The transformation of quarterback Grant Hedrick from a disappointing loss at Air Force to the end of the season was something to behold for Bronco fans last year. Besides setting a school single-season rushing record for quarterbacks (592 yards), Hedrick finished ninth in the NCAA in passing efficiency (294-415 for 3,696 yards and 23 scores). Grant finished his career just 60 yards shy of the all-time mark for rushing yards by a QB with 971. Replacing him won’t be easy.
(BroncoCountry video by Shelby Ransom)
Ryan Finley (6-4, 200, So.) was named Sunday by head coach Bryan Harsin as the starting quarterback for the Broncos. Finley emerged from spring ball with the clear lead in the quarterback race, according to Harsin, and Harsin felt he made a big leap in the summer. Harsin noted Finley's style, preparation and leadership as factors that impressed him. The Bronco coaches viewed film of the fall scrimmage Saturday and decided to announce their decision. According to offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz, Finley completed at least 60 percent of his passes in every practice but one. Finley came off the bench in the third quarter at Air Force last season, completing 12 of 25 passes for 161 yads and 2 Touchdowns. Other than that, he has had little collegiate experience.
(BroncoCountry video by Shelby Ransom)
Finley took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense in the annual fall scrimmage last week, with coach Bryan Harsin remarking, “He’s earned it.” Ryan completed 13-of-17 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.
As a senior at Paradise Valley High School in Phoenix, Arizona, Finley earned Most Valuable Player in the state, hitting 270 of 424 passes for 3,442 yards and 35 touchdowns against 8 interceptions, and rushed 96 times for 282 yards and 4 TD’s in leading his team to the state playoffs.
When he arrived in Boise in the summer of 2013, Finley had a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. During his redshirt season that fall, Finley had surgery, and after his freshman season, entered this year as the quarterback to beat.
Junior college transfer Tommy Stuart was 8-12 in the Spring Game and is listed as Finley’s backup. Tommy did not have a good outing last Friday—he was 4-8 for 25 yards with two interceptions.
Stuart earned Nor-Cal Conference Offensive Player of the Year at Butte Junior College. He led Butte to the California JC State Championship, winning Most Valuable Player honors in the title game. Tommy completed 132-204 passes (64.75) for 1,927 yards and 29 touchdowns against only 3 interceptions, as Butte was named co-National Champions. As a junior at Calvert Hall High School, Stuart led his team to the first state championship in school history, and compiled a 21-3 record as a starter. His junior season, Stuart passed for 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns, then threw for 3,500 yards and 40 touchdowns the next year. Tommy was named all-state private school both seasons.
(YouTube video from MaxPreps)
As the new man on campus, true freshman Brett Rypien hit 9-of-14 passes for 48 yards in the spring game. Rypien has been working hard since then trying to win the starting job. He completed the first touchdown pass of the fall scrimmage to Terrell Johnson, then cooled off to 10-19 for 94 yards, with 2 TD passes and an interception.
Rypien was a consensus Top 15 quarterback nationally at Shadle Park High School in Spokane, earning Washington State Player of the Year honors from the newspapers The Seattle Times and The Tacoma News Tribune. Rypien threw for 13,044 yards and 134 touchdowns in his prep career, including a state record of 4,552 yards his senior season.
(YouTube video provided by Hudl.com)
Redshirt freshman Alex Ogle completed 6 of 11 passes for 81 yards in the spring game, including a 43-yard touchdown pass. Last Friay, Ogle was probably the second-most consistent Bronco signal-caller, connecting on 11-of-16 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.
Walk-on Anthony Upshaw (5-11, 180) provides additional depth. Upshaw threw for 1,124 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior at Moorpark High School in California.
Finley will have the benefit of a big, experienced offensive line in front of him that paved the way for Jay Ajayi and the stable of Bronco running backs to gain 2,994 yards last season and for Hedrick to finish the year as the nation's most accurate passer. Finley's leadership will be crucial to both the Bronco offense and the team in general.
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