TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – No collegiate-level film? Nothing to study for tendencies, strengths or weaknesses?
No problem, at least for one Florida State defender.
Boise State announced last week that quarterback Hank Bachmeier, a true freshman from Murrieta, Calif., would start under center for this week’s season opener against Florida State.
At first blush, this sounds like good news for the Seminoles – a guy who was in high school this time last year, traveling across the country to face one of college football’s blue-bloods in his first ever game.
But that also brings an element of mystery. With no collegiate experience, Bachmeier will make for a difficult study. The Seminoles might have to rely on Bachmeier’s high school film – there should be plenty, as Bachmeier is the top-rated recruit Boise State has ever signed – and look at previous Boise State games to get a feel for what coach Bryan Harsin asks of his quarterbacks.
Or they could just consult one of their own.
“Well, I mean, I know him pretty well,” sophomore linebacker Jaiden Lars-Woodbey said with a smile.
“He was my eighth-grade quarterback.”
Crossing paths with friends and former teammates is common for FSU football players, many of whom hail from football-crazed South Florida and have been competing with and against each other since they could walk.
But a pair of players from Southern California, meeting up as opponents on Florida State and Boise State, that’s something new.
Sure enough, Woodbey is billed from Fontana, Calif., about an hour north of Bachmeier’s hometown, and the two played youth football together with the Inland Empire Ducks,.
The two went their separate ways in high school, but will be reunited, at least for a few hours, when Lars-Woodbey’s Seminoles meet Bachmeier’s Broncos this weekend.
In fact, Bachmeier is just one of a big group of former teammates that Lars-Woodbey expects to see again soon.
He starred with Boise State running back George Holani at prep power St. John Bosco, played 7-on-7 with defensive tackle Jabari Watson and even ran track with receiver Billy Bowens.
(The connections don’t stop there. FSU’s Camren and Nolan McDonald were high school teammates with Boise State’s Emmanuel Feili, DeAndre Pierce and Tyric LeBeauf.)
Lars-Woodbey is still friendly with those players and others – Boise State counts 47 players from California – but any pleasantries are on hold this week.
“I have so many old teammates on Boise State,” Lars-Woodbey said. “But they’re in a different color. So they’re the enemy now.”
In reality, Lars-Woodbey’s eighth-grade experience with Bachmeier isn’t likely to inform much of what the Seminoles do to defend him.
But even back then, Lars-Woodbey saw signs that Bachmeier was headed for big things.
“Mature, poised, disciplined,” Lars-Woodbey said. “No doubt.”
Fast-forward a few years, and Lars-Woodbey was right.
In high school, Bachmeier threw for more than 13,000 yards and 156 touchdowns, and he added another 2,000 yards on the ground. ESPN rated him the 13th-best pro-style quarterback prospect in the country, and he turned down offers from Georgia, Tennessee, UCLA and Mississippi, among others, to play at Boise State.
The 6-foot-3, 188-pounder is stepping into some big shoes: He’s due to replace Brett Rypien, a three-time first-team All-Mountain West selection, and that conference’s player of the year in 2018.
“No doubt about it, Hank has earned that opportunity,” Boise State’s Harsin told reporters earlier this week. “He’s talented. He can throw. I think he’s got a good demeanor and I think he handles himself well.”
The Seminoles, of course, will be looking to spoil Bachmeier’s debut.
Senior safety Levonta Taylor believes that the Seminoles can pore over Rypien’s old film for clues about what to expect. And he may be right.
Harsin, a former Boise State quarterback, is in his sixth season as his alma mater’s head coach, and, before that, he served as an offensive assistant with the Broncos from 2001-10.
Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill, meanwhile, is entering his third season with the program.
So it’s unlikely that the Broncos will be introducing wholesale changes against the Seminoles.
“They probably want to do the same thing they did with their recent quarterback (Rypien),” Taylor said. “So it’s probably the same. You never know, you’ve just got to go out there and adjust.”
Beyond that, Florida State’s best path to success against Bachmeier might not actually have much to do with Bachmeier at all.
At least not specifically.
The Broncos return all five starting offensive linemen from last year’s 10-3 team, including All-MWC choices Ezra Cleveland and John Molchon.
That group is experienced, but it also allowed 2.46 sacks per game a year ago. That ranks among the bottom third of the nation.
How well Florida State’s pass rush can get through the Broncos’ front five will likely go a long way in determining the defense’s fate.
“You definitely want to lay the quarterback on the ground,” Wilson said. “Any quarterback. Even if it is a freshman.
“You want to get him on the ground. No quarterback likes getting hit. So put a lot of pressure on him, get him on the ground, get him rattled.”