Boise State linebackers coach Andy Avalos' experience speaks for itself

The former standout linebacker's success is translating to coaching.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comMarch 17, 2014 

Linebackers coach Andy Avalos runs his players through drills on the first day of spring football practice last week at the Caven-Williams Sports Complex. AVALOS' BIO, S5



    Age: 32

    Hometown: Corona, Calif.

    Playing career: Linebacker at Boise State (2000-04). He earned All-WAC first-team honors in 2003 and 2004. He made 365 career tackles, leading the team three times.

    Coaching career: Corona (Calif.) High linebackers coach (2005), Colorado defensive graduate assistant (2006-08), Nebraska Kearney defensive line coach (2009-10), Sacramento State linebackers coach (2011), Boise State defensive line coach (2012-13).

    Education: Bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Boise State (2004), master's degree in education from Colorado (2008)

    Family: Wife, Summer; newborn daughter, Paityn

    Did you know? Avalos returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown in the 2004 Liberty Bowl against Louisville. That play has led to many jokes in the office. "He about died on that," coach Bryan Harsin said. "It's 75 yards down that hallway (in the coaches' offices). He's 65 yards from me, so I'm always asking if I should come down to see him. I know it's a long way for him."

Editor's note: We'll profile each member of the Boise State's new coaching staff before the season begins. Previously: Kent Riddle. Up next: Steve Caldwell.

If a Boise State linebacker wants to know what is expected of him, all he has to do is look at his coach.

Or his coach's old game film.

New linebackers coach Andy Avalos stands among the program's all-time greats at the position. He led the Broncos in tackles in 2002, 2003 and 2004, when the team went on a 36-3 run.

"He can say, which he probably won't, 'I did it this way,' " said defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, who was the cornerbacks coach for the latter years of Avalos' playing career. "They can go into the archives and pick up his film."

Avalos, 32, didn't intend to coach when he graduated in 2004. He was going to become a detective. But he missed football and decided to coach linebackers at Corona (Calif.) High in his hometown in 2005.

He "got the bug" and set out to become a college linebackers coach instead.

And he knew where he'd like to land someday.

"If I had my choice, it would be at Boise State," he said, "so when this opportunity popped up and to be able to coach for coach (Bryan) Harsin and coach Yates and be back around a lot of these guys I've played with or who have coached me before or are my good friends, it was a great opportunity for me."

Avalos returned to Boise State in 2012 to become the defensive line coach. He worked in tandem with then-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski on the line.

Coach Chris Petersen offered Avalos the same assignment at Washington, Avalos said. Harsin trumped that by dangling the linebackers assignment.

Two months later, Avalos' wife Summer gave birth to their first child, daughter Paityn.

"For us, it's an ideal place to raise a family," Avalos said. "On the professional side, you want to be somewhere where you feel comfortable, where you have a good opportunity to win and be successful and all that. To be able to combine that with the opportunity to live in a great place - that's what makes Boise State special."

The other incentive for Avalos: the roster.

After several years of depth issues created by injuries and attrition, the Broncos are so loaded at the two linebacker positions that they didn't sign any in the 2014 class.

The crew includes multiple-game starters Blake Renaud, Tyler Gray, Ben Weaver and Tanner Vallejo. Six of the nine linebackers, all of whom are on scholarship, still have at least three seasons of eligibility remaining.

"I got to know those guys a lot, even though I didn't coach them last year," Avalos said. "I felt really, really good about the guys we've got coming back. They're great people, good football players and fun guys to be around."

Players say Avalos' ability to connect with them - he's a terrific recruiter for the same reason - made him a popular choice to remain on the staff.

They also like his attitude.

"He's got a fire lit under his feet," Vallejo said.

And Avalos expects the same from his players.

"My ideal linebacker is a guy who's very passionate about the game because I think you've got to be passionate about the game to play linebacker," Avalos said. "A guy who can run and change direction and loves the physical aspect of the game and the mental aspect of the game."

That's what Harsin, who had not worked with Avalos before, saw in Avalos as a player. Harsin was on staff for the last four of Avalos' seasons as a player.

"He's always been a hard worker, always been a guy with a chip on his shoulder, with something to prove," Harsin said. "He's always been smart. He played that way. Being around him as a coach, not much has changed. For that linebacker group, he's exactly what they need - not because he played that position, but because of his mentality."

Avalos also has grown into a larger role in the staff room in the new regime. He has served as a sounding board for Yates, a first-time coordinator.

"I sit in his meetings a lot because I don't want to sit in the (defensive backs) meetings because I'll take over," Yates said. "He's sharp. Because he played the position, he takes it personal. He's very detailed. He has great ideas.

"He's a star."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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