Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin said Wednesday that sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley remains eligible to play in the season opener and likely won’t face any further discipline for his offseason arrest.
Finley exited spring ball as the front-runner to win the starting job. He was the backup last year.
Finley’s pretrial conference has been delayed twice and now is scheduled for Sept. 28.
“I know the story,” Harsin said. “That’s the one thing about my position – you’ve got to make difficult decisions based off the information you’ve got, based on the person, the player, and how you feel about it. Is it perfect either way? No, it’s not. And we’ve gone the other way, but I feel like what I’ve asked and what he’s done, he’s done it.”
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According to the Boise Police arrest report, officers came to a residence on a noise complaint near West Hale Street and South Euclid Avenue near Boise State’s campus at 11:32 p.m. April 24 and saw a car pull up nearby with a few people exiting, but the occupants got back in once they saw officers. After officers approached, one of the passengers ran away, and after a brief pursuit, they located the man, identified as Finley, crouched in a nearby backyard. When booked, signs of intoxication, including an odor of alcohol and glassy eyes, were noticed by officers.
“We don’t want any of that,” Harsin said. “It’s disappointing. We deal with 18- to 22-year-olds. I remember when I was 18 to 22 as well. I know the standard we set. I know what we’re trying to accomplish with our players. I know my job is education and to help these guys learn from their mistakes ... and I feel like that’s my job. It’s not always going to be this or that. Every situation is different and I feel like in this case, that’s my decision, I feel like we’re doing the right thing as far as Ryan goes.”
Harsin left open the possibility of more discipline if he receives new information.
“We’ve got to give him the opportunity to go through the process,” Harsin said. “He’s gone through our process. ... I feel comfortable with what he’s done with what I’ve asked him to do, with how he’s responded. ... I can’t ask him to do any more than what he’s done and I’m proud of him. This is obviously disappointing – we all understand that – but when guys make up for their mistakes, and I believe he’s done that from our standpoint, then we’re good.”
Harsin added that as of now all players are eligible for the Sept. 4 opener against Washington.
When fall camp opens Aug. 6, Finley will lead the quarterback competition. Sophomore Tommy Stuart is No. 2 in the pecking order and true freshman Brett Rypien and redshirt freshman Alex Ogle are jockeying for No. 3, Harsin said.
Finley was well ahead at the end of spring ball.
“It was a big gap in spring,” Harsin said. “Ryan’s played. Ryan has the most experience. Ryan understands what we’re doing better than the other guys because he’s kind of been in that role and at one point everybody thought he was going to be the guy (last season). ... I think that gap has closed. I hope that gap has closed. It should have closed. If it hasn’t, there’s going to be a big separation or we haven’t done a good enough job with the younger guys. ... It shouldn’t be about, ‘He has more knowledge.’ ”
Rick Smith returns
Wide receiver Rick Smith rejoined the team this summer and is eligible to play this fall because of a medical absence waiver approved by the Mountain West, according to the school. He is expected to get cleared for full contact by mid-August, Harsin said.
Smith was injured in a fight with a teammate earlier this year and withdrew from school in the spring semester. The Arizona State transfer was the Offensive Scout Player of the Year last fall.
Harsin declined to provide any specifics of the incident involving Smith or his injuries. He did say the media report that indicated he would be out of athletic activities deep into the fall and need speech therapy was “inaccurate.”
“That’s one of our team issues – we don’t talk about those things,” Harsin said. “I can say this: We’re happy that Rick’s back.”
Harsin said tailback Jack Fields, who the Idaho Statesman has identified as the other player involved, won’t face any discipline. The team has had “real life conversations” about the incident, Harsin said.
“We’re a football team and we’re a family,” he said. “Things aren’t always perfect. ... We make sure people have learned from whatever the mistake may be. It’s not easy, but I’m glad I’m the one making (the decisions) because I feel like it’s the right thing for our guys.”
Smith is expected to contribute in the receiver rotation this season.
“Rick loves football and he loves Boise State,” Harsin said. “He wants to be out there contributing. He transferred from Arizona State for a reason.”
UW: Not just another game
The season opener against Washington and former Boise State coach Chris Petersen will be “emotional,” Harsin said.
“I don’t think it’s just another game,” Harsin said. “If you said that, you’d just be talking. It’s not just another game. It’s at home. It’s against a team that we’ve played in the past and against the former head coach and staff members who sat in their homes and recruited these guys, who had ... personal talks. They know each other. It is different. At the same time, we’ve all competed against our friends growing up. It might be your best friend. There’s something to it, but at the end of the day you’re just out there doing what you need to do for your football team. We’re mature enough to separate that. .. We have no control over the storyline or how big it becomes.”
The emotions, Harsin said, won’t become a factor until the game.
“We have to focus on us,” he said. “We’re so far away from where we want to be at the beginning of the season. That’s where our focus is at.”
Harsin, who worked under Petersen for 10 years at Boise State, hasn’t spoken to him “in a while.” They kept in touch during Harsin’s stints at Texas (2011-12) and Arkansas State (2013) and had a couple lunches after Petersen went to Washington and Harsin returned to Boise State.
