Former Boise State and Capital High quarterback and Boise State assistant coach Bryan Harsin is trying to create a small slice of Boise in northeast Arkansas.
Harsin, the 36-year-old first-year football coach at Arkansas State, has hired seven coaches who played or coached at Boise State Julius Brown, cornerbacks (former Boise State cornerback and player personnel director), Bush Hamdan, quarterbacks (quarterback), Kent Riddle, assistant head coach/tight ends/special teams (special teams coach), Thomas Byrd, offensive graduate assistant (center), Gerald Alexander, defensive graduate assistant (defensive back), Jeff Pitman, strength coach (strength coach, center) and Lee Marks, assistant strength coach (tailback).
Harsin played quarterback at Boise State from 1995 to 1999 and was an assistant from 2001 to 2010, the last five as offensive coordinator. He spent the past two seasons as the co-offensive coordinator at Texas.
Statesman reporter Chadd Cripe recently caught up with Harsin, whose wife and three children already have settled into their new home. Heres the bulk of that interview:
Question: Did you have any connection to the people at Arkansas State?
Answer: Not really. For them, the Boise State name had been used there quite a bit just because its a non-BCS school and there are a lot of similarities. A lot of teams want to have that same type of success that Boises had. When coach (Gus) Malzahn was there (in 2012), that was something that was brought up a lot. That Boise State brand, theyve looked at that model. Theyre very interested in it. That was something we talked about quite a bit. Thats a huge part of what were doing. That blueprint and foundation is what were going to utilize at Arkansas State.
Q: Did you talk to San Jose State?
A: There was a chance to go there and interview. I really like what (former Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier) has done. But this was happening at that time. My mind was made up that this was what I wanted to do.
Q: What did you tell the Arkansas State folks about your vision for the program?
A: If youre just talking about from a team standpoint, high character. You want to be around high-character guys who are good people and do things the right way. That was one thing we talked about that was very important to me, doing it the right way. If you look at our staff, theres a Boise State connection there. Guys that I know. That was important to me.
Q: What were the No. 1 lessons you learned from Boise State coach Chris Petersen and Texas coach Mack Brown?
A: The No. 1 thing from both those guys was integrity. Obviously Im very biased. Those two guys, to me, are the highest-integrity guys Ive been around. They just do it the right way. You can do it that way and you can be successful that way. Both coaches surround themselves with really good people. In the hiring process I remember when Pete got the job and then we hired Justin (Wilcox, as defensive coordinator) and we went out and interviewed guys. We got to know them. We got to know them as people. It was a process. It wasnt just bang, bang, bang were up and running. I thought Pete did a great job of taking his time. We got the right staff put together and we had a great year that first year (in 2006).
Q: What advice have you received from Petersen?
A: Im still leaning on him for a lot of things. Theres a lot of stuff. The one thing from Pete, I always felt like I always knew on a daily basis what our plan was. He always did a great job communicating on a daily basis, just keeping that vision of what our standards are and what our goals are. Every time we had a staff meeting or every time we were together, I walked out of there like, I know what Ive got to do. Ive tried to adopt that with this staff as well.
Q: Former Capital coach Steve Vogel said you told him in high school you wanted to be a college head coach by 40. Do you remember that?
A: That was probably just a pipe dream, just throwing that one out there. Who knew?
Q: Youre the third Arkansas State coach in three years. You played for three coaches in three years at Boise State Pokey Allen, Houston Nutt and Dirk Koetter (and interim Tom Mason, too). Did you talk to your team about that?
A: I told the guys that when I took the job. Before my press conference I was able to address the team. They were getting ready to play in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. One thing about this team, sitting back being a fly on the wall, theyre a unified team. Youre right, theyve been through two head coaches. Im the third one coming in. I know where theyre coming from. What you do as a player is you have to make a decision, were either going to be upset about it and let it affect us or lock arms and be unified. I thought I embraced the change of it (at Boise State) and I learned something different from each and every one of them. Thats all been positive for me in my football career. I told the guys: Embrace it. Its a good opportunity for you to be around new people and grow yourself as a player and person. They were all nodding their heads.
Q: Whos going to call plays?
A: I will, until its time to not do it. Chris let me do it. Id been right there with him (as an assistant) the whole entire time (he was the coordinator). I knew how he wanted it and how we were going to do things. I dont want to step away from that right now. I want to make sure were up and running and doing things how we want to do them offensively.
Q: Will you run the offense you ran at Boise State?
A: Similar. Well do a little bit more. They were very good in Gus offense. I went and visited Gus in 2007 and we implemented a portion of the philosophy, the no-huddle stuff (at Boise State). Well continue with that, but well still have elements of what we were doing at Boise and Texas.
Q: What have the first couple months been like?
A whirlwind. I think my job is duties as assigned. The administrations new. Were just trying to get everything put together. Its every day something different. We have a structure. We have a vision. We have a formula and all that. Its just not all up and running. Its all in pieces and parts.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,