Excitement and anxiety as Boise State players, coaches take field together

New coaches, players finally get to know each other on the field as spring ball begins.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comMarch 11, 2014 

— The Boise State football team's new offensive coordinator, Mike Sanford, took the practice field Monday with his fourth different team in a little more than five years as a full-time college football coach.

At each school, he was part of a new staff.

He knows well the vibe shared by players and coaches on that first day of practice - excited, anxious, eager, tense.

"I've been through it quite a few times now," Sanford said. "There's some good anxiety. It's like Christmas. … You want to make sure you got the right gift. 'Did I get a Super Nintendo?' "

Those judgments will require more than one day to make - but the Boise State players and coaches made a strong first impression with each other Monday morning inside the Caven-Williams Sports Complex, where spring ball began.

The Broncos will practice 15 times in a five-week span, including a week off for spring break. It's the first chance for new coach Bryan Harsin and his staff to evaluate and instruct the players they inherited from previous coach Chris Petersen.

Senior defensive end Beau Martin called the helmets-only practice "intense."

"Guys are having fun, guys are flying around and guys are refreshed," he said. "They're ready to get back on the field."

The coaches have watched enough video from last season to know about the standout players - guys like tailback Jay Ajayi, wide receiver Matt Miller and cornerback Donte Deayon.

But for much of the roster, a new staff represents a chance to start over. Last year's third-stringer could be this year's starter.

"There was a lot of energy out there," senior quarterback Grant Hedrick said. "The intensity was up there. … You just want to have a good first impression. It kind of was like the first day they've seen us play, so guys want to go out there and do the best they can and play well. Obviously, there was a little bit of an edge to everybody."

Harsin wasted no time setting the tone for his role. He was right in the thick of the offense during the installation period, when the group rehearses the plays it will run in practice, and he put the quarterbacks through their first period of individual drills.

Harsin, who was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Boise State (2006-10) and Texas (2011-12), indicated at his introductory press conference in December that he would have a hands-on approach to the offense.

Sanford is the play caller, but the offense is a joint venture.

"(Harsin) is an incredible offensive mind," Sanford said. "His system has constantly evolved. I've followed it. We've spoken (over the years). There's a lot of harmony between the way the two of us see offensive football."

Hedrick, who was a true freshman in 2010 for Harsin's last season as the Broncos' coordinator, recognizes much of the new offense from then. Sanford has added items from his stint at Stanford and kept elements from Boise State's post-Harsin playbook.

Hedrick anticipates a return to the shifts and motions that were the signature of Boise State's offense for more than a decade, and an extensive carryover in terminology.

Last year, the offense was simplified and stripped of much of the pre-snap movement to accommodate a faster pace.

"There's going to be a little more thinking involved," Hedrick said, "but that's good."

The first few days, though, are more about cohesion than scheme.

The players must adjust to the new coaches' style and drills. The coaches must figure out what type of players they have, what they can do and how to motivate them.

"These guys know our staff, but they don't know us truly as coaches with a football on the field, and we don't know them as players with a football on the field because clearly we haven't done that," Sanford said. "… It's exciting. It's tense. But it's a good feeling because you've got a roster full of guys trying to make a great first impression, and you've got a staff full of coaches who are trying to make a great first impression on the players - because, ultimately, you want to earn the respect of your players, that you're a great teacher and you make them better."

Monday's practice provided the baseline.

Associate head coach Kent Riddle called it "a pretty good starting point."

"Everybody's trying to prove themselves, trying to feel their way around a little bit, to see what everybody's looking for," said Riddle, the running backs and special teams coach. "… We've put a lot of hard work in just to get to this (practice), so it's nice to be able to get to the point."

The evaluation process over the next five weeks will extend beyond the field.

Harsin wants to see how the players use the 45[0xbd] hours between the first two practices - and each break thereafter.

"To me, the part in spring practice that I really look at is the type of preparation the guys do in between, to the next practice," Harsin said. "That's really where the key can come in our success. … As much time as we have between practices, guys should really come into it prepared."

NOTES: Junior Marcus Henry, the starting right guard last season, opened spring ball as the center. Two-year starter Matt Paradis graduated. … Sophomore defensive end Darien Barrett has left the team. That leaves six ends on the roster for spring ball. Three more scholarship ends are scheduled to arrive this summer.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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