The Boise State football team entered 2015 with one quarterback with game experience, none with starting experience and none older than a sophomore.
The Broncos expect to enter 2016 with four scholarship quarterbacks with game experience, three who have played in meaningful situations, two who have started and four who are sophomores or older.
The result should be increased competition beginning in spring ball.
Sophomore Ryan Finley, who started the first three games this season before breaking an ankle, has returned to practice. He won’t play Wednesday in the Poinsettia Bowl against Northern Illinois but coach Bryan Harsin said Thursday he expects Finley to compete with All-Mountain West freshman Brett Rypien.
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The Broncos also will return sophomore Tommy Stuart, the backup this year who played extensively against Idaho State immediately after Finley’s injury and in a specialty role later in the season, and redshirt freshman Alex Ogle, who led the offensive reserves to victory in the Bronco Bowl on Thursday.
Rypien will be the prohibitive favorite to start in 2016 but the Broncos could have solid depth at a position they’ve spent two years rebuilding.
“We try to go back to square one and let everybody have an opportunity and go compete knowing that there’s guys that have made plays,” Harsin said. “We have to do that. Finley will be healthy by spring ball and we’ll let those guys go back out there and compete.”
Despite all the quarterback transfers in college football, Harsin said he doesn’t feel a need to make sure Finley is happy.
“I don’t assume he’s sad,” Harsin said. “I really haven’t felt that way. He’s just trying to get back. ... He’s not ready, but you can tell he’s feeling that just excitement and energy to be back at practice, which I do think is helping him mend.”
The leg injury put Finley on what Harsin calls the “Muscle Beach” program — working his upper body. The difference is noticeable, he said.
“He’s put on some weight. He’s thicker on top,” Harsin said. “That’s his maturity. It’s also the shoulder he had surgery on, getting stronger and more comfortable with that. He looks good when you see him out there, and we’re excited about that. You’re seeing a guy who took advantage of being hurt and is building himself up and he’s an intelligent guy as we know. That’s going to show up when he gets back out there and actually plays again.”
Finley is eligible for a medical hardship year if he doesn’t play in the Poinsettia Bowl because he has missed two seasons with injuries. He was sidelined as a true freshman because of shoulder surgery.
That would give the Broncos three sophomore quarterbacks in 2016: Rypien, Finley and Ogle. Stuart will be a junior. The Broncos will add a fifth scholarship quarterback next year with the arrival of high school senior Micah Wilson of Tulsa, Okla.
Other notes from Harsin’s Thursday night meeting with the media:
— The Broncos leave for San Diego on Saturday. They’ll practice Saturday, Sunday and Monday in San Diego, going through their usual set of game-week practices. They also went through those practices once in Boise.
— Harsin said if defensive end Kamalei Correa has made a decision about the NFL, he hasn’t told him. “We’ll figure that out when (the season) is over,” Harsin said. He gave us a more detailed answer Wednesday.
— On senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes returning from an ankle injury: “He’s a playmaker. He looked great, practiced well. It’s big.”
— The case of senior defensive tackle Antoine Turner hasn’t been finalized. Turner has missed the entire season, and will miss the bowl game, for academic reasons. Harsin wouldn’t say that Turner’s career is over. “I can’t really put any closure on it. I don’t have the final on it,” he said. “... It’s unfortunate for him. He’s still going to school, still working, still doing a great job. He’s a positive person — a negative situation still hasn’t affected him, and he really has done a great job handling his business.”
— Harsin gave the team a little Northern Illinois 101 recently, including the size of the school, the location, the fact that equipment manager Dale Holste’s sister is a graduate, the team motto of “The Hard Way” and where the players were raised. “You can get a pretty good idea of the mentality of the type of guys they have there,” he said.
More on the Broncos in today’s print story, which led with how much money Boise State gets for its bowl trip.
Scoring (FBS rank)
Scoring (FBS rank)