On top of all the other positives heading into the 2013 season, perhaps the most exciting thing for Boise State Broncos fans is that their offensive leader and quarterback is poised to have a big year.
Joe Southwick, who hopes to live up to the hype that has been building ever since the team beat Washington in last year’s bowl game, is experiencing a totally different offseason from the one that he had last year.
In 2012, an inexperienced, unconfident junior was simply trying to find a way to make Broncos fans forget about the most successful quarterback in Boise State history.
Fast forward to the present, and you see a composed, motivated senior who is comfortable with his abilities and ready to take his team to the next level.
Barring an unfortunate injury, things will go well for Southwick in 2013. But what exactly are the things that he will do better this season?
We’ve picked out four. Continue on to find out what those things are.
It was very easy to tell that Southwick was making his first career start against Michigan State last season.
There was a reason that Southwick was feeling the heat from the Boise faithful just three games into the 2012 season. Actually, there were several.
A 123.6 QB rating. A 62 percent completion rate. Just two touchdown passes to two interceptions. A 2-1 record that very easily could have been an ugly 1-2 mark.
Put simply, Southwick was trying to do too much. Not exactly a crime considering the footsteps that he was following, but something had to be done quickly, or it was going to be a long season for the Broncos.
Southwick eventually did turn things around and actually became a very respectable quarterback by the end of the 2012 campaign. His last three games were particularly telling of the strides that he had made throughout the year.
A 171.8 QB rating. A 73.8 percent completion rate. Seven touchdown passes to just one interception. And most importantly, three wins against two quality opponents.
This year, don’t expect such disparity between the first three games and the last. Southwick’s improvement at the end of last season wasn’t luck. Rather, it was a result of the game slowing down for him and him seizing control of the offense.
Boise State will need Southwick to be in end-of-2012 form at the beginning of 2013, because a very difficult test against Washington awaits the Broncos in the season opener. But Southwick should be able to deliver.
The maturation of Southwick over the past year combined with a talented cast of offensive weapons will be a pleasure to watch, both early and late in the season.
Southwick was particularly mobile against Washington in the MAACO Bowl, rushing for 39 yards on 11 carries.
Unless you’re trying to create an argument for the sake of arguing, it isn’t a good idea to try to compare Southwick to Kellen Moore. Each player has his own set of strengths and weaknesses, which thankfully Coach Petersen recognizes and appears to be handling correctly.
One area where Southwick clearly trumps Moore is in the area of scrambling to buy more time.
Whereas Moore was more like Peyton Manning in the pocket, being fairly immobile, Southwick has shown the ability to use his legs to escape trouble and extend plays.
This was especially apparent in the last two games of last season, when Southwick ran a combined 17 attempts for 64 yards.
This isn’t to say that Southwick will begin to use his legs when he doesn’t need to. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Southwick has been given the green light to leave the pocket when he sees fit. In some of his more impressive performances last year, Southwick was able to find either running room or wide-open receivers when he was able to buy a couple of extra seconds with his feet.
Teams will have a very difficult time defending the Broncos offense if Southwick becomes a partial dual-threat quarterback because of his still-improving ability to hit receivers who are his second or even third option.
Therefore, don’t be surprised if the trend continues and in the majority of this year’s games Southwick’s stat line includes a positive number in the rushing yards department.
At the beginning of last season, it looked as if Southwick were taking some chances by throwing the ball downfield.
In actuality, those “chances” may have been a result of the fact that his inexperience and grasp of the playbook were not to the point where he was checking down and finding other options.
But don’t expect those chances taken downfield to cease in 2013. They’ll still be there, only this year, more of them may end up being connections.
This isn’t entirely a testament to Southwick’s ability. Rather, it is a compliment to the extremely talented receiving corps that he has at his expense, which will make things very interesting against teams with a suspect secondary.
Coach Petersen’s offense isn’t really designed to accommodate a ton of deep chances.
But if Boise State truly does have the most talented wide receivers in the conference, expect Southwick to take advantage of that. As a result, a lot of long touchdown passes and SportsCenter-worthy highlights may be in the Broncos’ future.
The offense will be able to trust in Southwick's decision-making and ability in 2013, which wasn't always the case last season.
Looking back on last season, it is hard to imagine how the Broncos survived their first three contests.
Against Michigan State and BYU, it almost appears as though the offense is operating similarly to a chicken with its head cut off. The unit simply had no one to straighten out the team when things were going badly, because Kellen Moore had done it for so long.
Not surprisingly, the offense did not resemble a typical Chris Petersen product.
Now, in addition to the fact that he has been the signal-caller for an entire season, Southwick is one of the team’s main leaders. On offense, he is the guy. Everyone knows he is the guy. Most importantly, he understands that he is the guy.
Even if things don’t go as planned, Southwick’s teammates will trust him when he tells them that things will be okay if they just continue to play hard and make the right adjustments. This is absolutely crucial to a team’s success, especially for one that has its sights set on another trip to a BCS bowl.
It may seem like an overstatement, but Southwick’s leadership presence heading into the season could ultimately preserve the dreams of this team.
It goes without saying that, all other factors being equal, most Boise State fans would not feel very confident heading into the rematch with Washington if Southwick was not around.
Since he really didn’t step into the role completely in 2012, it is guaranteed that Southwick will be a better leader for the Broncos in 2013.