Photo: USA Today Sports
Joe Southwick stepped foot in to a nearly impossible situation in 2012. After four consecutive years of Kellen Moore directing the offense on the field for the Boise State Broncos, rewriting record books along the way, Southwick was charged with replacing one of the all-time greats in school history. It is an unenviable task to have to be the next guy in line following an all-time legend of sorts, but as so many in college football have done before, Southwick was given that responsibility.
Boise State had built a reputation for high-scoring offenses over when Moore was the quarterback. Matching those numbers seemed unlikely for anyone given the roster turnover at Boise State in 2012, but Southwick became a scapegoat of sorts for what appeared to be a struggling offense, with some Boise State loyalists going so far as suggesting Southwick just is not the right guy to lead the Broncos offense. But is that really fair?
Yesterday on Crystal Ball Run my colleague John Walters wrote the following in reference to the Boise State quarterback;
First-year starter Joe Southwick tossed only 19 TDs against seven interceptions, but after the early November home loss to San Diego State – only the Broncos’ second regular-season home loss in 73 games (read that again, just to let it sink in) – he threw nine TD passes and zero interceptions.
A corner has been turned.
I felt this was worth exploring just a little deeper, because I have a similar feeling to Jason as far as Southwick is concerned.
Let's just get this right out of the way right now and be clear about one thing. Joe Southwick is no Kellen Moore, now will he be. Both were three-star pro-style QB prospects out of high school, and they came to Boise State with similar size, but Moore had a chance to play four seasons in the offense and thus had more time to gel with players around him. The same cannot be said for Southwick, who stepped in under center with a handful of new players also taking over some key spots on the field.
Moore was a much more accurate passer of course, and that could have been a perk of playing four years with the kind of talent he had around him, as well as the play calling. In 2011 Moore completed 74.3 percent of his passes, and he was pretty consistent with his completion percentage inside the red zone (73.3 percent, 44-of-60) and in the fourth quarter (72 percent, 31-of-43). If there is one area for Southwick to work to improve on, this might be it. Last season Southwick completed a very respectable 66.7 percent of his passes, but his clutch percentage numbers took a dip. Inside the red zone Southwick completed just 54.7 percent of his passes (29-of-53). In fairness, Southwick did put up somewhat consistent numbers in the fourth quarter, with a slightly lower completion percentage of 63.6 (42-of-66), but this was his lowest by-quarter completion percentage in 2012.
But rather than compare and contrast Southwick to Moore, let's try to keep this in perspective with what other quarterbacks in the Mountain West Conference were doing in 2012.
Fresno State's Derek Carr led the Mountain West in passing with 4,104 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also passed 139 more times than Southwick attempted. Carr's 67.3 completion percentage was not much higher than Southwick's either (Southwick was actually third overall in the conference in this overall statistic), and Carr was completing 64.0 percent of his red zone passes, just four tenths better than Southwick. Wyoming's Brett Smith and Nevada's Cody Fajardo were the only two quarterbacks to pass for more yards and touchdowns on fewer attempts than Southwick, but his numbers once again are pretty much right there with them aside from touchdown total.
If you want to throw in San Jose State's David Fales and Utah State's Chuckie Keeton in to the picture, that might be fair considering they each join the Mountain West Conference this year. Each put up really good numbers last season, better than Southwick in just about every category.
Southwick may not be the best quarterback in the Mountain West Conference this season, but he may be the most improved by the end of the season. As long as Boise State fans are understanding of that, Southwick's position with the Boise State offense should be safe for 2013. Southwick has gone through his growing pains in Boise. This year should see even more strides in his composure and maturity as a clear leader on offense.
Saddle up. This Bronco is ready to fly.
Statistical information via CFBStats.com. Photos via USA Today Sports.