Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin met with the media Monday to wrap up the 2016 season and look ahead to the offseason.
Looking back at a 10-3 campaign that ended with losses to Air Force and Baylor, Harsin said the Broncos played nine bowl teams, had two wins over Pac-12 teams and beat BYU. But considering the team’s top two goals are to win the Mountain West and a bowl game, there’s a motivation going into the spring semester.
“All that being said, there’s still that disappointment at the end of the season,” Harsin said, adding “now we’ve got to live with that, it’s a driving force.”
Harsin said the Broncos played 10 true freshmen, had 21 freshmen or sophomores on the two-deep depth chart and redshirted 26 players.
“The good part of that is, I think that will help us in the future,” he said. “Now we’ve got to get them to that next level. We’ve got a fairly young team still, and they’ve got to be developed. That’s what the whole entire offseason will be about.”
Offensively, Harsin said the team will look to be more consistent, while on defense “the turnover category has to change” after getting only nine (22 fewer than in 2015), and on special teams “we have to develop some returners.”
“I’m excited, excited about some things we did, there were some positive things these players can take from this season,” Harsin said. “They’re all going to look it like, ‘Hey, we can be better.’ That’s why you come here, that’s why you want to be part of this program: 10-3, you want to be better than that.”
Though he said the Broncos at the moment have not suffered any attrition beyond the known departures (safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner, running back Cory Young and quarterback Tommy Stuart), the offseason starts with news about two key players who likely will miss spring camp.
Junior STUD Jabril Frazier has had medical procedures on his shoulder, knee and ankle that will keep him out of spring work completely, while sophomore running back Alexander Mattison will have some cleanup work done on his shoulder. Harsin said Mattison will likely miss all of spring, but could see some limited work. Both are expected to be ready in the fall.
Frazier played in all 12 regular season games in 2016, registering four sacks, but was slowed late in the year because of the injuries. Mattison is the heir apparent to NFL-bound Jeremy McNichols after rushing for 328 yards on 67 carries as a true freshman.
Sophomore safety Evan Tyler will miss the spring after tearing his ACL in September. Senior STUD Gabe Perez, who did not play in 2015 and played in five games this season because of injury, “probably in a limited role, but he’ll be back.” Harsin also said senior linebacker Joe Matarano, who broke his leg Nov. 18 against UNLV, is expected back. Senior wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, who had more than 1,000 yards his first season, did not consider leaving early for the NFL, Harsin said.
Other items from Monday’s press conference:
▪ A replacement for receivers coach/passing game coordinator Junior Adams has not been selected. Harsin said “there’s a lot of interest,” but noted that staffs elsewhere are shaking out, plus the American Football Coaches Association conference is ongoing, a place where candidates often get face-to-face time with staff members. Harsin said he is not in a rush, and that fit is important.
It will still be at least a few days before any hire is made. Harsin said the staff met and discussed what sort of coach they’d like to have, and feels they are on the same page. There also a chance it could involve some restructuring to get that kind of coach in place.
“I’m kind of re-evaluating everything,” Harsin said. “I didn’t look at it as ‘receiver coach leaves, receiver coach added.’”
▪ Harsin said Boise State will recruit at least one, and potentially two running backs to join the team in the fall, including one who could play immediately.
“We’re going to get a lot of reps for Robert Mahone in the spring,” Harsin said.
▪ McNichols’ decision to announce his departure for the NFL the day before the Cactus Bowl loss to Baylor was not a distraction, Harsin said. “That kid did every single thing we’ve ever asked a player to do. ... I don’t think that was a reason why we played like we played,” he said.
▪ Harsin addressed playcalling, which was hotly debated by fans and media all season. He took over the duties before the season, and scoring dropped from 39.1 points per game to 33.8. A defense that forced only nine turnovers and a subpar return game also played a role.
“Not prepared to answer that yet, whether we’re going to change or not,’ Harsin said.
Harsin typically had the ultimate decision on playcalls, though he had input from co-offensive coordinators Scott Huff and Zak Hill, with Hill usually calling the play on passing plays on third downs. Harsin said he’ll evaluate the process, and evaluate himself before making any changes.
“There’s a lot of things I see there that not everybody gets to see ... you answer about why didn’t it work,” Harsin said. “There’s reasons and you want to figure out why.”
▪ On junior quarterback Brett Rypien, who had struggles in the last two games (both losses), Harsin said he was impressed with his toughness, playing the entire season despite taking solid hits.
Rypien was 9-of-26 passing in the Air Force loss and threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the Cactus Bowl. His completion percentage was slightly down (63.6 to 61.9), but he finished 15th in the FBS in pass efficiency (155.7).
“Brett is capable of being one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and I think he’s shown some of that,” Harsin said. “He and I, and I’ll be the first one, being an ex-quarterback ... we’re going to be better at it.”
▪ Harsin is expecting big things from the tight ends next season, saying “I do think that group, you’ll see more of that group.”
Jake Roh, a senior-to-be, pulled in six passes for 54 yards in the Cactus Bowl. He came into the game with four receptions, slowed by a knee injury he suffered in fall camp. As a whole, tight ends had 21 receptions coming into the game. Including Roh, they had eight receptions against Baylor.
▪ The Broncos’ four graduate assistants are Nate Potter and Derek Schouman on offense and Latu Heimuli and Spencer Danielson on defense. Potter and Heimuli served in the same capacity last season, while Schouman joined the team in September in a quality control role. Danielson was the linebackers coach the last three seasons at Azusa Pacific.
▪ As expected, Harsin confirmed five new scholarship players are on campus: quarterback Rathen Ricedorff, safety Mike Young, offensive lineman Zach Troughton, offensive lineman John Ojukwu and defensive back Marques Evans. Ojukwu and Evans are early high school graduates, and the other three are junior college transfers.