Coordinated chaos: Former Broncos Yates, Sanford join Boise State coaching staff

ccripe@idahostatesman.comDecember 19, 2013 

The man who built “DBU’’ at Boise State is returning to lead the entire defense.

Marcel Yates, a former Boise State assistant and player, will serve as the defensive coordinator under new coach Bryan Harsin, the school announced Wednesday.

Another former player, Mike Sanford Jr., was named the offensive coordinator.

Yates played defensive back at Boise State through 1999. He was the cornerbacks coach from 2003 to 2005 and the defensive backs coach from 2006 to 2011 before taking a job as co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Texas A&M.

Yates coached NFL Draft picks Kyle Wilson, Jamar Taylor, Gerald Alexander, Orlando Scandrick, George Iloka and Brandyn Thompson, plus free-agent Jeron Johnson during his tenure with the Broncos.

“DBU is coming back,” said Johnson, who plays safety for the Seattle Seahawks, “and I’m happy for it.”

Yates is a respected recruiter who constructed a pipeline from his hometown of Los Angeles to Boise. Among his L.A. recruits: Johnson, Scandrick, wide receivers Titus Young and Jeremy Childs and tailback Jeremy Avery.

He also recruited Texas for the Broncos and has added to those connections at A&M.

“His happiness and his comfort and his passion, it made that transition look like a possibility,” said former safety Jason Robinson, another of Yates’ Los Angeles recruits. “There’s no place like L.A. Anywhere you go, it’s going to be a drastic change. Finding somebody who was from there, who you can be comfortable with, it helps ease the pain of that transition. He takes everyone under his wing — ‘You’re part of that fraternity. You’re my L.A. group. … I’m going to take care of you.’ We all felt taken care of.”

Yates also discovered hidden gems — like Johnson, a three-year starter who converted from high school linebacker to college safety, and Avery, an overlooked recruit who became an offensive weapon.

“He saw something in me that pretty much every other college didn’t,” Johnson said.

But Robinson and Johnson say Yates’ influence on the Broncos’ best defenses went beyond recruiting and secondary play.

“It’s long overdue for him to get that position and that opportunity,” Robinson said. “A lot of people didn’t really understand how impactful he was during the glory days. Coach Yates had a lot to do with the schematics of that defense.”

The former players expect a fast, physical, technically sound defense from the Broncos. And one that plays with great effort.

“That defensive unit will be a lot more physical, which I believe they need,” Johnson said.

Added Robinson: “You’re going to see some smart kids … a lot of flavor, a lot of swag, a lot of guys flying around and playing fast. I know what type of energy he was able to pump us up with as defensive backs. Now he can do that to the whole group and spearhead 11 of them. It can get scary for the opposition.”

Yates played and coached with Harsin at Boise State. Both were seniors in 1999.

“He is one of the sharpest defensive minds in the country,” Harsin said in a press release.

Sanford rejoins the Broncos after a much longer absence. He was a reserve quarterback for the team from 2000 to 2004. Harsin was on the staff, but not as the quarterbacks coach, during the last four of those years.

Sanford has spent the past three years at Stanford — as the running backs coach in 2011, the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator in 2012 and the quarterbacks and wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator in 2013.

He previously worked at Western Kentucky (2010), Yale (2009), Stanford (2007-08) and UNLV (2005-06). At UNLV, he worked for his dad, former head coach Mike Sanford Sr.

This will be Sanford’s first opportunity as a coordinator. He is considered one of the best recruiters in the Pac-12.

Stanford runs an offense more like Boise State’s old one than the new one implemented by coordinator Robert Prince last season. Prince’s status is unknown.

“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to return to my alma mater, which I’ve always believed to be one of the elite football programs in the country,” Sanford said in a press release. “This is a great time in the history of Boise State’s storied program and I cannot wait to work alongside coach Harsin and the rest of the new staff.”

Harsin, a former Boise State offensive coordinator, plans to have a hands-on role in the offense. He tried to hire Sanford last year as the head coach at Arkansas State.

“Mike is a young, bright coach, and having played the quarterback position at Boise State, he has a great understanding of what we are trying to do,” Harsin said in the release. “Mike has built up a great coaching background since his playing days as a Bronco, and I look forward to building the offense with him.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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