Every college football season brings a lot of roster turnover. To get you ready for the 2015 campaign, SI.com presents the Off-season Spotlight, a weekly feature on a player whose name you’ll want to know by the fall. Last week, we focused on Cal junior quarterback Jared Goff. This week, we shift our attention to Boise State redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley.
Why is he important?
Finley is the presumed successor to the departed Grant Hedrick as Boise State’s starting quarterback. A redshirt sophomore, Finley is poised to take the reins of a Broncos team with high expectations in 2015. The program surprised most of the college football world last year by posting a 12-2 record and beating Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. Boise State will carry that momentum into this season, along with a veteran roster: 17 starters return, including nine on offense.
It won’t be easy for a Group of Five team to vie for a berth in the College Football Playoff. Boise State earned its spot in last season's Fiesta Bowl as the highest-ranked team (No. 20) outside the Power Five leagues. But this fall, with Finley leading a seasoned attack, the Broncos will aim for lofty goals.
What has he already done?
Finley redshirted in 2013 and saw limited action as Hedrick’s backup last year. He played sparingly in five games and completed 12 of 27 passes for 161 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The bulk of Finley’s production came in one game, a 28-14 loss at Air Force on Sept. 27, in which Hedrick was pulled in the second half after throwing four picks. Finley came off the bench to complete 12 of 25 attempts for 161 yards with two scores and one interception.
Finley has also garnered negative attention off the field. The 20-year-old was arrested in April on misdemeanor charges of a minor consumption or in possession of an alcoholic beverage and resisting or obstructing police officers. Broncos coach Bryan Harsin has yet to suspend Finley, instead opting to let the legal process play out. A pretrial conference scheduled for June 15 was pushed back to July 10, according to the Idaho Statesman. While Finley’s availability for the team’s opener against Washington remains up in the air, Harsin said in a radio interview in May that the situation will be addressed during the summer.
How did he look this spring?
Boise State’s quarterback competition looked all but settled after spring practice. In the Broncos’ Blue and Orange spring game on April 11, Finley started with the first-team offense and completed 13 of 25 passes for 196 yards.
The race between Finley, redshirt sophomore Tommy Stuart, true freshman Brett Rypien and redshirt freshman Alex Ogle will officially extend into fall camp. But Finley remains the only passer on the roster with any game experience. That’s why Broncos coaches were frank about Finley’s improvement this spring.
“He’s done well,” Harsin said, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune. “He’s put himself in a position to have the most experience out of those guys. He was the guy ready to play had Grant [Hedrick] gone down last year. He’s improved, and he’s taken advantage of that.”
Anything else you should know?
If Finley cements his place atop Boise State’s quarterback depth chart, he’ll make his first start against his former coach. Prior to his senior season at Paradise Valley High in Phoenix in 2012, Finley committed to Boise State under then-coach Chris Petersen. Finley pledged to the Broncos despite fielding interest from programs including Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. This season the Broncos host Petersen’s new team, Washington, on Sept. 4.
Finley had the look of a Power Five prospect, but opted to go the underdog route with Petersen in Boise. “It was very evident that coach Petersen wants players who really know that they want to play for Boise State,” Finley told Sporting News in 2012. “And I’m sure that I want to be a Bronco.”
Show the highlights!
As a senior at Paradise Valley, Finley completed 270 of 424 passes for a state-leading 3,442 yards with 35 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.
Oh, and the 6'4", 200-pound passer played a little hoops, too.