Boise State Football: 5 Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason
Boise State football finished the 2013 season with an 8-5 overall record. To put that into some perspective, it is the worst record the Broncos have had since going 6-5 overall as members of the Big West in 1998.
However, to give you a greater idea of just how unusual losing that many games in a single season is to the tradition-rich program, it takes a bit more history.
Since the Broncos began playing football in 1933 as a junior college, and even after the school became a four-year institution in the 1960s, from the Big Sky to the Big West to the WAC and now the Mountain West Conference, the Broncos have only lost five or more games in a season 12 other times.
Those are pretty impressive totals, and it should be a reminder to anyone writing off the Broncos now that Chris Petersen is gone. After all, this program has been around for 80 years, and in that time, it has continued a level of excellence beyond any single player, coach, administrator or generation of fans.
As the program now moves forward into 2014, the goals, purpose, expectations and standards have not changed.
In fact, if anything, the bar just keeps getting higher.
With Bryan Harsin now leading the charge as head coach, the new year brings renewed hope and optimism. He and his new staff have a challenging journey ahead, but they seem very capable of climbing the mountain set before them.
Let's look at some of the most immediate concerns this new staff must tackle and what they mean for the state of the program.
The 2014 Recruiting Class
With national signing day just around the corner in early February, the Broncos coaches have their work cut out for them.
At this moment, 247Sports.com has 10 players on the list of recruits committed to being at Boise State in 2014. That is a little more than half of what the team will need.
It's not that new head coach Bryan Harsin couldn't easily fill those other spots, but the real key is will he get the best players possible. This late in the game, it will be challenging to acquire players when many of them have long ago committed to being elsewhere.
Still, there are probably a few hidden gems out there, maybe even in the JUCO ranks.
Boise State is known for finding those "diamond in the rough" kind of guys. It will be interesting to see if coach Harsin and the rest of his staff are able to dig up some surprises before signing day.
Another possible way to fill the class is by players switching their commitment from another team to the Broncos.
It isn't the best situation, but it is a reality in college football. It is something Boise State fans are well aware of after losing a few verbally committed players to other schools once coach Chris Petersen left Boise.
The Broncos have already experienced the benefit of a recruit decommitting from one school and then committing to the Broncos. Dylan Sumner-Gardner, a 4-star recruit according to 247Sports.com, decided that he would not attend Texas A&M, but instead follow new Broncos defensive coordinator Marcel Yates to Boise.
Sumner-Gardner is a very highly rated safety. In fact, 247Sports.com has him listed as the No. 142-ranked high school player in the nation. He is certainly one of the highest-ranked recruits to commit to the Broncos in the entire history of the program.
With other assistant coaches coming on board like Yates, it is going to be very intriguing to see if their gravity causes any other talent to be drawn to The Blue.
A Brand New Coaching Staff and All That Comes with It
The new coaching staff is almost in place for Boise State. According to the Idaho Statesman, only the wide receivers coach and director of player personnel remain open.
With just a couple of positions to be finalized, the real work has already begun. However, one of the biggest issues for any staff can be the jelling of its members as they attempt to work together.
It helps a great deal that many of the new staff under coach Harsin are former Boise State players and coaches, but it still might take some time to get things flowing. The new coaches will also have to establish rapport and develop relationships with their new players as well.
New offensive coordinator Mike Sanford will work with Harsin to get the new offense installed, and defensive coordinator Marcel Yates will do the same thing on the other side of the ball.
Along with special teams and all the other details that go along with a college football team, the new staff has a considerable amount of work to get done in the offseason.
Generating Excitement and Establishing Confidence
A head coach in the FBS must wear many hats.
At any give moment he must be a teacher, a mentor, a father figure, a role model, a public relations darling, a promoter, a fund raiser, a salesman, a recruiter, a planner, an organizer, a leader and, in his spare time, a coach.
It is quite the challenge, and that doesn't even begin to describe the personal responsibilities of being a husband and a father or the pressure and expectations of it all.
As Bryan Harsin takes the Broncos football program into 2014, everything he does will be viewed by a fanbase and a media eagerly waiting to see what he is going to do next. The comments that follow those actions will either commend Harsin or criticize him.
But that shouldn't bother this coach.
The best coaches don't get bogged down in distractions, disappointments or anxiety. They also don't allow accolades, awards or praise to puff them up.
