In late October last year, Eric Kiesau stood before the Fresno State football team and told the Bulldogs that he was their new head coach.
He also knew his days likely were numbered as a staff member after Tim DeRuyter was fired.
But as the offensive coordinator talked about being the interim coach, he made the team know he wasn’t looking toward the exit. He wrote “All In” on a mat leading out of the team’s locker room that he had each player touch.
“He said he was all in, no matter what was going to happen with him, and wanted us to know that, wanted us to finish strong,” junior wide receiver KeeSean Johnson said. “He’s an easy guy to get along with, a smart guy. I bet we could’ve had more success if he had more time.”
The Bulldogs lost their final four games with Kiesau at the helm, finishing a 1-11 season, but the final two losses were by a combined three points. Kiesau was then hired as Boise State’s wide receivers coach in January.
Kiesau was not made available to the media this week, but coach Bryan Harsin said that what was a “rough” year has helped Kiesau. Harsin said wins and losses are obviously important, but noted that a bad year doesn’t make you “an idiot.”
In fact, Kiesau’s experience as a coordinator has helped first-year offensive coordinator Zak Hill in certain situations.
“Coach Kiesau is no different, he learned while he was there, and through those experiences, you always find something to get better from, and he’s done that,” Harsin said. “That experience he’s brought to the table here ... you kind of bend through some of the headaches.”
Hill said of Kiesau: “I’m sure it was a tough situation, but he’s the type of guy that does handle that type of stuff really well. In different adverse situations, he’s calm and cool.”
That ability to come out of difficult scenarios was put to the test here, too. The Broncos struggled to get their passing offense going the first half of the season, and to find receiving options outside of senior Cedrick Wilson.
In BSU’s past four games, juniors A.J. Richardson and Sean Modster, along with freshmen Octavius Evans and CT Thomas, have combined for 40 receptions and five touchdowns. In the first seven games, they had 35 receptions and one touchdown.
“It’s up to us to get the team going, I think we’re the group that’s going to spark this team,” Modster said. “(Kiesau) is really dialed with the offense, he coaches us up on the little things. ... If he sees us slacking, then he’s going to push us.”
Harsin praised Kiesau’s recruiting ability, as he helped land Evans and redshirting freshman Damon Cole. The Broncos also have four wide receivers committed for the 2018 class.
Kiesau’s experience last season might even help the Broncos on the defensive side of the ball Saturday.
“Working with the personnel there last year at Fresno State gives us a little bit of insight on those guys,” Hill said.
SLEEP: FOOTBALL’S NEW FRONTIER?
Kobe Bryant famously said he usually could operate on 3-4 hours of sleep a night, but most of us, and most athletes, are not like the NBA legend.
Player performance is a key, often quiet part of the equation for success on college football Saturdays, from nutrition to weightlifting to conditioning. But it also includes what players do when they aren’t awake.
Sleep is the latest area of focus for teams across the country, including Boise State.
“Sleeping is your No. 1 energy resource,” Harsin said. “... (We’re) trying to build some rituals for our guys. At 9, 10 o’clock at night, what’s your routine? Put the phone down, turn off the TV, grab a book, which is really hard to tell 18- to 22-year olds.”
Harsin noted that with smartphones and tablets handy, there isn’t an “off switch” for most people these days, so the staff discusses with players the best ways to get productive rest.
Oklahoma State players put on special glasses before bed that block cellphones’ blue light, which suppresses melatonin. A recent “Today” show segment on the team said sleeping 8 hours helps reduce injuries by up to 70 percent and increases 40-yard dash times by 0.1 seconds. Plus, players see as many as eight more plays per game.
Harsin joked that Boise State doesn’t have sleeping pods (Oregon does) or bunks (Clemson has them), but he hopes what players learn, they can take home.
“Your body needs to recover,” Harsin said. “It’s making guys aware of it, it’s bringing different examples to the table of why it’s important.”
HAPPLE FINDING MORE TIME
Redshirt freshman safety Jordan Happle saw his most extensive playing time last Saturday against Air Force, making five tackles. He has 14 on the season. Playing behind sophomore DeAndre Pierce, he is seeing a little more work the past few weeks.
“The coaches don’t want to have to play kids the entire game,” Happle said. “It’s been nice, DP really helps, and it was good to get that experience.”
Happle, who hails from Portland, got a shout-out from a pretty high place when he signed with the Broncos in February 2016: actor Mark Wahlberg. Happle’s father works in sports marketing for Jordan Brand, and he’s made some famous friends. Jordan, who is not named after Michael, the NBA legend, has met His Airness before. Not that he’d brag about it.
“It’s definitely cool, but I’m not really big on that stuff,” Happle said.
Boise State at Fresno State
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bulldog Stadium (41,031, FieldTurf)
TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Jay Feely, Jenny Dell)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 9-2, 7-0 (beat Air Force 44-19 last week); Fresno State 8-3, 6-1 (beat Wyoming 13-7 last week)
Series: Boise State leads 13-5 (Broncos won 28-14 in Boise on Dec. 6, 2014, in last meeting)
Vegas line: Boise State by 7
Kickoff weather: Low 70s, partly cloudy