Former Boise State QB, coordinator hopes to close revolving door at Arkansas State

Bryan Harsin is Arkansas State's third head coach in as many years.


Former Capital High and Boise State quarterback Bryan Harsin started his coaching career at Boise State and moved to Texas. Now he's at Arkansas State, which has won the past two Sun Belt championships, for his first head coaching position.


Bryan Harsin is on the clock.

After all, he's been Arkansas State's head football coach for going on 211 days now, and everyone knows that job carries a warranty of only one year.

Harsin - Texas' former co-offensive coordinator and primary play caller - laughs about the notion, but Red Wolves fans may fail to see the humor after first Hugh Freeze and then Gus Malzahn had very short stays in Jonesboro, Ark. Both left after one season, each to take SEC gigs at Ole Miss and Auburn.

"I'm the product of two coaches who have gone on after one year, but let's not worry about it," said Harsin, a former Capital High and Boise State quarterback who worked his way up to offensive coordinator at BSU. "It's hard to say anything after it happens two years in a row. Nothing is guaranteed, but I want to stay here for a long time."

Arkansas State fans hope so, too. Harsin took the job, campus unseen, after only a two-hour interview at the Austin airport in December with Arkansas State's athletic director, president and chancellor. Other than a visit to Little Rock as a Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year finalist in 2009, he and his wife Kes had never set foot in the state.

He was introduced on 12/12/12, and hopes his time there is equally memorable.

Despite more than 50 "serious, legit" applicants, including a former NFL head coach and an offensive coordinator of an NFL team that went deep into last year's playoffs, first-year Athletic Director Terry Mohajir reached out to Harsin. He wanted someone established who had worked with budgets both lean (Boise State) and fat (Texas), and someone who could develop quarterbacks.

"We needed to find a guy who would develop a brand, someone who has a track record and wouldn't be concerned about playing some of the bigger brand teams," Mohajir said. "Bryan's good with people. He talks ball. He loves getting dirty. He likes to recruit. He communicates. His practices are intense. I think he's a rising star in the business."

And to keep him, Mohajir included a $1.75 million buyout in Harsin's contract. Malzahn's was only $700,000, and Freeze had none.

So now that Harsin has arrived with a five-year deal paying him $700,000 a season, Red Wolves fans have to hope he stays at least for two years.

That is, if he can duplicate the same success Harsin's two predecessors had in winning the Sun Belt the past two years and playing in the Bowl.

In that regard, Harsin says "absolutely there's pressure," but he would want it no other way.

Harsin gets it. In large part because he learned at the right hand of Mack Brown as well as Boise State's Chris Petersen and Dan Hawkins.

"I wouldn't have this opportunity if I hadn't been at Texas. I really believe that," Harsin said. "Mack's a guy who helps develop his coaches. I was smart enough to shut up and listen."

He'll apply that at an established program that is regarded well enough to send head coaches to better jobs and one that has some ready-made stars in All-Sun Belt performers like Tennessee transfer running back David Oku, 310-pound defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers and stud kicker Brian Davis. And wide receiver J.D. McKissic, who caught a school-record 103 balls last season.

But Harsin knows his Red Wolves may be only as good as his quarterback makes them. Gone is two-time Sun Belt player of the year Ryan Aplin, and left behind are as many quarterback candidates as Harsin has fingers.

"We've got good skill position players," he said. "We just have to get the quarterback position figured out."

He's accustomed to that. Harsin helped shape Kellen Moore into college football's all-time winningest quarterback.

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