As the left tackle for Boise State, Daryn Colledge has learned never to assume that just because a passing play's been called quarterback Jared Zabransky will still be behind him after the snap. "All of a sudden he'll run past me and the guy I'm blocking," says Colledge, "and, it's like, Where's Zabransky going?"
Taking over Boise State's high-powered offense as a sophomore last season, Zabransky helped the Broncos run off to an undefeated regular season, their first Top 10 ranking and a berth in the Liberty Bowl. ( Boise State's 22-game winning streak came to an end in a 44--40 loss to Louisville.) From his second start, a 53--34 victory over Oregon State in which he passed for 225 yards and three touchdowns while running for 73 yards and another score, Zabransky proved he could not only throw like predecessor Ryan Dinwiddie--the most efficient career passer in NCAA history--but also make plays on the ground. He completed 63% of his passes, amassed 3,253 yards of total offense and accounted for 29 touchdowns (16 passing, 13 rushing) as the Broncos scored a school-record 48.9 points per game. "The bigger the game," says coach Dan Hawkins, "the better he was."
The 6'2", 203-pound Zabransky, who was raised on a potato farm in rural Hermiston, Ore., looks more like a standard drop-back passer than a scrambler who can burn defenses with his feet. But once he gets past the first line of defense he morphs into Carl Lewis, as Hawaii found out last October when he dashed 85 yards untouched into the end zone in a 69--3 victory. "Once I start running," says Zabransky, "I don't think anyone's going to catch me."
His high school coach used the old wing T offense, which severely limited Zabransky's passing opportunities. He would have most likely gone without a I-A scholarship had he not attended Boise State's summer camp in 2001. "You could tell then he could make the throws," says Hawkins. "He was definitely a quarterback."
Last season the Broncos came within three spots of an automatic BCS berth. The 2005 schedule doesn't line up as favorably, with road games at Georgia and Oregon State to kick off, then at home to Bowling Green. If Boise State gets through that stretch unscathed, it'll be in position to replicate Utah's '04 BCS feat. But Zabransky must remain unscathed as well.
"Because of his quarterbacking style, he gets beat up," says Hawkins. Zabransky has separated his shoulder three times and suffered five thigh contusions. "I get some pain medicine and try not to think about it," says Zabransky of the pounding. "Unless I can't walk, I'm going to be out there." --S.M.