BOISE — It took just a couple of days for a theme to emerge from the Boise State football teams winter conditioning program, which began last week with the start of the spring semester.
Its kind of the old-school Bronco mentality, senior nickel Corey Bell said. Its coming back a little bit; the toughness thing is a big deal. Thats whats 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.
Thats 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 its 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 teams first meeting Jan. 20. School began the next day.
The coaches only two of the 10 full-timers are holdovers from Petersens 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 Im brand new in the program again. Its been good. Its been fun. Theres a lot of energy and excitement about whats to come.
The 2014 team will begin to mold itself in Pitmans 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 Ive either coached or coached with, and were all saying the same stuff, Pitman said. Thats the bottom line: We want to be a tougher team. Thats the way we want to practice, thats the way we want to portray ourselves, thats the way we want to play. Its been a very smooth transition.
Pitmans 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 its very personal for us coaching at Boise State, Marks said. Theyre going to feel that when were coaching them, theyre going to hear that in our voices and theyre going to see it in our demeanor when were 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.
Hes 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 couldnt 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.
Its that kind of fortitude Pitman and Harsin hope to foster in their players.
Coach Pitmans strength program is a little different, but I think well do very well with it, Henry said. The change is going to be good for this program. Im 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 shouldnt be a major setback.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat