The 2013 college football season was not business as usual for the Boise State Broncos.
In fact, the first game of the season would prove to be an ominous warning of things to come. The Broncos suffered their biggest loss under then-head coach Chris Petersen when they were beaten soundly on national television by the Washington Huskies 38-6.
Of course, an even bigger loss to the Huskies would come after the regular season, as Petersen would leave Bronco Nation and become the head man at Washington.
The season wasn't without some success however, as many programs would love to finish 8-4 overall. Boise State had wins over Mountain West Conference rivals Air Force, Utah State and Nevada.
Still, it was those four road losses against Washington, eventual Mountain West champion Fresno State, BYU and for the second year in a row, San Diego State, that put the Boise program in a bit of tailspin.
As Bronco Nation turns the page to 2014, it will be very interesting to see how its team rebounds after struggling in 2013. The biggest question, of course, will be how the entire program does in the post-Petersen era.
With the news being reported by the Idaho Statesman that Boise State has hired former BSU offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin away from Arkansas State to be the Broncos newest head coach, it appears that the team is going to be in good hands.
Harsin was the OC from 2006-2010 at Boise, and under his leadership the offense was innovative, exciting and part of an incredible 61-5 overall record.
Boise State fans have a lot to be excited about going into 2014, but those emotions will be slow in coming for some who are not over the shock of losing Petersen.
New head coach Bryan Harsin is going to have a very good foundation to build upon as he takes over a Boise State team dripping with talent.
It starts with a group of 47 freshmen on the current roster. They will, of course, be sophomores next season, but among that group are some extremely talented players that have a fair amount of game time experience.
That list includes running backs Aaron Baltazar, Charles Bertoli and Devan Demas, defensive ends Gabe Perez, Sam McCaskill, and Kamalei Correa, offensive linemen Steven Baggett, Mario Yakoo and Travis Averill, linebackers Tanner Vallejo, Ben Weaver and Darren Lee, cornerback Jonathan Moxey and quarterback Nick Patti, just to name a few.
The sophomore class that will be juniors for Harsin, is also loaded with talent.
Running back Jay Ajayi leads this group, but he isn't alone. Other juniors-to-be include offensive linemen Marcus Henry and Rees Odhiambo, safeties Dillon Lukehart, Darian Thompson and Taylor Loffler, tight ends Jake Hardee and Holden Huff, wide receivers Troy Ware and Shane Williams-Rhodes, linebacker Tyler Gray, cornerback Donte Deayon, defensive tackles Armand Nance and Robert Ash and running back Jack Fields.
Next year's senior class has some heavy hitters as well.
Safety Jeremy Ioane will be back as will wide receivers Matt Miller and Dallas Burroughs, cornerbacks Mercy Maston, Cleshawn Page and Bryan Douglas, linebackers Corey Bell, Blake Renaud and Travis Saxton, defensive linemen Tyler Horn, Justin Taimatuia, Beau Martin and Demarcus Lawrence, tight ends Connor Peters and Kyle Sosnowski, kicker Dan Goodale, running back Derrick Thomas and quarterback Grant Hedrick.
With all of this talent, the Broncos definitely have the foundation needed to compete for a Mountain West championship next season. It will be very interesting to see what effect a new coaching staff with new energy will bring to these current players on the roster.
The one issue that seems to be a factor whenever a new coach comes to town and an old one exits, is recruiting.
The Broncos were on their way to building a decent 2014 class when the announcement came of Petersen's departure. Now, it will be in the hands of Bryan Harsin and his new staff to hold on to some of those recruits and bring in some other quality players to join them.
3 Players the Broncos Must Land
At the top of the list of players Harsin must land is outstanding quarterback Jalen Greene.
Greene is the quintessential dual-threat quarterback. At 6'3" and 194 lbs. Greene is a player that could possibly play early for the Broncos. He was planning to start classes in January at Boise State, but with the coaching transition, there are big question marks as to if that will happen.
If Harsin can hold on to him, it will be a huge boost to the 2014 recruiting class, the program and the recruiting clout of Bryan Harsin.
Cornerback Brandon Lewis is another commit that Harsin will need to make sure sticks around.
Lewis is 5'11" and 182 lbs. His size is better than some currently on the roster, and it is something Boise State certainly needs in the defensive secondary. He is an extremely talented player, and he is another player with early playing potential.
Offensive tackle Ryan Griswold committed to the Broncos all the way back in July. Since that time, a lot has happened. With the Petersen exit, it appears as if Boise State may not land all of the linemen it had hoped for.
247Sports.com has offensive guard Troy Bacon now looking at Washington. If the Broncos lose Bacon, it will make it even more important to land Griswold.
The 2014 Recruiting Class
As it stands right now 247Sports has 10 commits on the Boise State 2014 recruiting class list. However, one of those is Troy Bacon, who may not be sticking around.
For Harsin, it will be crucial to get in touch with every current recruit on the Boise State commit list, target list or even wish list. It will be a mad scramble, but one the 37-year-old Harsin certainly has the energy for.
One of the things that will help Harsin is the number of current coaches that stick around to be on his staff.
As mentioned previously, the Broncos have a load of talent on their roster right now. However, there are some up-and-coming players that could become breakout stars for Boise State next season.
LB Ben Weaver
Just a redshirt freshman, Weaver probably doesn't belong on this list. The reason for that is that he has already had a breakout season.
In 2013 as a freshman, Weaver led the Broncos in tackles with 86. He was seen flying around the field making plays, and some of hits were downright brutal.
LB Tanner Vallejo
True freshman Tanner Vallejo is another outstanding linebacker to keep an eye on. Vallejo was ninth in tackles for the Broncos in 2013 with 49.
