Bronco Beat

Boise State football coaching tree grows: ‘Something a little different in the water’

Colorado offensive line coach Klayton Adams celebrates Oct. 1 against Oregon State at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo. Adams played center for Boise State in 2003 and 2004.
Colorado offensive line coach Klayton Adams celebrates Oct. 1 against Oregon State at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo. Adams played center for Boise State in 2003 and 2004. DC

Klayton Adams had no intention of making football a career once his Boise State playing days were over.

A second-team All-WAC pick at center in 2004, he still had a semester left until he graduated with a communications degree. He wanted to be a broadcaster.

“I started to feel like a loser, like I was just sitting around with nothing to do,” Adams said. “But (then-offensive line coach) Chris Strausser had me come by, hang out, watch film. One day turned into two, then three, and I never looked back.”

Adams, the offensive line coach at Colorado, is part of a wave of former Broncos who have found success as coaches at football’s top levels. Sixteen former Boise State players, including 12 who finished playing in the past 15 seasons, are full-time position coaches or head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision, NFL and CFL.

“The way things have been done here for a long time, going back to when I played, even before that, coaches that come through love what they do. It carries over into who you are as a player,” said Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin, a Bronco quarterback from 1995-99.

Former quarterback Bush Hamdan moved from the University of Washington to the Atlanta Falcons last week, giving the Broncos an alum on an NFL coaching staff. Former receiver Kirby Moore (Fresno State) and safety Gerald Alexander (Cal) are starting their first FBS jobs this season.

A decade ago, there were only a handful of former Boise State players coaching in the higher levels of football. As the Broncos have rattled off 12 10-win seasons since 2002, they see first-hand what a winning program looks like.

“I think it’s the type of environment you play in there and the amount of respect we had for the coaches,” Adams said. “It makes you idolize them and want to be like them. I don’t know if there’s something a little different in the water, but football is so important there, guys want to continue to be a part of it.”

Jeron Johnson, a former player now on the Seattle Seahawks roster, tweeted after Hamdan was hired by the Falcons: “That Boise State coaching tree looking real good!’’

The list will likely continue to grow, as there are Broncos coaching in the Football Championship Subdivision (including Matt Miller and Byron Hout at Montana State), and graduate assistants (D.J. Harper at Fresno State and Nate Potter at Boise State).

“It’s really cool seeing more guys get into it, you feel like a special little club,” Klayton said. “It’s more than just building hype there, it breeds a special type of culture, which they take with them wherever they go.”

BOISE STATE

BRYAN HARSIN

Head coach

Played: QB (1995-99)

Compiled a 31-9 record in three seasons. Also spent 2013 as Arkansas State’s head coach, going 7-5. Spent prior two years as Texas co-offensive coordinator.

 

ANDY AVALOS

DC/linebackers

Played: LB (2001-04)

Coached the defensive line in 2012 and 2013 before coaching linebackers in 2014 and 2015. Promoted to defensive coordinator last season.

 

LEE MARKS

Running backs

Played: RB (2002-05)

A strong recruiter, he’s entering his third season as a position coach after spending 2013 at Arkansas State and 2014 at Boise State as an assistant strength coach. Also coached running backs at NAIA Sioux Falls and FCS South Dakota State.

 

GABE FRANKLIN

Safeties

Played: CB (2001-04)

Completing his first season at his alma mater, he coached defensive backs at UTEP for five previous seasons.

 

SCOTT HUFF

Co-OC/offensive line

Position: Co-offensive coordinator/offensive line

Played: C (1998-2002)

Entering his 12th season on the staff, he has also coached tight ends (2006, 2012-13) and special teams (2012-13). He added the co-offensive coordinator title last season.

OTHER FBS SCHOOLS

KLAYTON ADAMS

Offensive line, Colorado

Played: C (2003-04)

Coming off his fourth season with the Buffaloes, Adams played a key role in the team posting its first 10-win season since 2001. He coached CU’s running backs and tight ends in his first three seasons after two seasons at San Jose State coaching tight ends. He was a student assistant at BSU in 2005 and a graduate assistant in 2006.

 

PETE KWIATKOWSKI

DC, Washington

Played: DL (1984-87)

The former All-American in the Big Sky days is in his fourth season as the DC under former BSU coach Chris Petersen. Last season, Washington was No. 8 in scoring defense and No. 1 in turnovers created. He was a BSU assistant from 1988-96 and 2006-13.

 

KIRBY MOORE

Receivers, Fresno State

Played: WR (2009-13)

Moore earned his first assistant job when he was hired by the Bulldogs in December after two seasons as a graduate assistant at Washington. He was the College of Idaho’s receivers coach in 2014.

 

DANNY LANGSDORF

OC/QBs, Nebraska

Played: QB (1991-93)

Coming off his second season under head coach Mike Riley, whom he worked with at Oregon State from 2005-13. He also coached in the CFL and with the Saints and Giants in the NFL.

 

GERALD ALEXANDER

Defensive backs, Cal

Played: S (2002-06)

After playing in the NFL with five teams, he entered coaching in 2013 as a graduate assistant under Harsin. Since, he’s spent one season each at Washington, Indiana State and Montana State before former BSU DC and new Cal head coach Justin Wilcox hired him Jan. 23.

 

MARCEL YATES

DC/linebackers, Arizona

Played: DB (1996-99)

A BSU assistant from 2003-11, and the defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015 with a DC stint at Texas A&M in between, his first season as the Wildcats’ DC was a struggle. The Pac-12 program finished 115th in total defense and 118th in scoring defense last year.

 

JULIUS BROWN

Cornerbacks, Utah State

Played: CB (1999-2003)

After being let go by Harsin after two seasons as the Broncos’ secondary coach, he joined the Aggies in 2016 and helped the team to the No. 11 pass defense in the nation. He served in a support role at BSU from 2006-11 before one-year stops at Troy and Arkansas State.

 

MIKE SANFORD

Head coach, W. Kentucky

Played: QB (2000-04)

BSU’s offensive coordinator in 2014, he left for the same position at Notre Dame before being hired by the Hilltoppers in December. Prior to returning to BSU, he spent three seasons at Stanford. Regarded as one of the top young offensive minds in the sport, the 35-year-old is the youngest head coach in the FBS.

 

ANDREW BROWNING

Defensive line, UTEP

Played: DL (2002-06)

After serving as a quality control coach and grad assistant at BSU from 2010-12, he was hired by former BSU assistant Sean Kugler in El Paso before the 2013 season.

NFL

BUSH HAMDAN

Quarterbacks, Atlanta

Played: QB (2004-08)

Kellen Moore’s backup his final two seasons with the Broncos, Hamdan is a rising star in the profession, getting hired by the Falcons last week after one season as Washington’s receivers coach/pass game coordinator. He will work with NFL MVP Matt Ryan, who is also 31 years old.

CFL

RYAN DINWIDDIE

Quarterbacks, Calgary

Played: QB (1999-2003)

Following a five-year career playing in the CFL, Dinwiddie was hired as a quality control coach by former BSU coach Dan Hawkins in Montreal in 2013 and remained there as a full-time assistant after Hawkins was fired. He was hired by Calgary in December 2015 and helped the team to a 15-2-1 record in 2016, with QB Bo Levi Mitchell winning the MVP.

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