson, 6-1, 190, Fr.


84 Jake Hardee, 6-3, 238, R-Sr.

85 Holden Huff, 6-6, 222, R-Sr.

93 Brennyn Dunn, 6-3, 215, R-Jr.

87 Alec Dhaenens, 6-3, 239, R-So.

88 Jake Roh, 6-3, 228, R-So.

86 Chase Blakley, 6-4, 234, R-Fr.

91 David Lucero, 6-5, 213, R-Fr.


Matt Pistone, 6-4, 230, Fr.


72 Marcus Henry, 6-3, 286, R-Sr.

71 Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 310, R-Sr.

76 Jerhen Ertel, 6-6, 271, R-Sr.

73 Travis Averill, 6-3, 298, R-Jr.

70 Steven Baggett, 6-3, 289, R-Jr.

66 Mario Yakoo, 6-4, 339, R-Jr.

60 Kellen Buhr, 6-1, 290, R-Jr.

74 Archie Lewis, 6-3, 283, R-So.

75 Eli McCullough, 6-5, 288, R-So.

52 Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 280, R-So.

59 Mason Hampton, 6-3, 274, R-So.

56 Troy Bacon, 6-3, 291, R-Fr.

78 Andres Preciado, 6-6, 258, R-Fr.

57 Tennessee Su’esu’e, 6-1, 289, R-Fr.

68 Jake Templeton, 6-2, 275, R-Fr.

63 Sitini Kauvaka, 6-2, 287, R-Fr.

77 RJ Thorne, 6-2, 295, R-Fr.


Garrett Larson, 6-5, 275, Fr.

Eric Quevedo, 6-5, 280, Fr.

John Molchon, 6-6, 275, Fr.


32 Rondell McNair, 6-2, 242, R-Sr.

97 Austin Silsby, 6-3, 221, R-So.

14 Kaleb Hill, 6-1, 229, R-Fr.


33 Gabe Perez, 6-4, 231, Jr.

8 Kamalei Correa, 6-3, 247, Jr.

Jabril Frazier, 6-4, 225, R-Fr.


Durrant Miles, 6-4, 220, Fr.


69 Tyler Horn, 6-5, 273, R-Sr.

90 Justin Taimatuia, 6-0, 287, R-Sr.

58 Robert Ash, 6-3, 286, R-Sr.

98 Antoine Turner, 6-1, 290, R-Sr.

55 Tutulupeatau Mataele, 6-3, 294, R-Sr.

40 Armand Nance, 6-0, 301, Sr.

96 Elliot Hoyte, 6-4, 271, R-Jr.

94 Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 250, R-Jr.

99 Dereck Boles, 6-2, 294, R-Fr.

48 David Moa, 6-3, 249, R-Fr.

92 Paul Semons, 6-3, 249, R-Fr.


Matt Locher, 6-3, 250, Fr.

Sam Whitney, 6-3, 235, Fr.


36 Tyler Gray, 6-4, 229, Sr.

51 Ben Weaver, 6-0, 235, R-Jr.

44 Darren Lee, 6-1, 224, Jr.

20 Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 228, Jr.

7 Joey Martarano, 6-3, 234, R-So.

43 Joe Provenzano, 5-11, 205, R-Fr.

95 Leighton Vander Esch, 6-4, 215, R-Fr.


Drew Berger, 6-1, 220, Fr.

Marquis Hendrix, 6-1, 225, Fr.

Riley Whimpey, 6-2, 205, Fr. (going on mission)


5 Donte Deayon, 5-9, 152, Sr.

Raymond Ford, 6-0, 175, R-Jr.

30 Jonathan Moxey, 5-10, 187, Jr.

37 Cameron Hartsfield, 5-10, 186, R-So.

47 Eric Yates, 5-9, 161, R-Fr.

Isaiah Johnson, 5-9, 170, R-Fr.


Ladarryl Blair, 5-11, 180, Fr.

Donzale Roddie, 5-11, 175, Fr.

Tyler Horton, 6-1, 175, Fr.


9 Mercy Maston, 5-11, 197, R-Sr.

Kam Miles, 6-2, 207, R-So.


4 Darian Thompson, 6-2, 208, R-Sr.

28 Dillon Lukehart, 6-1, 208, R-Sr.

22 Chanceller James, 6-2, 208, R-Jr.

17 Brandon Brown, 5-11, 194, R-So.

29 Dylan Sumner-Gardner, 6-1, 196, So.

34 Jaxon Pryor, 5-9, 205, R-Fr.


Evan Tyler, 6-2, 180, Fr.

Damion Wright, 6-1, 185, Fr.

Darreon Jackson, 6-1, 185, Fr.

On mission:

Kekoa Nawahine, 6-3, 190, Fr.


49 Tyler Rausa, 5-9, 192, R-Jr.

16 Blake Gonzalez, 5-9, 168, R-Fr.

Isaac Dodd, 6-1, 189, Fr.


19 Sean Wale, 6-2, 186, R-Jr.


46 Kevin Keane, 6-0, 207, Sr.

42 Matt Cota, 6-1, 189, R-So.