A familiar face is ready to resume his battles with Idaho

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comOctober 12, 2013 

Bryan Harsin, a Capital High graduate and a quarterback at Boise State in the late 1990s, served as a Broncos assistant coach from 2001-10, the last five seasons as offensive coordinator. He spent the past two seasons as co-offensive coordinator at Texas before being hired at Arkansas State in December.

ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY

— Arkansas State senior wide receiver Carlos McCants is playing for his fourth head coach. The new one makes him about as excited to come to practice as ever.

In his first season with the Red Wolves, former Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has injected an already-successful program with a taste of what made the Broncos special.

"Everything is fun," McCants said. "We get pushed to work harder than we ever have, but you'll come out one day and they'll have you run this crazy trick play, something you've never seen before."

A trick play, of course.

In his first season as a head coach, Harsin is 2-3 overall and 1-0 in Sun Belt Conference play heading into Saturday's nonconference home game against Idaho, which joins the SBC next season. Two of his three losses came against SEC teams.

"It's a lot different having to give that postgame talk in the locker room, win or lose," Harsin said. "Losses are tough, knowing you're overseeing the whole thing. When you win, you wonder if you did everything right, and you start worrying about what to fix."

Even just five games into his tenure, Harsin gets "the" question often in Jonesboro.

In each of the past two seasons, Arkansas State has won 10 games, but following each, its head coach has left after one season - Hugh Freeze for Ole Miss in 2011 and Gus Malzahn for Auburn last year.

"Yeah, I get it a lot - 'Are you going to stay?' " Harsin said. "It's not real fair. I don't want people to think that way. I came here to see progress, and it's being made."

Harsin's contract has a massive $1.75 million buyout after his first season, helping ensure he won't be the third one-year coach in a row. And as far as that progress, he is eager to move into a new $22 million facility, which includes an indoor practice field, slated to open in December.

As much as he's eager for change, Harsin was just as eager to maintain a high level of success.

"The first meeting we had, he asked all the seniors about what we wanted to keep," McCants said. "There were things that might seem small, like what we do for pregame meals, stretching, how we run out of the tunnel, but that meant a lot to us."

But Harsin was hired largely because of his background.

His offense blends concepts from Boise State and Texas, with some spread concepts Freeze and Malzahn implemented. He brought the focus on culture and character that is paramount to Chris Petersen from the Broncos, and the way that Mack Brown organized a program with a huge budget, along with constant media attention and numerous off-field responsibilities.

"It's a melting pot," Harsin said.

Including Harsin and two graduate assistants, nine members of his staff played or coached for the Broncos.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420; Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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