Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin said his program's "Bronco Blitz" is about establishing relationships with coaches throughout the state in hopes of finding players in Idaho. Harsin, in his first year as the Broncos' head coach, sent his nine assistant coaches to visit each of Idaho's 130 football-playing high schools.
"If you look at some of the guys that have played for our teams in the past, scholarship guys or even guys that have walked on, have turned out to be good players for us. The most important thing, being a new staff, is getting out and establishing those relationships with our high school coaches. It's extremely important. Is there a guy at every single school? Probably not. I know for sure there's not. Will there be in the future? That's what the heart of this blitz is about," Harsin told the Idaho Statesman on Wednesday.
The "blitz" started Monday and ended Wednesday. Coaches documented their travels on social media networks.
When he was an assistant coach, Harsin said, he often visited Marsing High. Most years, he said, there wasn't any Boise State-caliber players there.
"All of a sudden there was one," he said, referring to former Boise State star and NFL first-rounder Shea McClellin.
Eighty-two Idaho high school players have signed with Football Bowl Subdivision colleges since 2002, according to Scout.com databases. Boise State has signed 32 of them, including key contributors like Corey Bell, Tyler Horn, Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Spencer Gerke and Nate Potter, an NFL draft pick.
"There are guys that may get overlooked. We sure as heck want to know about them. As guys get out there, as we come out of this, we'll know guys' names. We know who they are, whether that fits with what we need and we go from there," Harsin said.
The Broncos' assistant coaches are allowed 168 evaluation days this spring. Boise State has divided that number amongst its nine assistant coaches and planned to use two or three days per coach in Idaho. Harsin said he did not do anything similar in Arkansas, where he spent one year as Arkansas State's head coach.
Tight ends coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who is in charge of Idaho recruiting for the staff, put the plan together "as far as who's going where," Harsin said. "He's a thinker."
Football support staffers Taylor Tharp, Antwon Murray and Brad Larrondo worked with Drinkwitz to finalize the details and coordinate travel.
Harsin said it was important for the program — and the university — to have a presence in each of the schools particularly with a new coaching staff. Though many of the coaches have ties to Boise State, some have never ventured far beyond the city limits.
"Overall, it's been very positive from coaches, administrators, principals, people on campus," Harsin said. "I used to recruit Idaho. I've made most of these runs that all these guys are on. It's good to hear back from some of these coaches and guys being fired up that Boise State is back in their school."
The Boise State assistant coaches are primarily meeting with high school coaches on their trips. NCAA rules prohibit meetings with players, but Boise State coaches can watch the players at track practices or baseball practices or workouts.
The publicity aspect of the trip is important, Harsin said. The staff has been extremely active on social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) as a way of spreading the word about Boise State and reaching recruits. Coaches have been posting photos of the high schools they visit on Twitter and staffers have been updating a map showing how many schools the coaches have reached with their "blitz." Harsin said his favorite picture was taken by defensive line coach Steve Caldwell. It featured a old sign, made in about the 1930s.
"Part of our job in the football program is how we brand ourselves, how we get that message out there is extremely important," Harsin said. "Social media, it's huge. That's the way people communicate. We've embraced it. We know the players we recruit utilize that. We're going to be able to utilize it as well. Everybody (on staff) knows how important it is. Bottom line is that's a great way for us to get the message out about Boise State and our brand."
Ultimately, however, it's about players, Harsin acknowledged.
"It's not just go out there to be out there. It's go out there to find guys. We feel good about the areas we've gone to and we feel good we're going to have success because of it," he said. "How much it produces? Who knows. But I also know this ... this is going to be nothing but beneficial."
List of Idaho signees
2014 Chase Blakely Boise State
2014 Khalil Oliver Oregon
2014 Don Hill USC
2014 Matt James Washington
2014 Richard Bettencourt Wyoming
2014 Gunnar Amos Idaho
2014 Jake Knight Oregon St.
2014 Kekoa Nawahine Boise State
2013 Eric Cotton Stanford
2013 Joe Martarano Boise State
2013 Alec Dhaenens Boise State
2013 JonRyheem Peoples BYU
2013 Eli McCullough Boise State
2013 Brett Thompson Idaho
2013 Nick Edenfield Idaho
2012 Tanner Mangum BYU
2012 Chad Chalich Idaho
2012 D.J. Dean Boise State
2012 Deon Watson Idaho
2012 Jace Johnson Idaho
2012 Austin Brown Washington State
2011 Dillon Lukehart Boise State
2011 Macus Poling Army
2011 Dallas Burroughs Boise State
2011 Corey Bell Boise State
2010 Taylor Kelly Arizona State
2010 Kyle Sosnowski Boise State
2010 Justin Podrabsky Idaho
2010 Spencer Beale Idaho
2010 Tyler Kuder Idaho
2010 Tyler Horn Boise State
2010 Jayson Washington Idaho
2009 Billy Sanders Miami (Fla.)
2009 Darren Merkle Washington State
2009 Taysom Hill Stanford (Was also listed in 2012, signed with BYU)
2009 Jared Heston Idaho
2009 Jeffrey Bediako Idaho
2009 Bryant Thomas Boise State
2009 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe Boise State
2009 Geraldo Boldewijn Boise State
2008 Byron Hout Boise State
2008 Terence Thomas Washington
2008 Brad Marboe Idaho
2008 Spencer Gerke Boise State
2008 Van Drumgoole Boise State
2007 Carson York Oregon
2007 Brandon Hanna Oregon
2007 Matt Ballenger Colorado
2007 Marshal Pirtz Washington State
2007 Matt Kaiserman Boise State
2007 Jarrell Root Boise State
2007 Shea McClellin Boise State
2007 Mitch Burroughs Boise State
2006 Cody Hawkins Colorado
2006 David Lowery Boise State
2006 Cedric Febis Boise State
2006 Kyle Efaw Boise State
2006 Nate Potter Boise State
2006 Jordan Richardson BYU
2005 Cade Hulbert BYU
2005 Adam Shamion Idaho
2004 Jameson Davis Boise State
2004 Jacob Bower BYU
2004 Alex Hamill Washington State
2004 Brent Russum Arizona State
2004 Devon Sturdivant Idaho
2004 Jayson Bird Idaho
2004 Cole Nielson Utah State
2004 Nick Schlekeway Boise State
2004 Taylor Rust Idaho
2004 Mark Asper Oregon (Was also listed in 2007)
2003 Derek Schouman Boise State
2003 Colin Whitney Idaho
2003 Brandon Bair Oregon
2003 Sherm Blaser Boise State
2003 Dan Aizpitarte Idaho
2003 Rick Young Utah State
2003 Tad Miller Boise State
2003 Mitch Rudder Utah State
2003 Eric Nave Idaho
2002 Micah Kormylo Boise State
2002 Nick Pilon Idaho
2002 Jon Helmandollar Boise State (Was also listed in 2003)