Bryan Harsin was standing back, letting his veteran players address the rest of their Boise State teammates when the realization hit him.
He’s no longer the coach who just returned to the place he played and later coached as an assistant. He’s no longer in charge of a program built largely around recruits brought in by one of his mentors, Chris Petersen.
About to begin his fifth season at his alma mater, it’s Harsin’s guys and truly his program now.
“(Brett) Rypien is talking and all that. It’s been four years, but damn, I was sitting there and thinking about being in his house. It was not that long ago in my mind and here it is, talking to the seniors,” Harsin recalled. “It goes fast. Everybody says that. We all hear that when we’re young and we don’t apply it until we’re actually older and a little wiser.”
The 22nd-ranked Broncos are about to begin another season of high expectations, both within their conference and nationally as one of the prime contenders for a New Year’s Six bowl game. It’s now just a given in Idaho’s capital city that Boise State will be in those conversations, beginning with the season opener Sept. 1 at Troy. The standard was created by Petersen during his successful tenure. It was inherited by Harsin.
But while the expectations are always the same, this season brings a bit of a different feel. As much as Harsin tried to imprint his own personality and style on the Broncos program, through last season he was still coaching players that in some cases had committed to Boise State when Petersen was in charge. That’s not a bad thing. Petersen proved to a savvy evaluator of talent when he was putting Boise State on the national stage and again since taking over at Washington and revitalizing the Huskies.
But it still wasn’t entirely Harsin’s guys.
“What I think is interesting is I came in here in (2014), we won the Fiesta Bowl and those guys adjusted right away because I think here, the players wanna be successful. If you just coach them and they’ll work hard and you’re honest with them and you don’t try to BS them in any way when it comes to teaching them the game, they respond,” Harsin said. “That’s kind of been the culture here for a long time. So it was interesting because our seniors, they all talk at the end of camp. To sit up there and every single one of them we were a part of. I kind of stepped back and that’s the first time for me as a head coach that this has come up, where that is the class to come in here; we’ve been through a whole cycle with them.”
Harsin never before had the full experience of inheriting another coach’s players and seeing them through their college careers. His only head coaching job prior to returning to Boise State was one season at Arkansas State before the opportunity opened up with the Broncos.
“Ever since I’ve been here it’s really been his program and you know every single person on staff and on the team really looks up to him and listens to his message every single day and creates habits that he talks about,” said Rypien, the Broncos’ fourth-year quarterback.
Rypien will lead the Broncos through a schedule structured so they have every opportunity to be in the discussion for a New Year’s Six game if they do their part, including a quality nonconference slate and what are likely their most difficult Mountain West games on their home field.
The Broncos bring back an experienced offense that improved throughout last season. The only question on offense centers on whether the Broncos have a deep-play wide receiver to replace Cedrick Wilson. Boise State may be even better defensively, led by ends Curtis Weaver and Jabril Frazier.
“Where are we now? When I look at the new guys that we have at this point, I feel really good about our recruiting and who we are and who we are trying to be moving forward,” Harsin said.
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