BOISE STATE QUARTERBACKS
You're undoubtedly familiar with the expression "everything from A to Z". It's commonly used to convey completeness, something all-encompassing, the entire package. Well, when discussing Boise State's starting QB, the expression can be reduced simply to the last letter – "Z", as in Jared Zabransky. "Z", as Jared is affectionately known to Bronco fans, is the 6'2" 205-lb. junior do-all leader of the Broncos.
How complete was Z last season in assuming the starting QB role from Bronco great Ryan Dinwiddie? Consider that prior to last season, Z's game experience pretty much amounted to running an occasional QB-keeper. Last season, the meagerly experienced sophomore took the reins of the Bronco offense, and guided Boise State to an 11-1 record! Along the way the team finished 2nd in the nation in scoring at 48.9 ppg, and won another WAC championship – a feat not achieved by Ryan Dinwiddie as a sophomore. Z's accomplishments as a 1st year starter were amazing, especially considering not only his youth and inexperience, but also the youth of the entire Boise State team (2nd youngest team in the nation)!
How'd Z do it? By delivering everything from A to Z - effective passing, running, execution, leadership and ultimately results. His stats bear witness: Z completed 206 of 327 passes (a 63% completion rate) for 2,927 yards and 16 touchdowns. His passing efficiency rating of 146.99 ranked 1st in the WAC and 12th nationally. Jared was also the second leading rusher on the team with 326 yards and 13 touchdowns, including a Bronco record 85-yard touchdown run.
The best is yet to come. For all of Z's accomplishments last season there was room for improvement. Jared was guilty of an occasional misread and inaccurate pass, and he did throw 12 interceptions (although most occurred in the 1st half of the season). A telling indication came from coach Hawkins this spring, commenting that while Jared did and excellent job of playing QB last season; he wanted him to "become" the QB this season. What ought to wet the appetite of Bronco fans and scare the bejeepers out of opponents, is that Z appears to be fulfilling Hawk's wish. The early buzz heading into fall is that Z has advanced several facets of his game during the off season. Reportedly, Z has improved his accuracy, release, footwork, reads – well, you might say everything from A to Z. The media too seems to agree. Jared has already been selected by several media outlets as the WAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and has also been added to the 2005 Maxwell Award Watch List for the nation's best player.
On top of everything else, Z even found the time to serve as a counselor at this summer's EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp. Not bad for a potato-chucking farm kid from eastern Oregon. Not bad at all.
Who's No. 2?
Boise State has a history of solid backup QBs. Most recently Mike Sanford and B.J. Rhode erased concerns of both the fans and coaching staff regarding who could step in for the starting QB if needed. Sanford missed winning the starting QB spot last year by the narrowest of margins. In fact, Z wasn't revealed as the starting QB last season until the start of the first game. B.J. proved his value on the field, playing tremendously for an injured Ryan Dinwiddie in 2002 and winning four games for Boise State that year. This season, a threesome of young QBs are battling to claim the crucial backup QB spot:
Taylor Tharp, a 6'2" 210 lb sophomore, is the most experienced of the three having spent two complete seasons with the Broncos. Tharp, from Boulder, Colorado, was heavily recruited out of high school by Hawaii and Wyoming but chose to become a Bronco. As a high school senior, Taylor was named 2nd team all-Colorado, and set state records for passing attempts and completions. His 3,973 passing yards was the second most ever in a single season in Colorado. Taylor came to Boise State already familiar with the demands of collegiate football as his father Dick was the University of Colorado Athletic Director.
Taylor had a solid spring for Boise State. During one scrimmage in particular, he completed 7-of-14 passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns. During those scoring drives Taylor took some tremendous hits from the defense. He played with the tenacity and determination that the Bronco coaches value, plus according to Hawk, Taylor has a strong understanding of the offense. Should Taylor continue to improve from spring, he could be tough to beat as the backup QB for Boise State.
Bush Hamdan, a 6'1" 187 lb freshman from Arlington, Virginia, red-shirted last fall for the Broncos. During his high school career Hamdan was named All-Metro Washington D.C. and a member of the "Super 44 Prep Team". Bush passed for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns over three high school seasons, even though he was injured much of his junior year. Bush had received some recruiting interest from UCLA and Penn State but came to the attention of the Broncos fairly late in the recruiting process, supposedly after the staff became aware of his exceptional performance at a regional workout of the prestigious EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp.
To date, Bush has seen limited action with the Broncos working primarily with scout teams during his red-shirt year. During spring ball, against stout Bronco defenses, Bush completed 13 of 31 passes for 129 yards. His attributes include a strong arm with accuracy reminiscent of Ryan Dinwiddie – wow! A little more time working with coach Pete may be all Bush needs.
Bush Hamdan personal note: Bush's parents (his father is Palestinian and his mother Pakistani) moved their home to Kuwait during the 1980's. The family however, lost everything in Kuwait during Saddam Hussein's invasion of their country. Luckily, the family happened to be visiting San Diego at the time and never returned to Kuwait. Instead, they started a new life in the United States. Bush's father is a nuclear engineer with a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Bush's older brother, Gibran, also played QB (and baseball) for the University of Indiana. Currently, Gibran is competing for a backup QB spot with the Seattle Seahawks after previous stints with the Washington Redskins and NFL Europe. Very impressive family.
