Boise State football has new/old strength coach, new/old approach

Jeff Pitman is back, and so is the Broncos’ commitment to toughness.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJanuary 28, 2014 

Robert Ash climbs the stairs on the second level of Bronco Stadium while Jerhen Ertel holds his legs during conditioning drills Monday morning.


— It took just a couple of days for a theme to emerge from the Boise State football team’s winter conditioning program, which began last week with the start of the spring semester.

“It’s kind of the old-school Bronco mentality,” senior nickel Corey Bell said. “It’s coming back a little bit; the toughness thing is a big deal. That’s what’s being stressed to us, what it really means to be Bronco tough — mentally, physically, spiritually even, emotionally — how we need to be tough in all aspects, so when we face whoever we face, we can come at them with that imposing characteristic.”

Jeff Pitman, the hard-nosed former walk-on offensive lineman from Melba, has returned as the head strength and conditioning coach after eight years bouncing from Colorado (2006-10) to Western Carolina (2011-12) to Arkansas State (2013).

Pitman previously held this job for the 1999 through 2005 seasons, when the Broncos won six conference titles and four bowl games in seven years. He followed former coach Dan Hawkins to Colorado.

Pitman wants to create bigger, stronger, faster, more explosive, more fit players, but he also hopes the byproduct is a tougher team.

“That’s just who I am,” he said. “It can be a spread offense or the power-I or the spread option. At the end of the day it’s still about blocking and tackling. That hopefully will never change in football. … The toughest guy is going to win.”

Pitman replaces Tim Socha, who replaced him in 2006. Socha followed former coach Chris Petersen to Washington after the 2013 season ended.

Pitman, who was with new coach Bryan Harsin at Arkansas State last year, and the rest of the coaching staff met their new players at the team’s first meeting Jan. 20. School began the next day.

The coaches — only two of the 10 full-timers are holdovers from Petersen’s staff — took turns introducing themselves.

“Some of them had a little PowerPoint; some had a video,” Bell said. “There were different ways they introduced themselves.”

Said junior offensive lineman Marcus Henry: “I feel like I’m brand new in the program again. It’s been good. It’s been fun. There’s a lot of energy and excitement about what’s to come.”

The 2014 team will begin to mold itself in Pitman’s winter workouts — four weightlifting sessions and three running sessions per week until spring ball begins March 10. They work four days a week.

Pitman, in fact, will be the primary voice the players hear in January, February, May, June and July, giving him a chance to set the tone for the new program.

“Everybody on the staff but one guy I’ve either coached or coached with, and we’re all saying the same stuff,” Pitman said. “That’s the bottom line: We want to be a tougher team. That’s the way we want to practice, that’s the way we want to portray ourselves, that’s the way we want to play. … It’s been a very smooth transition.”

Pitman’s assistant is former Boise State tailback Lee Marks, who spent five years in his program (2001-05) and worked with him at Colorado and Arkansas State. Marks’ specialties are speed and nutrition.

“One thing the athletes will understand is they know Pit and myself are Broncos for life, and it’s very personal for us coaching at Boise State,” Marks said. “They’re going to feel that when we’re coaching them, they’re going to hear that in our voices and they’re going to see it in our demeanor when we’re walking around.”

Pitman was known for his intensity — and challenging workouts — in his first stint with the Broncos. One of the staples of his program was running the upper decks of Bronco Stadium once a week in the summer, an exercise that will “never change,” he said.

But he has evolved in subtle ways since he left, he said.

“A little wiser, I guess. A little more understanding of the condition of the kids,” he said. “Especially in this day and age, these kids have a lot on their plates, a lot more than when I played, and even more than 10 years ago.”

Like most of the coaches who left with Hawkins, Pitman watched with pride as the Broncos rose to even greater heights without him.

And he did so with regret.

“I learned I really missed this place,” he said. “That was No. 1. I did a lot of looking from afar, scratching my head a little bit why I left in the first place. It was a good experience. I needed to grow a little bit as a coach. It was good for me as a coach to go through that. The second time around here will be better for the kids because of my experience.”

He’s on a staff loaded with returners — former Boise State coaches and players determined to take what Petersen built and propel it forward.

Pitman once provided career-changing advice to Harsin, when Harsin was snubbed for a job as tight ends coach.

Harsin was ticked, but Pitman told him he couldn’t show his frustration to his bosses. He needed to show them he could attack his weaknesses.

Harsin did that, got the job when it came open again months later and eventually became the Broncos’ offensive coordinator at 29 and head coach at 37.

It’s that kind of fortitude Pitman and Harsin hope to foster in their players.

“Coach Pitman’s strength program is a little different, but I think we’ll do very well with it,” Henry said. “…The change is going to be good for this program. I’m excited to see everyone out there doing their thing (in spring ball).”

Patti will sit

Former Boise State quarterback Nick Patti said Monday via text message he plans to sit out the spring semester. He declined further comment. Boise State announced earlier this month that Patti had been granted permission to pursue a transfer to UCF. He will be ineligible to play at another Football Bowl Subdivision school this fall under NCAA transfer rules, so missing spring ball shouldn’t be a major setback.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service