Boise State gets back to business

Broncos hold practice amid chaos of coaches and recruits coming and going.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comDecember 8, 2013 

BOISE STATE’S NEW COACH — FOR NOW Interim head coach Bob Gregory moves his team through a postseason practice — his first at the helm — Saturday at BSU’s indoor facility.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

The Boise State football team held its first bowl practice Saturday under the direction of interim coach Bob Gregory.

It was a standard vibe — with smiles abundant as the team hit the field for the first time in nearly a week.

The media was allowed to watch about 20 minutes of practice, and the team followed its usual script. The players usually gather around coach Chris Petersen for a quick couple words after stretching. They ran toward Gregory, but he waved them off.

The normalcy of the practice routine masked the turmoil surrounding the program, which was jolted by Petersen’s hiring at Washington on Friday morning.

Petersen’s loss hit players and recruits hard — and there’s still the unsettled issue of the assistants.

Running backs coach Keith Bhonapha, a key recruiter for the Broncos in Southern California, will join Petersen’s staff at Washington, offensive line commit Troy Bacon said. Bhonapha was the director of football operations from 2006 to 2008 and became the running backs coach in 2009.

Bhonapha was not at the practice and he told Bacon that he is scheduled to meet with Petersen on Sunday. Neither Boise State nor Washington would comment on Bhonapha’s status.

Offensive line coach Chris Strausser, meanwhile, told Bacon that he is a candidate to become the head coach but otherwise likely will follow Petersen to Washington, Bacon said. Strausser, the associate head coach, was the offensive line coach from 2001 to 2005. He went to Colorado with Dan Hawkins in 2006 and returned to the staff in 2007.

Strausser made a home visit to Bacon on Thursday night in Oak Hills, Calif. Bacon asked about Petersen’s future, but Strausser was unable to provide an answer.

“I never would have thought this would happen,” Bacon said. “… I’m glad it happened now — not my redshirt year, to be left without answers.”

Bacon has spoken to Petersen and Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle, he said.

He expects to decommit and take an official visit to Washington State. He won’t rule out Boise State, but he also is interested in Washington.

Petersen has not offered him a scholarship with the Huskies.

“The big two people (Petersen and Bhonapha) that I really, really clicked it off with are leaving,” he said. “That’s a big reason I’ll be looking to Washington here soon.”

Boise State held 13 oral commitments from 2014 recruits when Petersen left. It already has lost one. Defensive end Jaylen Johnson — who chose Boise State over Oregon — has decommitted and Petersen offered him a scholarship to Washington, Johnson told Lindsey Thiry of FOX Sports.

Most commits contacted by the Idaho Statesman did not respond or declined interview requests.

Bacon communicates with many of the commits and said there’s a lot of uncertainty among the group. He also keeps in touch with players on the team, who texted him with Petersen’s decision.

“They don’t know what to think of it,” Bacon said. “… When they had the team meeting, some of the guys said some of the kids were just broken from it.”

For recruits, their futures could come down to who gets the full-time job. Defensive back Khalil Oliver of Rocky Mountain High plans to meet with his coach and family Monday and defensive end Will Dissly of Bozeman, Mont., who committed to Petersen on Sunday, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I’m going to let the situation play out and weigh my options,” Dissly told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

PETERSEN MEETS HIS TEAM

The Huskies’ first team meeting with their new coach went well Saturday, judging by the players’ reaction on Twitter.

“Coach Petersen is the real deal!!!” fullback Psalm Wooching tweeted. “ ‘Strive for perfection, settle for excellence.’ ”

Petersen, who hasn’t commented publicly yet, will be introduced to the Seattle media at 1 p.m. MT Monday. The press conference will be streamed live on gohuskies.com.

THE COACHING SEARCH

The frontrunners remain Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin, Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter — all former members of the Boise State staff.

Harsin’s Red Wolves clinched a share of the Sun Belt championship Saturday with a loss by Louisiana. The Red Wolves are 7-5 — with losses to SEC finalists Auburn and Missouri — and 5-2 in conference. They’ll play in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Wilcox is in limbo — his boss, Steve Sarkisian, took the USC job but he has not yet followed him there. The Huskies (8-4) also still have a bowl game to handle.

Koetter’s Falcons (3-9) play at 11 a.m. Sunday at Green Bay.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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