“We haven’t done that lately,” Harsin said. “I imagine once the game is done that will change.”
The Boise State and Washington staffs were together at a football camp this summer in Utah. Harsin traded hugs with his former co-workers.
“Those are guys that working together we won a bunch of games,” Harsin said. “There’s great experiences and working relationships that we’ve had. Now we’ve gone different ways. There’s a tremendous amount of respect there. You’ve been in the fire with those guys and you know their character. You never lose that.”
But, he said, “you want to beat them.”
Petersen predicted on ESPN that he’ll get some boos at Albertsons Stadium. Harsin has a different take.
“I don’t think so, no,” he said of possible boos. “I don’t think that would happen. Our fans are educated. They know. Our fans have respect.”
Notes and quotes
– On discipline: “Every situation is different. The way that we do it and how our players understand it is they’ll be treated fair but not equal. That’s just how it is because every situation is different. ... When we do it, we’re going to stand behind our guys and I feel like we’ve done exactly what we tell them we’re going to do when we sit in their homes.”
– On safety Chanceller James’ rehab from a torn anterior cruciate ligament: “He’s doing great. We did some 300-yard shuttles and he was leading the group. Chance is doing a fantastic job. He has really taken his rehab to another level.” James will play safety and nickel, Harsin said. He was a starter when he was injured late last season.
– On wide receiver D.J. Dean, who has struggled with injuries during his career but has impressed teammates this summer: “I don’t have expectations for him right now. I just want him on the field. I want him to go down and run down on special teams or offense or whatever it is, just go play and smile and have fun. Just enjoy it. Once I see that, I’ll have expectations for him.” Dean is coming off hip surgery.
– Stanford transfer Kelsey Young was listed as the backup tailback because he has the most experience, Harsin said. Sophomore Jeremy McNichols is the projected starter. “This is how it’s going to have to start, but it certainly doesn’t mean it will finish there.”
– Harsin said when he started recruiting for Texas the high school coaches all wanted to talk to him about Boise State. That helped convince him that the Broncos should continue to recruit heavily in that state. “It was an eye-opening deal,” he said. “That’s why we’re in that state as heavy as we are and it’s been good to us.”
– On early recruiting commits: “I want them to know this is where they want to be. Regardless of whenever a student-athlete makes a decision, it’s going to change people’s lives, including his and ours. It also changes for other guys we’re talking to at that position. We’re not a pressure operation. We want guys that want to be there. We will find the Boise State guys.” He doesn’t have a cut-and-dried policy that commits shouldn’t visit other schools. “You’d be surprised some of the reasons why they might do it,” he said. “At the same time, there’s an understanding with that. No, we don’t want guys doing that at all but it doesn’t always work that way.”
– On third-year DT Tutulupeatau Mataele, who will make his Broncos debut this year: “It’s time for him to play. I’ve heard of Deuce, I’ve seen Deuce, I’ve watched him tear up our offense. It’s time for him to get out there and play.” Mataele was out of school in the fall of 2013 and suspended for 2014 because of an academic issue.
– On DL Tyler Horn, who gets a second chance at his senior year after an injury in last year’s opener against Ole Miss: “Tyler Horn might have been one of the best players in the game prior to getting hurt.”
– Linebacker Joe Martarano stayed with the Chicago Cubs’ organization a little longer than expected because he was promoted to the Northwest League. “He was concerned about my response,” Harsin said. The coach’s answer: “You need to do that.” Martarano has returned to the Broncos. “His birthday was (Tuesday),” Harsin said. “He’s back with his team. That (baseball) environment, it’s fun, it’s competitive. But his family is at Boise State. You can tell he’s excited to be back.”
– The safety/nickel positions remain in flux with players working at two or three spots.
– On an undefeated Mountain West team making the College Football Playoff semifinals: “If you’re not in it, something really special has happened for the other four that are. There’s a lot of good teams out there, so that might be the case. That’s the whole goal, right? – to win all your games and put yourself in that situation? Why wouldn’t it be? I think every team – I don’t give a crap what conference you’re from – every team that wins every game should believe they have a chance to play for it all.”
– Horn and Sam McCaskill will play end and tackle. They have experience at both spots. Horn was a starter at tackle last year and McCaskill replaced him when Horn got hurt.
– No uniform surprises planned.
– Harsin gave Air Force credit for making plays rather than Boise State making mistakes in last year’s game. However, Harsin said he was disappointed by the team’s preparation, particularly on offense. He cited “bad coaching.” The Broncos decided to stick with senior quarterback Grant Hedrick after the game. “We sucked,” he said, “but we’re not going to hit the panic button. That was one of the things for our players that probably helped them through it.”
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We had to tweak today’s live chat schedule. Harsin will join us at 4:30 p.m. MT as planned but Darian Thompson and Rees Odhiambo will be at 5 p.m. and 5:10 p.m.
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