LOS ANGELES – It’s fairly unprecedented if not downright unheard of for Boise State to be starting a true freshman with no career pass attempts at quarterback in the biggest game of the season on Saturday.
But due to the transfer of starting quarterback Taylen Green and an injury to backup Maddux Madsen, that’s where the Broncos find themselves heading into Saturday’s LA Bowl against UCLA at SoFi Stadium.
CJ Tiller, who this time last year was probably getting ready for his winter formal at Rancho Cucamonga High School, will start for the Broncos despite playing just two snaps all season. His only action came on the final two plays of a 45-10 blowout at Utah State when he handed the ball off once and took a knee once.
Now he’ll try to lead the Broncos to a win in a nationally televised game in an NFL Stadium against one of the premier brands in all of college athletics.
Bronco Nation News surveyed 10 different Boise State players and coaches for their thoughts on Tiller ahead of Saturday’s game. Here are the responses:
-Spencer Danielson, head coach: “CJ is a smart football player. He’s a great kid to be around and he preps his tail off. There have been guys in that room that have helped him learn what it takes to play quarterback here. Obviously we all know the importance of that position across the entire team, so he’s stepped up in a big way in regard to how he preps.”
-Bush Hamdan, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach: “CJ is obviously an extremely talented player. There’s always the part of a true freshman who is playing in his first game where you just never know what you’re going to get. There’s been really good energy though, and we feel with our veteran offensive line group, the players around him, we’re excited for him to go out there and play at a high level. We’re going to see what he can do.”
-Riley Smith, tight end: “CJ is awesome. His throwing talent is elite. He’s a really good ball player and all around athlete. He’s younger but he’s learning and picking up the offense and been able to operate it at a high level. I feel confident with (Tiller or walk-on Colt Fulton) out there.”
–Ashton Jeanty, running back: “He looks good. He’s done a great job of improving and preparing each and every day and getting ready to step up and take that role. I trust him. Whoever is in there I know they are going to do their job to the highest level for this team to help us win.”
-Billy Bowens, wide receiver: “Extreme confidence. Next man up mentality. We’ve been getting him ready. He’s been learning, he’s been in that room with those guys all year long. He’s super ready. Our staff is going to get him ready and have him prepared. We just told him, you don’t need to put on a cape, you don’t need to do anything you haven’t been doing. Just do your job and we’ll take care of the rest.”
-George Holani, running back: “CJ, he’s getting there for sure. He’s a freshman and still learning a lot of football IQ, but he’s definitely got the arm strength and talent to do that. We’re still trying to work on developing both quarterbacks and honestly I’m not favoring any quarterback. I believe in whoever Bush puts out there. The standard is the standard. We don’t expect anything less from the third or fourth string. We expect them to go out and do their job.
-Michael Callahan, defensive tackle: “He has a killer arm. He can throw the ball a mile. He has a ton of talent.”
-Ahmed Hassanein, defensive end: “He’s very vocal. He’s a leader. He knows his plays, he has trust in his OL and trust in all of us. He’s an athlete and I can’t wait to see him let it loose on Saturday.”
-Austin Bolt, wide receiver: “I’m very confident. You can tell he cares and he wants to be great for this program. He wants to be great not just for himself but for the seniors and everybody else and when you see that in a kid you have to back the kid up and let him play his game. He’s here to play quarterback, that’s why we recruited him, he was a very good recruit out of high school and we’ll have his back. It’s his first college game so we have to help keep his confidence up and keep letting him do his thing because he’s a very good quarterback and we all know he’s capable to make a big impact in this game.”
-Garrett Curran, offensive lineman: “CJ is a guy who is going to be a good passer. Obviously he’s young and being able to operate the offense was the biggest challenge early on but he’s stepped in well, he seems confident, he’s playing well and he’s communicating well with us and he’s been very dialed in so I’m excited for CJ. The OL unit itself is a very seasoned group so this is going to be a good opportunity for us to step up and shoulder some of that pressure for him and if we can get a little more done than we even need to just to do a little extra for CJ so he can be comfortable and feeling at his best, that will be really helpful for him.”