BOISE —  Known for his arm, Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick has no problem using his legs.

“I like to run,” the senior says.

The Broncos are tweaking their offensive playbook this spring to focus on packages that fit their personnel. And one of the changes could mean more designed options and quarterback runs.

Southwick had 46 rushes for 121 yards last season, but began to feel more confident with his legs late in the year. He rushed 17 times in the final two games compared to just 29 times the first 11 games.

The right-handed thrower had six rushes for 25 yards in the regular season finale against Nevada before rushing for 39 yards on 11 carries in the bowl win over Washington.

If Southwick or backups Nick Patti or Grant Hedrick use their legs more, it would add to an offense that has had back-up quarterbacks run option plays in recent seasons. Hedrick rushed 19 times for 32 yards and three touchdowns last season. But a starting quarterback running with the football hasn’t been seen at Bronco Stadium for some time. Four-year starter Kellen Moore had negative rushing yards in each of his four years prior to graduating in 2011.

But don’t expect Southwick to just take off on every play. The signal caller emphasized that while he’s open to running more this fall, he’s got to be smart about it.

“We’re still working through that, but just being able to extend things with my legs will be a big part of extending my game,” Southwick said. “I think the biggest thing is it’s a mentality. It’s not, ‘OK I’m blowing off my read and just taking off.’ It’s not that at all.

“It’s going back to instincts. It’s a very meticulous system of being on spot with your reads and the ball and all that stuff, and sometimes you can get caught up in being a robot, so the biggest thing is just going back to my instincts of feeling stuff and trusting it and playing loose and having fun.”

Southwick hopes going into the season as the unchallenged starter will mean more fun on the field this fall. The Broncos offense had their lowest scoring output since 1998 during his first season as the starter in 2012 and didn’t score an offensive touchdown in two games.

But he seemed to find his groove as the season went on, completing 70 percent of his passes the final four games and throwing nine touchdowns and no interceptions. The Broncos went 4-0 in those contests to finish the year.

Fueled with the momentum of a strong finish and the confidence of being the clear-cut starter, Southwick hopes his senior year will be a memorable one.

“As the starter, you almost take a deep breath,” Southwick said. “You always focus on what I have to get better at, but now as a senior leader of this offense, how can I help other guys and be positive with other guys and create that unity on the offense.

“Being a returning starter at your position, especially the quarterback position, gives you more confidence and the guys respond a little different. It’s just been really positive. I’m really pleased with where we’re at.”

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  • B.J Rains covers Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press-Tribune. He also makes daily appearances on ESPN Boise.

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