Waiting In The Wings

A young but talented Boise State quarterbacking unit must be ready at a moment's notice to take the reins of the Bronco offense. The real questions this fall are: "Who is ready to be a starter should the need arise?" and "Who will redshirt?"

For the first time since 2006, Boise State will not be entering a football season with a competition for starting quarterback.  That role clearly belongs to Kellen Moore (6-0, 187, So.).  But quarterback, at least on paper, appears to be the thinnest position for the Broncos, with only one junior and two true freshmen vying for back-up duties.  The Broncos have had a long history of #2 quarterbacks playing important roles in the success of a season, from Ron Autele to B.J. Rhode, and the success of the 2009 season could very well be in the hands of one of the lesser-known Bronco quarterbacks.

With the departure of Nick Lomax and the career-ending concussion to Drew Hawkins, Boise State has only one quarterback behind Kellen Moore with any college game experience:  Mike Coughlin.

At the time of his signing his verbal commitment to Boise State in February 2006, Mike Coughlin (6-5, 212, Jr.) was the highest-ranked quarterback recruit in Bronco history.  His height and size, along with his three years starting experience at Mira Mesa High in San Diego , earning all-conference honors and named 3rd-team all-state, excited many of the Bronco faithful.  That in his senior year he connected on 25 touchdown passes with only three interceptions on nearly 200 attempts pointed to a mature, alert quarterback.  His early verbal commitment warded off offers from other Division I-A programs. 

Indeed, Mike's commitment to the Broncos is more deeply evidenced in his staying with the team in light of Kellen Moore's ascendancy.  Outside of Nevada , Coughlin would currently be competing for a starting job on any other Western Athletic Conference team, and more than a few Automatic Qualifier conference teams would covet what Coughlin would bring to their team.  With his three years of understudy experience, Mike knows the Bronco offensive system, and he's an integral part of the team's success.

The coaching staff, recognizing Coughlin's promise, has given him opportunities to gain some college game experience, often above a more-experienced Bush Hamden.  Playing mostly in mop-up duties, Mike's statistics are sound:  9 for 19 for 108 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  His standout moment came in 2007 in the third quarter against New Mexico State , where he connected with Ian Johnson for a nice 46 yard pass-run.  After a Titus Young fumble set up a second-and-twenty situation, Mike then threw a sharp 33-yard connection to Jeremy Childs for the touchdown. 

In the Blue and Orange Game this spring, Coughlin continued to show signs of his promise, completing a nice 26-yard touchdown pass under pressure to a wide open Tyler Shoemaker.  Mike also has sufficient athleticism to be adept in running the ball, although he's not a dual-threat QB.  If he is given sufficient repetitions through the fall practices, he should be more than game-ready to take on any unexpected call to duty. 

Behind Coughlin are two true freshmen, both bringing in distinct, sure talents to the game.  One will be the third-string quarterback, and the other will redshirt, gaining experience with the scout team.  With the unusual placement of the Cal-Davis game, we could see one of the true freshmen get significant playing time a few weeks into the season.

The likely #3 on the depth chart will be Georgia athlete Mike Tamburo (5-11, 183, Fr.), a true dual-threat of a quarterback from North Grinwett High outside of Atlanta .  Mike led the Bulldogs through three seasons, being an accurate, speedy and crafty passer.  Through his career, the lefty connected on over 60% of his passes, accounting for almost 6,600 yards and 57 touchdowns in the air.  He rushed for over 1800 yards as well, scoring 33 times on the ground. While some of the scouting reports question his size and arm strength, game film reveals he can connect on deep post routes, and he demonstrates a keen awareness of the field, playing against elite competition.  He also throws exceptionally well on the run, taking advantage of teams that rely on the blitz to slow him down. 

Only his height prevented offers from Southeastern Conference teams, even though he was singled out as a top 150 recruit by ESPN.com.  All the same, Mike committed to Boise State after securing offers from Air Force, Tulsa , Toledo , Bowling Green , and Ohio .  Accounts of his senior season from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution point to a heady, enthusiastic leader, a quarterback who often wills his teammates to excellence.  Expect Tamburo to be used selectively, even at important moments during a game, as Jared Zabransky was during his redshirt freshman year.  He expects to put on 15 pounds and improve his strength in the off-season.  Offensive Coordinator Bryan Harsin, no doubt, has some ingenuous schemes available to make use of Tamburo's exceptional and varied talents.

The true freshman likely to redshirt is early verbal commit Joe Southwick (6-1 , 182, Fr.), a more traditional pocket passer who picked apart northern California defenses.  Ranked the #32 quarterback by Scout.com, Southwick put together two very fine campaigns his junior and senior year, amassing over 7,000 yards and over 70 TD's against only 18 interceptions.  Joe has a goal of getting to 215 lbs to fill out his 6' 2" frame, and he has proven durable in carrying the ball as well, rushing over 350 yards on 90 carries his senior year. Southwick knows how to win games, leading San Ramon Valley High to two impressive runs in the CIF playoffs.

As a passer, Joe has very good arm strength, mechanics, and delivery, and he is very comfortable slinging the ball downfield.  His game films reveal a quarterback with fine field vision, and he accurately leads his receivers on deep patterns.  His model is Pro Bowl quarterback Brett Favre, and when he speaks of the Broncos, the word "winner" comes up frequently in his interviews.  This summer, knowing that he will be redshirting, Joe has committed himself to learning the playbook, to playing catch with Kirby Moore and Aaron Burks, and to serving as an understudy to the experienced quarterbacks ahead of him.  Upon Kellen Moore's graduation, expect a very spirited battle for the starting job between Tamburo and Southwick.

On the dock is Grant Hedrick, a true diamond-in-the-rough from Central High of Independence, Oregon.  Hedrick has true 4.5 speed, and even greater athletic skills, as evidenced in his insane SPARQ scores.  Not just a speedy dual-purpose quarterback, Grant has attained impressive passing stats as a sophomore and junior, completing 68% of his passes for 5,700 yardsa nd 73 TD's with only 13 picks.  But yes, Grant can run.  During his junior year, he ran for 1,325 yards, scoring 15 times on 122 carries. 

He has very steady mechanics in his passing, putting a good, tight zip on his passes, and his arm strength is also good.  But his 6' height and slight build meant that his considerable skills would be overlooked by AQ conference programs, especially in playing in a small division football in Oregon .  Hedrick knows he has to put on weight to improve his durability, and he is already on that mission.  Getting the commitment to Boise State out of his way, he can now concentrate on leading his team to a state championship, having twice led his team to the semi-finals. 

So while the quarterback ranks appear thin by numbers, the quality may be as high as it has ever been in Bronco history.  Behind Kellen Moore is exceptional talent and determination, and for that Bronco fans should be grateful.

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