Boise QB set to Hula
Players like Jared Zabransky have another shot to show off their skills prior to the NFL Draft
Jared Zabransky says bring on the Gators.
After Florida upset Ohio State in the BCS national championship game Monday, Boise State was left as the only undefeated Division I football team in the country. But the Gators got the final No. 1 ranking in both polls, with the Broncos No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and No. 6 in the USA Today-ESPN Coaches rankings.
Zabransky, the Boise State quarterback, is here for the Hula Bowl on Sunday at Aloha Stadium. He wishes he could also play another game with his Broncos teammates, against the Gators.
"Oh yeah, definitely. You go 13-0 and win all the football games you're given, it wouldn't be too bad to get that extra shot," said Zabransky, who led BSU to a 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day. "We just played what they gave us and we went from there. We're excited to do what we did. Winning the Fiesta Bowl was pretty exciting."
The Broncos proved a team from a so-called mid-major conference could beat one from the top of a major conference in a bowl game, and that the smaller schools deserve to be in high-profile, big-money BCS games. Some say the game might change the structure of postseason college football.
As for the Gators, Zabransky will partially get his wish. He is playing for the Kai team Sunday, and the three Florida players in the Hula Bowl -- defensive tackle Joe Cohen, cornerback Reggie Lewis and center Steve Rissler -- are suiting up for the Aina. So are the five Ohio State representatives: receiver Roy Hall, defensive tackle Joel Penton, defensive end Jay Richardson, cornerback Antonio Smith and quarterback Justin Zwick.
Zabransky went 32-5 in three years as the Boise State starting quarterback, including three consecutive WAC championships. But his name rarely comes up in discussions about top quarterbacks available in the upcoming NFL Draft.
He spent his college career gaining respect for the Broncos. Now he has to do it for himself.
"I've got to go out and prove myself to the owners and the GMs and all the guys who make the decisions in the NFL," Zabransky said. "They know how to evaluate players and I've got a lot of good game film. It's my job to go out and play well in the Hula Bowl."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
UH's Melila Purcell, right, shared a laugh with teammate Leonard Peters during the reception and press conference for the 2007 Hula Bowl at the Hard Rock Cafe in Waikiki last night. CLICK FOR LARGE
He'll score high in resourcefulness. The country learned on New Year's what Hawaii fans already knew: Zabransky and the Broncos are trick-play experts. Boise State beat Oklahoma with a hook-and-ladder, a halfback pass and a modified Statue of Liberty -- all successful in the closing minutes of regulation and overtime.
BSU's version of the playground-favorite Statue of Liberty gave the Broncos the win when Ian Johnson took the ball from Zabransky and ran left, after Zabransky pretended to throw it to the right.
"We put a little extra twist on it with that fake," Zabransky said. "We ran it probably 30 or 40 times in practice. We were going to run it earlier in the game but it didn't work out. So we got a nice play for a two-point (conversion)."
Zabransky will be teammates with seven UH players this week, including running backs Nate Ilaoa and Reagan Mauia, receiver Ross Dickerson and right tackle Dane Uperesa on offense. Defensive ends Ikaika Alama-Francis and Melila Purcell and safety Leonard Peters will also play for the Kai.
Trick plays might be hard to do, because the teams are practicing at the same time at Aloha Stadium. The sessions, which start at 10:45 a.m. today through Friday, are open to the public.
"But you never know. We might try something," Ilaoa said. "Zabransky's gotta have something."
Like Zabransky, Ilaoa is an outstanding college player looking to get a chance in the pros.
This season, Ilaoa led the nation's most productive offense in all-purpose yardage and scoring. But he needs to answer questions about his durability and weight.
At yesterday's pro day, the Hula Bowl players filled out paperwork for NFL teams, underwent interviews with scouts and had their heights and weights measured. It was a 6-hour process, and it wasn't completed for everyone. It was scheduled to be finished after today's practice.
"A lot of interviews, a lot of questionnaires. A lot of information being transferred," Ilaoa said. "It was great to talk to these people who you might have an opportunity to hopefully play for. It's the first step for us in fulfilling our dreams. We were in there doing paperwork today and it seemed like forever. The same questions with the name of a different team on top of it. But it's good preparation for the combine."
Ilaoa said he was measured at 5-feet-8-3/4 and 248 pounds. That's down from his listed playing weight of 254, but Ilaoa wants to shed more before the combine Feb. 21-27 in Indianapolis.
"I'm going to lose as much as I can. I figure each pound is to my advantage if I lose it," Ilaoa said.