Boise State, you're the winningest football program in the country over the last 15 years and you just graduated the most successful quarterback in the history of the Football Bowl Subdivision...so what now?
In the last decade and a half the Broncos have rolled to a record of 157-33, a winning percentage of .826, and since 2000 the program has both the best home field winning percentage (.961, 74-3) and highest conference mark (.935, 86-6), and a huge chunk of all of that came courtesy of Kellen Moore who operated head coach Chris Petersen's offense like a well-oiled machine.
Moore was a model of consistency for not just Boise State, but all of college football during his tenure in Idaho. For someone who was barely recruited out of high school in Prosser, Washington where he threw for more than 11,000 yards and 173 touchdowns, Moore went on to set the new standard for major college football as the first quarterback in FBS history to record an incredible 50 wins in his career.
A prolific passer who succeeded despite questions about his stature, Moore became the first player in NCAA history to record four seasons with both 3,000 yards of total offense and 3,000 passing yards. He completed his career ranked fifth on the NCAA career passing yards list with 14,667, and second on the career touchdown list with 142.
But even before Moore saddled up for the Broncos coach Petersen, the only two- time (2006 and 2009) winner of the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award, had the luxury of crafting the BSU offense around talented, yet overlooked and under-appreciated players such as Ryan Dinwiddie and Jared Zabransky. For the time being Moore, who went undrafted this past April, has signed on as a free agent with the Detroit Lions, while Dinwiddie and Zabransky have both taken their talents up north to the Canadian Football League.
So the question here is whether or not the recent success of the Boise State program is due to finding diamonds in the rough and buffing them up to shine at the collegiate level or the system that Coach Pete, the team's offensive coordinator between 2001-05 under Dan Hawkins, installed to take advantage of precise timing, fundamentals, and just the right number of tricks thrown in for good measure?
Boise State, which has had 10 consecutive senior classes claim 40 or more wins in their career, is hoping whatever the answer might be the latest crop of signal-callers can follow up the remarkable four-year career of Moore in an effort to keep the Broncos a household name beyond The Gem State.
Last season, the program brought back nearly a full complement of returning starters and was again highly successful in its first year in the Mountain West Conference, but this time around coach Petersen has his work cut out for him. The offense was responsible for 44.2 ppg in 2011 and the defense limited opponents to just 18.7 ppg, a number that would have been even more impressive if not for the back-to-back games against TCU and San Diego State during which the group surrendered a total of 71 points.
Unfortunately, the defense this time around will be hard-pressed to duplicate that sort of effort as there are just four returning starters on that side of the ball, one of them battling back from a season-ending injury. As for the offense, Petersen will again have to work his magic as he attempts to groom one of four quarterbacks for potential greatness.
Although Moore rarely took a seat on the sidelines when a game was still in question, his backup was Joe Southwick, now a redshirt junior who completed 23-of-30 passes a year ago in eight appearances. Redshirt sophomore Grant Hedrick also appeared in eight games, but his action was far more limited with a mere two completions on three attempts.
Those two players, both of whom resemble Moore in height at about six feet tall, are capable of operating the system for the Broncos and in all likelihood the job should be going to Southwick, but nothing is written in stone. A couple of freshmen, Nick Patti and Jimmy Laughrea, might have to bide their time and carry a clipboard for the foreseeable future, but expecting coach Petersen to be conventional could be a huge mistake, so be ready for anything.
Will the Broncos again be the dominant force among second-tier conferences that has the majors watching cautiously in their rearview mirrors in 2012? Probably not, but perhaps that's just the way BSU wants it for the time being as the program begins grooming the next great quarterback you haven't heard of yet.