He is another bruising linebacker that seems to be wherever the ball is. Only a true freshman, it will be interesting to see how much better he can be. That should be a scary question for opposing offenses.
RB Aaron Baltazar
Although his season was cut short by a devastating knee injury, what he did before the injury was truly impressive.
Baltazar carried the ball 50 times for 234 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 19 yards. He was very impressive, and Boise State fans have to be excited about him.
Jay Ajayi is the starter, and fans should remember that he had a similar injury in his freshman season. To say he made a full recovery is quite the understatement. Baltazar should be able to do the same.
STUD Gabe Perez
Gabe Perez plays the hybrid defensive end position that Boise State loves. As a true freshman, Perez raised a few eyebrows—in a good way.
Perez had 24 tackles on the season, but had some flashes of incredible play. If he can become more consistent he is going to be one to watch for Boise State.
It was announced on Wednesday by BroncoSports.com that Bryan Harsin will take over as head coach for the Boise State football team.
While many in Bronco Nation panicked and were sickened by Chris Petersen leaving to take the Washington job, those same fans can take solace in the fact that they got a great replacement.
Without being too dramatic, being the Boise State head coach just seemed to have been Harsin's destiny.
Head Coach Bryan Harsin
Harsin was born in Boise, played football at Capital High School in Boise, played football for Boise State, became a graduate assistant for the Broncos in 2001, was promoted to tight ends coach in 2002, became the offensive coordinator in 2006, and helped to lead the Broncos to a 61-5 record until 2010 when he left to become an offensive coordinator at Texas.
The BroncoSports.com article quoted Harsin about the job, and it is clear that he is very excited to be coming back to Boise. Harsin said:
We're coming home. Kes and I are thrilled about returning to Boise State, it's a special place built by special people. One of the hardest decisions we ever made was leaving Boise. We did that so I could become a better coach, so I could one day have the opportunity to return as head coach, that day has arrived.
Harsin went on to say:
I appreciate the history and tradition of the Boise State program. I embrace that success but won't rest on it. We will build this program every day with a sense of urgency. I can't wait to get to work. Go Broncos!
It sure sounds like Boise State picked the right guy for the job.
Possible Assistant Coaches
The big question for Harsin now is who will his assistant coaches be?
Harsin does have a few former Boise State players on his staff at Arkansas State. It will be interesting to see if they come back to Boise with him.
Hamdan is the current co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Arkansas State. Before that, he was a wide receivers coach at Florida in 2012 and a tight ends coach at Sacramento State in 2010.
Hamdan was a quarterback at Boise State from 2005-2008.
Marks was an outstanding running back at Boise State from 2002-2005. He is currently the assistant director of strength and conditioning at Arkansas State.
Marks served as an assistant speed and strength coach in Colorado before leaving to become a graduate assistant and running backs coach at the University of Sioux Falls. He then became South Dakota State's running backs coach in 2012 before joining Harsin in Arkansas.
Brown is currently the cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at Arkansas State. He played defensive back for the Broncos from 2000-2003.
Brown started his coaching career at Harsin's former high school, Capital High in Boise. He spent one season coaching defensive backs there before becoming a graduate assistant at Boise State for two seasons. He then became the director of player personnel for the Broncos.
In 2012 Brown became the cornerbacks coach at Troy, but left there to join Harsin in 2013.
Current Assistant Coaches
With the departure of Petersen, no doubt a handful of assistant coaches will join him in Washington. However, there are probably going to be a few who want to remain in Boise.
The list of possible assistant coaches staying in Boise is not limited to these by any means, but these names are the most likely to stay.
Gregory has been serving as an assistant head coach and linebackers coach under Petersen. He is also going to be the head coach for the bowl game.
Harsin will need a defensive coordinator, and Gregory could be that solution.
Strausser has been serving as the associate head coach, offensive line coach and run game coordinator, and he could be a very good addition to the Harsin staff.
Quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith would be a great coach to keep on staff. He did a great job for the Broncos this season among all the injuries and pressure. Players like him, fans like him and he would be a great fit on a Harsin staff.
Another fan favorite, Avalos is the current defensive line coach. He would be a great addition to the new staff.
Huff is the current tight ends coach, fullbacks coach and special teams coordinator. He is a good fit on the Boise State staff.
With so much in transition, this is all just a guessing game right now. The coming weeks will give us a clear picture of what a Bryan Harsin coaching staff will look like at Boise State.
Boise State has weathered worse storms than head coach Chris Petersen leaving. That may be hard to believe for some, but it is true.
In 1996, at the age of 53, then-head coach of the Broncos Pokey Allen passed away after a battle with cancer. In August of 1999, freshman defensive tackle Paul Reyna died after suffering a head injury during a scrimmage.
Keeping it all in perspective, losing a head coach to another team is tough, but there are worse things.
The Boise State football program has been blessed with many fine seasons of football. It began playing the sport in 1933, and aside from some years taken off for World War II, the Broncos have always been competitive.
The team has won two national championships, one as a junior college and one at the I-AA level. The Broncos also have two Fiesta Bowl trophies and several league titles along the way.
Success is something that Boise State fans of several generations have enjoyed.
Don't expect that success to stop now.
The 2014 Season
Bryan Harsin brings in the energy, excitement and offensive mindset that has made Boise State a name on the national radar.
With the talent alone that Harsin has has coming back in 2014, the team should be just fine.
Not only that, but the schedule is much more favorable next season. Yes, the Broncos open with Ole Miss in the Georgia Dome, but they get San Diego State, Fresno State, Utah State and BYU at home next season.
Harsin will have his hands full no doubt, but he probably wouldn't have it any other way.