The Boise State football team doesn’t need any more reminders that it had a brutally difficult year trying to create turnovers in 2016.
But bringing out the Broncos’ inner Hulk Hogan or John Cena doesn’t hurt — providing a little extra incentive at practice.
In fall camp, a championship belt similar to what WWE greats have sported through the years has been part of Boise State’s equipment, alongside the helmets and pads.
“It’s had several different meanings throughout camp. There’s incentives for takeaways, for going out there and creating big plays on the defensive side,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Camp’s about having some fun, too.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Though Harsin said he isn’t aware who purchased the custom-made belt, which says “Broncos Football Turnover Champion,” the likely person is a defensive coach. The strength and conditioning staff looks after it during practice.
Last season, the Broncos forced just nine turnovers (seven interceptions, two fumble recoveries), their fewest since becoming a four-year school in 1968.
“I can think of seven or eight interceptions we just dropped,” cornerbacks coach Ashley Ambrose said. “... We want to be consistently getting 30-plus turnovers a year. That’s what people have always done at this place. For us to go backward last year was something that really bothered me.”
Some players’ parents have tweeted out photos of the belt in their sons’ lockers. Past rewards such as helmet stickers have rewarded big plays or reinforced aspects the team has focused on, but this is a new twist the players seem excited to win.
“The belt’s just another way of doing it,” Harsin said.
Redshirt freshman linebacker/cornerback Avery Williams is the most recent recipient after creating two turnovers in Thursday’s closed scrimmage. He said junior cornerback Tyler Horton “had it for a while, so we had to take him off his reign.”
“We pass it around depending on who gets the most, but it’s more of a motivation for turnovers considering how poor our margin was last year. So it’s just something to motivate us this year,” Williams said. “You just leave it in your locker or put it on all day if you want, I guess.”
COZART FINDING A ROLE
Senior graduate transfer quarterback Montell Cozart has looked the part of a guy the Broncos could use this fall. A mobile option at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he brings a different dimension with his ability to throw on the run.
Though junior Brett Rypien is highly unlikely to be pushed out of the starting role, Harsin said July 26 that Cozart “has been a tremendous addition ... he can spin it. He can move.” Harsin said then Cozart definitely will play, but to what extent, he didn’t know. Ten days into camp, how does he feel about the new addition?
“He’s worked hard, kind of what we expected: smart, tough,” Harsin said.
BONDING WITH A DIFFERENT UNIFORM
On the team’s day off from practice Sunday, the Broncos got a unique opportunity to learn from the Idaho Army National Guard — and take part in a few exercises. Boise State went to the Guard’s training center south of the airport, working in teams to infiltrate a mock city.
It was part of the team’s Bronco Olympics, the off-field competition that lasts throughout fall camp. There was even a portion where they were able to simulate combat.
“Some strategy, some leadership, some communication and some fun,” Harsin said. “There were rubber bullets out there, so a bunch of bruises.”
A NOT-SO-PROUD MOMENT
Sophomore offensive lineman Garrett Larson is vying to start at guard this fall and was penciled in atop the depth chart at left guard late last month. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Fruitland High graduate appeared in four games last season but missed spring practices. When asked recently about what his injury was, he was a bit sheepish.
“I broke my fibula,” Larson said. “... Hard winter.”
Hard winter? So, he slipped?
“Yeah, on my driveway,” Larson said.