The Boise State football team held its first of 15 spring practices Monday morning at the Caven-Williams Sport Complex, the first spring since 2013 with a set starter at quarterback.
But that doesn't mean sophomore Brett Rypien is going to coast into the fall as the unquestioned No. 1. Junior Ryan Finley, the starter out of fall camp last season, is back after a broken ankle ended his season Sept. 18, yielding the starting job to Rypien.
“Brett’s going to come out there and start, Finley's going to get his opportunities, now that he’s back,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “... we want to push and see where we can go.
“There will be that competition, there’s competition in the weight room with that group.”
Rypien completed 273-of-429 passes for 3,353 yards and 20 touchdowns to eight interceptions, while Finley was 46-of-74 for 485 yards with one touchdown to four interceptions.
“I don’t really worry about that stuff, it’s not my paycheck to figure out who is starting or not, I just try to go out and make myself better every single day,” Rypien said.
Finley finds himself in an odd situation, having won the job last fall, but now entering the spring behind Rypien in the pecking order, yet still trying to fight for as much time on the field as possible. He downplayed trying to win his job back Monday.
“We’re a quarterback unit, we’re just trying to make each other better,” Finley said.
The Broncos are back on the practice field Wednesday.
Here are a few highlights from Monday's post-practice interviews:
On Monday's practice: “It was really good, it’s obviously really exciting getting back out there, I think going into my second go-around, I kind of know what to expect ... the energy was really good out there.”
On new QBs coach/co-OC Zak Hill: “Knows a lot about the position, very good as far as fundamentals come.” “... after every throw, we’re talking about it, what I could’ve done better on it, maybe shortening my stride, keeping my arm at a 90-degree angle, different things like that.”
On the difference from his first and second spring: “Huge difference, having a whole year knowing the system. Last year, I was really focusing on a lot of mechanical things, obviously still am, I still think there's a lot of things I can get better at. I think my confidence is a lot better, more comfortable with the guys and have a feel for what our receivers are going to do out there.”
On Finley: “we’re really good friends, we do a lot together, we go golfing together, always playing pool together, just always competing.”
On his areas of improvement: “There’s still some stuff mechanically from last year I see on film that I think I can fix, shortening up my motion a little bit, being tighter with my mechanics and stuff. 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.”
On maintaining success with expectations high: “It’s a day-to-day process. I’ve just got to be consistent every single day, come in and have the same routine and be a good pro. That’s something my dad always talked to me about, doing things right every single day, eating right, sleeping right, having the same routine every single day, so you know you’re going to be consistent on the field.”
On competing with Rypien off the field: “We compete every day, so it’s nothing new, we’re just competing, trying to make each other better. You name it, anything, shuffleboard, it doesn’t matter. If it’s scored, then we compete at it.”
What last six months have been like: “It’s definitely been tough, getting hurt obviously and losing the starting job, but that’s part of football. I just see it as adversity, I’m going to come back from it, I feel like I’m going to get stronger because of it. Just looking back on the games I did play in, I’ve got to get better, bottom line.”
On what kept him going, why he wanted to return: “It’s about the unit, it’s about making each other better. I love Boise State, this is where I want to be.”
“Definitely, I had some negative days where I’m kind of feeling sorry for myself: who wouldn’t? But at the end of the day, I’m trying to stay as positive I can about it.”
On helping Rypien while injured: “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, so I think that helped a lot. I was very happy for Brett and how he was playing, and I was focused on getting back at the same time.”
On his needed on-field improvements: “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, some costly turnovers, just the importance of taking care of the ball.”
On being back in practice: “It was awesome, getting some team reps, just getting out there and running around, throwing some touchdowns, it was really fun, reminded me why I love this game.”
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH/CO-OC SCOTT HUFF
On a prominent scratch on his face: “My son, he’s two-and-a-half years old ... he felt really bad, apologized and kissed it, so we’re good.”
On Monday’s practice: “It was really good, the guys did a good job, the energy was good on both sides of the ball. That’s what you expect from day one. A few new faces, a lot of fun, good first practice.”
On handling tackles Archie Lewis and Mario Yakoo’s absences: “We’ve got a really good young group we liked last year that redshirted. We got Kole Bailey in a semester early, Will Adams, the transfer from Auburn ... even if everybody was healthy, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a spring ball where everybody is healthy, we’d still be mixing and matching.
“We don’t have to do that right now, we’re going to look at more players and maybe not the best combination of guys, at least initially. We had five different combinations today (for the starting five).”
On Adams: “Have you seen his hair? It’s perfect, like Ron Burgundy. He’s been great, come in, fit in right away, been zero distractions, exactly what you want out of him. We’ll see down the road here what he can bring to our offense in terms of playing O-line, where he fits in, too early to tell right now, but so far, all good.”
On replacing Marcus Henry at center: “I like where we’re at with center, at least right now. You’ve got Mason Hampton, who’s been a backup for two years, Andrew Tercek, who’s been in the program for a while, he can play that position. Garrett Larson, we really felt good with, he redshirted last year for us, but did some good things on scout team. Steven Baggett and Travis Averill are both going to be ready to play that position as well ... we’ve got to solidify it.”
On Rypien: “Brett’s handling it great, so is Finley. 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.”
On Finley: “It’s a tough situation. Finley’s had a bunch of different offensive coordinators, quarterback coaches, having to deal with that, I understand there’s some frustration there. My biggest thing with him was ‘let’s make sure we’re handling the little things, we’re positive in what we do, good body language and just preparing for success.’”
On the offense: “I’m still trying to get a hold of everything, too. I thought today went really well, they handled the operation of things, they were playing with tempo, we were crisp in and out of drills, I was really happy with all of that.”
On the QBs: “Early on, I’ve been hitting a lot of fundamental footwork, balance type stuff. I feel they’ve got a pretty good feel for the offense ... I think they can come a long way with their footwork, where their balance is, their fundamentals and being a little bit sharper and crisp with their movements.”
On what he can bring from Eastern Washington: “If there are a few little things I can bring from that Eastern offense what I’m used to, maybe in the pass game, empty sets or the open type stuff, we’ll see through spring and see how that applies to what we already do. ... either that quick game, the empty stuff, some of the things you saw with the Eastern Washington offense develops.”