BOISE — Going to class and walking around campus has been a lot different the past few weeks for Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick, who became the starter when senior Joe Southwick suffered a broken ankle vs. Nevada on Oct. 19.
While not every one may know who the backup quarterback is, most people know the starter at a school like Boise State. And Hedrick has found that out the hard way.
He has not quite received rock star status just yet, but Hedrick has had to deal with an increase in popularity since he became the starter as students and classmates try to chat up the newest star on the Boise State football team.
“They talk to me a lot more and I kind of like to be incognito a little bit,” Hedrick said. “I don’t really like that part of it, but it’s good.”
Hedrick took over at quarterback when Southwick broke his ankle on the first offensive play from scrimmage vs. Nevada. The junior finished the game by completing 18-of-21 passes and also became the first Boise State quarterback to rush for at least 100 yards since 2004.
He made his first career start a week later at BYU and completed 25-of-42 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown in a 37-20 loss before passing for 305 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-30 win at Colorado State on Nov. 2. He also rushed for a 2-yard touchdown for his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.
“He’s making plays with his arm and his feet, and I think his running ability just adds a whole new dynamic to our offense,” said wide receiver Matt Miller, who has been Hedrick’s roommate since the two arrived on campus in 2010. “Defenses really have to key in, and if they drop back and Grant sees some green grass, he’s going to take it.
“He’s definitely relaxed a lot more and the game is slowing down for him, and you can definitely see that he’s making more of the throws that we see him make in practice on game days, too.”
Miller said Hedrick hasn’t acted any different since his rise in popularity as the starting quarterback and is the “same old” guy he was as the backup.
But the same can’t be said for actions on the field. Hedrick has continued to improve since being inserted into the lineup and has gained confidence with each rep both in practice and in the games.
“I think the reps have helped, just the game experience and ultimately having a little success builds on your confidence, and that’s showed,” quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith said. “He’s felt good with what we’re doing, and I think he feels good and moving forward here, hopefully that continues.
“His preparation has been good all year, and I think it’s shown in his play. He has to continue to improve some things, but we’re really pleased with the way he played last week and felt like his command is there and he’s playing with some confidence. So far, so good. But we just have to keep on getting better.”
Hedrick and now-second-string quarterback Nick Patti have spent extra time with Smith after practice on Thursdays, watching film and diagraming plays for about 30 minutes. The additional one-on-one time allows them to ask questions and help fully grasp the offense and the duties of each of the 11 players.
Only the sixth quarterback to start a game for Boise State since coach Chris Petersen took over in 2006, Hedrick has proven to be a threat with both his arms and his legs. His six rushing touchdowns are the most since Jared Zabransky also had six in 2006.
Hedrick’s five passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown vs. Colorado State made him the first Boise Sate quarterback to account for six touchdowns since Ryan Dinwiddie also had six on Nov. 29, 2003 against Nevada.
“We’ve said for a long time that we really think Grant is going to be a heck of a player, and I think he’s starting to show that,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “It’s exciting to see. He’s got some really great tools. We’ve known that since the day we recruited him. He can run, he has a strong arm, his mechanics are really, really clean, all those things. … It’s an exciting time for Grant and for everybody. It really is.”
But the magical run could soon come to an end. Southwick is making progress and Petersen said recently he expects the senior to return before the season ends. Hedrick admitted he’s thought about the future but is instead focusing on making the most of the present.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for me, and I’ve been just trying to take everything in,” Hedrick said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to last, so I’m just going to keep going every day. It’s exciting and I’m trying to enjoy it.”