The best coaches simply do what they do best and surround themselves with those who do the same. They continue to challenge themselves and others to strive for greatness and don't let items in the peripheral take them off course.
Bryan Harsin certainly seems like that type of man, and he has a track record to prove it.
In 2014, Harsin will simply need to be who he is and remain true to the principals, standards and expectations he has for himself and others. As he does that, his vision, excitement and enthusiasm will infect all of Bronco Nation.
He also brings a shot of energy that this program is in desperate need of.
The 8-5 season of 2013 will probably be, in hindsight, a blessing in disguise. It should also help Harsin's cause.
It might take a while, but the thinning out of bandwagon fans, the removal of unrealistic expectations, the diminished pressure of losing the head coach every December and a dose of humility that may shut the talk of fringe fans who seem to love to spew vitriol at every moment should only help this program.
In its place, Harsin will no doubt bring confidence in him and his staff and excitement for what the next chapter of Boise State football will look like—and the rise of the program should continue.
In other words, all Harsin has to do in 2014 to generate excitement and encourage confidence is simply be himself.
Establishment of Team Leadership
One of the glaring issues that seemed to hinder the 2013 Boise State football team was team leadership.
It's not to say there weren't good team leaders, because there certainly were some. However, it was clear to anyone who is even remotely familiar with Boise State football that the player leadership didn't seem to be what it had been in previous seasons.
One of the strange things about college football is the aspect of graduation and recruitment. Every season, a team loses players and adds players in abundance. From one season to the next, the chemistry of that team can be greatly affected.
In 2012, the Broncos overachieved. No one expected them to go 11-2, but they did. They played with heart and rarely let down.
In 2013, the same kind of fight was not visible in the 8-5 Broncos. Sure, there were moments, but it just seemed to be lacking.
Of course, some of that could be attributed to the coaching staff, but players have the most to say about the character of a team. This issue only seemed to be magnified in Hawaii with all of the controversy surrounding the Broncos leading up to the Hawaii Bowl.
In 2014, coach Harsin will need to do what he can to identify team leadership and do all he can to encourage players to step up in a big way. If a solid group of leaders can rise to the occasion, Boise State is going to be fine.
If you watched Harsin's former team, Arkansas State, come from behind and as a team fight for victory in the GoDaddy Bowl, you should be encouraged as a Boise State fan. That was a team that clearly had some strong leadership and that didn't get distracted or give up in the absence of its head coach.
If Boise State can play with the kind of heart the Red Wolves did in that bowl game, Bronco Nation will smile bright in 2014.
Remembering the Past, but Attacking the Future
Right now, many Boise State fans find themselves living in the past because of a disappointing 2013 season. Of course, there is nothing wrong with remembering Kellen Moore, Chris Petersen, a couple of Fiesta Bowls or most of the last decade.
But true fans know that Boise State football has a much longer history of success.
Since 1933, as mentioned in the introduction, before the 2013 season Boise State had just 12 seasons with five losses or more in a single year. The program has also achieved a national championship at the junior college and I-AA levels, and won several conference titles along the way.
The reason for such success is not the result of any one person, but rather a collection of standards and a collective of fans, players, boosters, administrators, coaches and anyone else who has cheered for, prayed for or encouraged the Broncos along the way.
There is an old saying in college sports that says, "tradition doesn't graduate." Boise State can be confident that this old saying is true.
Some things to remember for Boise State fans is that Kellen Moore wasn't the quarterback when the Broncos beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and success didn't start with Petersen and it won't end with Harsin.
There is most definitely nothing wrong with remembering the past, but it can't hinder the program from going forward into the future. In fact, Bryan Harsin, a Bronco himself, would be wise to bring back some of what made Boise State look like Boise State.
It starts with an innovative offense and a swarming defense. But it also includes a twinkle in the eye of every coach not afraid to go for it on fourth down and a chip on every player's shoulder driving him for just one more yard.
It is the mystery of the playbook, never knowing what the Broncos might throw at you, and it is also the attitude that Boise State is going to demand your respect on the gridiron.
With Harsin's motto of "Attack the Future," you can expect that he, his staff and his team will do just that.
Being a Bronco himself, you can also expect him to add to the mix all of those things that make Boise State so special.