Cade Woolstenhulme, a 6'5" 218 lb freshman, hails from Nampa's Skyview High School, providing some local flavor to the QB race. Cade earned 2nd team all-Idaho honors as a high school senior. The multi-sport athlete also graduated with a 3.86 GPA. After serving a 2-yr mission for the LDS church, Cade walked-on the Bronco squad in January 2004 and red-shirted last season.
Cade is not your typical freshman age-wise, which is an added plus from a maturity standpoint. Also, it's impossible to avoid comparisons of Cade to B.J. Rhode – great size, highly intelligent, excellent touch on the ball, and a solid feel for the game. During spring scrimmages Cade completed 8 of 15 passes for 108 yards in limited action.
It's safe to say the No. 2 QB spot is wide open heading into fall practice. All three candidates have a viable shot of securing the primary backup role to Jared Zabransky. It will come down to who executes most consistently, eliminates turnovers, and moves the offense. One thing is certain - it's a tremendous plus having three QBs the caliber of Tharp, Hamdan and Woolstenhulme competing for the position.
Boise State fans experienced some real disappointment during the off-season, learning that prized QB recruit Kyle Seevers re-injured his shoulder and would not be able to play for the Broncos. Seevers, from little Pioche, Nevada, possessed the rare combination of outstanding size (6'6" 190 lb), speed (4.60 forty), and overall skill that is hard to find in a single recruit. At last report Kyle was planning to enroll at the University of Nevada and pursue his education in dentistry. We wish Kyle the very best.
In spite of the loss of Kyle Seevers, the Bronco coaching staff, true to form, ensured an incredible future for Boise State at QB. That future takes the form of three outstanding prospects:
Nick Lomax, a big 6'6" 210 lb freshman from Tualatin, Oregon, was a four-year letterman in both football and basketball. As a high school senior, Nick was named first-team all-state and first-team all-league after throwing for 2,800 yards, 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions while leading his team to a 10-2 record and a runner-up finish in the state championships. Recruiting attention seemed to skyrocket for Nick late. He chose Boise State over offers from Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Hawaii and others.
It's no secret Nick is the son of former NFL QB Neil Lomax. What grabs ones attention however, are comparisons being made by some coaches to his famous father:
- Nick has his dad's ability with more size,
- Both father and son developed late, but Nick is ahead of his father going into college,
- Both throw a similar ball, same touch,
- Nick is the better athlete.
Those comparisons, if accurate, suggest the makings of a major prospect. Imagine the QB Nick may become considering what he's no doubt learned from his father, and the tutelage he'll be receiving from coach Pete. Could be a lethal combination.
Note: The following two QB prospects have given non-binding verbal commitments to Boise State.
Cody Hawkins, 5'11" 180 lbs, the Idaho 4A Player of the Year from Boise's Bishop Kelly High School, and of course head coach Dan Hawkins' son. Seems not long ago there was considerable debate whether Cody would even be considered Division 1-A QB material. Sure Cody excelled at the high school level, but he's from sparsely populated Idaho and plays for a high school that's not even in the state's largest classification. Plus, he doesn't possess the prototypical size desired by most major programs.
Well, to put it mildly, Cody shattered any doubts about his ability this summer based on his performances at a number of camps. First there were the strong showings at the Stanford Nike Camp and the Cal Elite 11 tryout. Those performances resulted in an invitation to the EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp, arguably the premier QB camp in the country. The Elite 11 is an invite-only camp to the top 12 QB prospects in the nation. To give a flavor of the caliber of QB at the camp, here are the schools some of these QBs have committed to so far: Miami, Notre Dame, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Nebraska, Washington and Cal – a who's who of major college powers. In fact, with Cody's commitment to the Broncos, Boise State is the only non-BCS school to land an Elite 11 QB.
So how'd Cody fare at the Elite 11? He finished rated 4th overall including most accurate and winner of the chalk-talk competition. Hmmm, does this mean Cody is the best in the nation at knowing where to deliver the ball and getting it there? Some apparently think so as Cody passed on early scholarship offers from Oregon, Wisconsin and BYU to become a Bronco. Plus, Cody is now rated the #11 pro-style QB in the nation according to Rivals.com.
Now consider that Cody is walking-on and plans to gray-shirt and then red-shirt. What you have is one of the nation's best QBs walking on, who is obviously already familiar with Boise State's offensive schemes, and who'll be a leader in the Bronco family through the 2011 season. What an incredible recruit for the Broncos.
Finally, just when it seems that the Broncos QB cup couldn't be any fuller, the staff landed one of the top QBs in California. Mike Coughlin, 6'4" 201 lbs, from Mira Mesa High School in San Diego gave a verbal commitment to Boise State in early August. Last year Coughlin passed for over 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns. Coughlin has been called the premier QB in San Diego County for the 2005 season. Reportedly, Mike had an excellent showing at the Los Angeles Nike Camp this summer. He is said to have a tremendous arm and the ability to make any throw. Also, Mike is rated the #30 pro-style QB nationally by Rivals.com.
Wow - a collective look at the QB talent assembled by Boise State is simply jaw-dropping. It's clearly a testament to the genius and vision of Dan Hawkins, Chris Peterson and the rest of the coaching staff. From a fan perspective it all translates into one predominate thought – Man, its great to be a Bronco!!!