BOISE — Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin danced around the answer everybody was looking for the first three times the question was asked.
Finally, on the fourth, he made it official.
Harsin eventually announced after Saturday’s open practice that true freshman Hank Bachmeier will start at quarterback for the Broncos when they open the season next Saturday against Florida State in Jacksonville.
“We’ll go into Florida State with Hank,” Harsin said. “I feel really good about Hank.”
Bachmeier will be just the second true freshman to start a game at quarterback for the Broncos since they moved to FBS status in 1996. The other? The man he is replacing, Brett Rypien.
Many expected redshirt sophomore Chase Cord to win the job. Cord was the backup to Brett Rypien last year and played in four games before suffering a torn ACL. He was brought along slowly during fall camp, but was fully cleared and participated without limitations in the second scrimmage.
Cord is in his third year with the program and has game experience, while Bachmeier was at his high school prom less than five months ago. But it was Bachmeier who did enough to earn the starting spot ahead of Cord, and he’ll be the first Boise State true freshman ever to start the season opener when he takes the first snap against the Seminoles at TIAA Bank Field.
“The injury had an impact, (but I wouldn’t say) that was the reason,” Harsin said. “For Chase, that’s been part of it. Chase has done everything he’s been asked to do. That’s not the reason, but for Chase, he’s still getting better. … The guy’s coming off an ACL and it takes time. We all understand that.
“When it was all said and done, Hank put himself in this position. Hank earned it. It wasn’t given to him. It wasn’t because of (Cord’s injury). He earned it. He made throws, he completed passes, he did things in the pocket and he made decisions out there that we want to see whether it’s a freshman or a senior.”
Bachmeier was ranked as a four-star recruit and one of the top 10 pro-style quarterbacks in the 2019 recruiting class by both 247Sports and ESPN when he signed with the Broncos in December. He was the highest-ranked quarterback ever to sign with a Mountain West school.
The 6-foot-1, 201-pound Bachmeier spurned offers from Tennessee, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Washington State, Utah and several others to sign with the Broncos last December. He amassed more than 13,000 passing yards, a state record 156 touchdowns and more than 2,000 rushing yards during his four-year career at Murrieta (Calif.) High School.
“He’s talented. He can throw,” Harsin said. “I think he’s got a good demeanor and I think he handles himself well. He’s coachable. He’ll make corrections after a mistake. … He’s put himself in the position consistently through the practices that we’ve seen to right now be the best guy.”
Bachmeier graduated high school early and enrolled at Boise State in January. That allowed him to participate in spring practices, and he got more reps than usual with Cord unable to participate due to his knee injury.
“He’s been here in the spring and summer and I will tell you that has made a huge difference,” Harsin said.
Anticipation was high for Saturday’s open scrimmage with fans, media and everyone else hoping the Broncos would tip their hand at a decision at quarterback. Bachmeier took the field with the starters for the first team rep — and ended up taking every rep with the first team offense. Cord worked with the second team.
Harsin was initially coy about a decision when asked after the scrimmage if Bachmeier was the starter.
“Well he went out with the (starters) today,” Harsin said. “Right now if we were playing a game, he would be starting for us. Chase, Jaylon (Henderson), all those guys have done a really good job … and we have this next week to continue to keep preparing. I like where (Bachmeier) is at. He’s done well. He’s prepared himself.
“Chase has done a really good job of helping some of the younger quarterbacks develop. Right now that’s what we did today. We’ll go into next week like that and get ready to roll.”
When a followup question was asked in seven days, Harsin said, “We made the decision today he’s going to come out here first and play for us. Today was kind of our mock game situation …”
Asked what was holding Harsin back from officially announcing Bachmeier as the starter, he said, “I feel like right now, he is.”
It took a fourth question about whether Cord still had a chance to win the job during practice next week when Harsin confirmed they will go into the matchup with the Seminoles with Bachmeier.
“Hank, deservedly, is the quarterback right now,” Harsin said. “I think that room respects that. That room is going to compete, bottom line. That’s what I told those guys and that’s what I told our team. … Right now, this early in the season, we’ve got to keep everybody on track to keep playing.
“No doubt about it, Hank has earned that opportunity. That’s why he came out there today and I talked to him a couple days ago about where I wanted to go with this, he understood, I’ve talked with the other quarterbacks, they understand. I don’t want any of them satisfied being in that position.”
It would seem likely Cord will still have a package of plays and get playing time in short yardage or goal line situations like he did as the backup to Rypien last season. And he’s a strong candidate to play more should Bachmeier struggle early in the season.
But for now, the Broncos will go with a historic decision – and one that should make the opener even more intriguing than it already was.