BOISE — Joe Southwick carried himself like the starter, played like the starter and prepared like the starter.
Finally, on Sunday, the junior was officially named Boise State’s starting quarterback for Friday’s season opener at Michigan State.
When he was told the news, Southwick’s response was fitting for the confidence coach Chris Petersen said he’s never lacked.
“His reaction was ‘OK, I’m ready,’” Petersen said.
Southwick’s first phone call after he learned he would start earlier in the week was to his parents.
“It’s been a long process to get to this point, these last four years,” Southwick said. “… To be able to tell them I’ll finally be starting at this great program was very special to me.”
The Broncos’ quarterback competition was the first in four years, with Southwick vying for the job with sophomore Grant Hedrick, redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea and true freshman Nick Patti. The Broncos have Hedrick listed as the backup, while Patti is expected to redshirt. Petersen credited Southwick for attacking practice the same as when he wasn’t competing to start.
“I don’t really feel Joe acted any different than he’s acted the last couple years,” Petersen said.
Southwick has served as Kellen Moore’s backup the last two seasons, completing 40-of-54 passes for two touchdowns and an interception in his career.
Coach Chris Petersen had used Southwick primarily with the first-team offense all fall, and he was 16-of-24 for 141 yards in the only public scrimmage this fall. He was 14-of-19 for 145 yards in the spring game.
“He knows our system very well, he’s prepared really hard over these last three years, going on four, and he’s really earned this opportunity,” Petersen said. “He just needs to now go out and play, be the player we know he can be.”
Petersen added that “mentally,” Southwick is as capable as any quarterback that the team has had recently. Southwick said in the past year he has focused hard on being more knowledgeable with the offense, saying “I feel much more comfortable with the offense.”
“I felt like I’ve made some big steps in my game and feel comfortable with where I’m at — trying to always keep improving,” Southwick said.
One of the other ways Southwick has improved is his preparation, noting that games sometimes are won in the days leading up to game day, studying the other team and getting on the same page of his own. He said Moore “laid a great blueprint,” and he is excited to follow it.
“There’s been a great line of quarterbacks here for a long time,” Southwick said. “To be one of those guys next in line is a great privilege.”
What Southwick will bring differently than Moore are two things for sure — a more athletic playing style and a more fiery leadership style. Southwick ran for eight touchdowns his senior year at San Ramon Valley High in California, and has 16 carries for 47 yards with the Broncos.
“I do think he’s athletic, pretty accurate thrower,” Petersen said. “He’s a well-rounded athlete.”
After Aug. 18’s scrimmage, senior running back D.J. Harper, when asked about Southwick, said “we really like his leadership … he wants to be heard.” Petersen said his competitive nature is a strength, but could be a weakness, joking he was the type to flip over the checkerboard if he loses.
“He’ll wear his emotions on his sleeve more so than maybe some of the other QBs we’ve had here,” Petersen said. “I think it’s important for him, as he grows, to continually possess that calm demeanor with that competitive fire.”
Southwick admitted, “sometimes I need to be able to restrain that a little bit.”
The junior will lead a Boise State team in transition into Spartan Stadium on Friday, following a senior class that won 50 games.
“This is a new era, if you will, for Boise State, and I’m excited,” Southwick said.
Depth chart news and notes
Petersen said true freshmen Hayden Plinke (tight end), Tyler Gray (linebacker), Shane Williams-Rhodes (receiver) and Jack Fields (running back) will play this season.
The team’s depth chart for Friday has senior Michael Frisina as the placekicker, while Dextrell Simmons is listed as the first-team nickel. The offensive line is listed as Charles Leno at left tackle, Joe Kellogg at left guard, Matt Paradis at center, Michael Ames at right guard and Jake Broyles at right tackle.