Boise State spring focuses on Moore's replacement
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By TODD DVORAK
BOISE, Idaho (AP) So begins the process of replacing a star at Boise State.
Head coach Chris Petersen and a handful of new offensive assistants began the job this week of finding a successor to Kellen Moore, the record-setting quarterback who guided the Broncos to 50 wins and was the face of a program that has advanced through two smaller conferences en route to next year's membership in the Big East.
Just two practices into the post-Kellen era, Petersen said his message to the four competing for the job is to focus on the things Moore did so well to prepare for games and less on trying to follow his footsteps.
"They can't worry about that, that's for sure," said Petersen, entering his seventh season with the Broncos. "There's going to be a Kellen cloud around here for a long time, and I'd like to phrase it a little more positively.
"He set the standard. So we've got to learn from that, try to build on that and celebrate on that," Petersen said. "Those quarterbacks know what the standards and expectations are. But they need to go and play their game and not get hung up on what Kellen did."
That could be easier said than done considering Moore's spectacular career.
His 50 career wins broke an NCAA record once held by Colt McCoy at Texas. Moore finished his career ranked in the top 10 nationally for total yards passing, passing touchdowns and accuracy. He was also a key figure in helping elevate Boise State from an annual bully in the small Western Athletic Conference to a second-place finish last year in the Mountain West.
The Broncos have agreed to join the Big East in 2013 in a move designed to give the team better access to the Bowl Championship Series.
The candidates competing for the starting job include Joe Southwick, a 6-1 junior who carried the clipboard for Moore the last two seasons. In mop-up duty last fall, Southwick was 23 of 30 for 198 yards with a touchdown and interception. While he lacks Moore's experience, he's more nimble than his predecessor.
"He's been here a while and he's done a great job grinding and learning," Petersen said. "He's done a great job of preparing. But I also feel that with all these guys. These guys are ready to compete, which is awesome, because for us to do what we want to do on offense we've got to have a big-time player there."
Southwick will trade reps during the next few weeks with sophomore Grant Hedrick, who saw limited action last season in a wildcat role. There are also two newcomers making a pitch to play.
Freshman Nick Patti is fast and an accurate passer who was highly recruited out of Florida, and Jimmy Laughrea, a 6-2 freshman from Northern California, may have the strongest arm of the group.
"We just don't know who it's going to be right now," said Petersen, who expects to wait until the fall camp to officially declare a starting quarterback. "When you've got four guys, you know it's just going to take some time."
There are plenty of questions on the other side of the ball, too.
The Broncos need to replace a defensive line hit hard by graduation. The starting front four and the top backup on the line are gone.
Senior J.C. Percy is the only veteran returning from last year's linebacking corps. And defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski needs to find two new starters to replace safeties George Iloka and Cedric Febis.
For now, coaches consider sophomore Lee Hightower, who played at cornerback late last season, the likely candidate to take over at free safety. Senior Hazen Moss, sophomore Jeremy Ioane and a couple of redshirt freshmen will compete for the strong safety spot.
"We like some of our young talent and we're excited to watch them develop throughout the spring," Petersen said. "I'm anxious to see at the end of this process how much further along we are. It's going to be an interesting competition at a critical position for us for sure."
The coaching staff will have fewer practices in helmets and pads this spring to teach and watch players develop.
Of the 15 practice sessions allowed, the Broncos can engage in full contact in just nine compared to 12 in previous spring workouts. The cutback is the result of sanctions imposed last year for violating NCAA rules governing summer football programs.
Updated March 13, 2012