Boise State sophomore cornerback Bryan Douglas couldnt deny coach Chris Petersens evaluation.
He still didnt like it.
Petersen told Douglas earlier this year that he was underachieving in the classroom and if he addressed that shortcoming hed see improvement on the field, too.
Petersen also asked him to increase his intensity in strength and conditioning workouts.
It was hurtful, Douglas said. But I knew as a person, I could be doing better than what I am right now. I took it as a challenge.
Thats exactly what Petersen wanted.
And months later, player and coach are pleased with the results.
Douglas (5-foot-9, 166 pounds) has started the Broncos first three games of the season instead of senior returning starter Jerrell Gavins, who has played part time while overcoming last years knee injury.
Douglas has made what he calls a humongous leap in the classroom.
And he got the reward Petersen dangled in front of him a new jersey. Douglas never liked the No. 46 he wore the past two years; now hes in No. 1, one of the most popular jerseys in the program.
It was nice to have a little bit of a carrot, Petersen said. I also told him, Youre not wearing it next year if anything changes.
That seems unlikely, given the way teammates talk about Douglas increased commitment and improved play.
He came back (this summer) with just a different mindset, senior cornerback Jamar Taylor said. The light bulb kind of turned on.
Added senior wide receiver Mitch Burroughs: Hes taken a big leap. You can just see the maturity coming out in him. It seems like hes grown up a lot, in a hurry.
Douglas learned the game in Los Angeles from two older brothers, including one who has played small-college football.
He met some significant challenges along the way breaking his clavicle twice and undergoing an appendix surgery in high school.
Ive got a great support system, Douglas said. My family, my coaches, theyve been there since day one and they really pushed me to get here.
He chose Boise State over San Diego State. He visited USC and UCLA and missed a trip to Oregon because of his appendix. He figures hed have received Pac-12 offers if he hadnt committed to Boise State early.
The Broncos won him over with their team chemistry.
There is definitely no other team and no other coaching staff like this one, he said. I got to talk to the star players on the team the guys who were on the side of the building up here at the time. That was something big to me. Thats big to recruits, how some of the top players on the team show love to a kid whos just in high school.
That continues when players arrive, with veterans often serving as mentors for the promising youngsters. In Douglas case, Taylor has been an influential role model.
Douglas spent this past summer grinding alongside Taylor in extra workouts and asking him questions in the video room.
He probably got tired of me this summer, Douglas said. Its going to be hard when that dudes gone next year.
By then, Douglas will be in a leadership position.
And he already has a bit of a protégé of his own true freshman Chaz Anderson, who is redshirting.
The two are cousins.
Im the youngest in my family, so I never really had anybody who looked up to me but Chaz, Douglas said. Im just glad hes here with me so I can show him how things are done around here and hopefully he gets a lot of playing time, too.
Douglas playing time this season comes as a surprise.
The Broncos returned one of the best cornerback tandems in the nation but Gavins, who missed the final 10 games last season, wasnt a full participant in fall camp.
Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said he uses Douglas and Gavins by feel during games. Douglas has seven tackles and a forced fumble; Gavins, who started one game as the third corner, has 12 tackles.
Bryan, he had an opportunity and he took advantage of it, Lake said. We had a guy we kind of had to nurse along during camp and sure enough (Douglas) started making plays in camp and we wanted to throw him out there and say, Hey, hes doing it in practice. Its got to transition over to the games. And sure enough, when those lights turned on at Michigan State, he played really, really well.
Douglas started one game last year, at San Diego State, when the Broncos faced a crisis-level rash of cornerback injuries.
I really wasnt prepared last year, he said.
Lake has taught him to focus less on the amount of space around him and more on the specific task he needs to accomplish in a given call.
The increased comfort level allows Douglas to use the tools that made him a college recruit in the first place great speed, solid footwork and uncommon energy.
Not a lot of guys are going to beat him deep, Burroughs said.
And with little to distract him off the field, Douglas should get better over the next couple months.
Its just less stress when you know your grades are good, you know you dont have to worry about the weight room, he said. Coach Pete always says that everything we do is for a reason. I have no doubt about that saying.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat