Bryan Harsin’s rookie campaign couldn’t have gone much better.
The Boise State head coach led his alma mater to a 12-2 record last year, including a 38-30 Fiesta Bowl win over then-No. 10 Arizona. He enters his second year with the Broncos with legitimate hopes of going undefeated.
Don’t think it’s possible? Well, it is – especially if Ryan Finley can produce as Grant Hedrick did under center. Hedrick completed 70.8 percent of his passes for 3,686 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
“Ryan Finley is our starting quarterback going into (the season), and he has earned that through fall camp,” Harsin said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I’ve been really proud of him since we’ve been there. He played a little bit last year but has done a great job of just playing his game and developing himself. Behind him, we’re still working out the guys that are going to battle for that second-string position, but Ryan’s done a great job through fall camp. I think where he’s at now, he’s still got a few more days to prepare, but I’m just excited to let him go out there and play.”
Harsin played sparingly last season, completing 12-of-27 passes (44.4 percent) for 161 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. While the Broncos will have a new starting quarterback, pretty much everyone else is back. The Broncos return both starting cornerbacks, their top four linebackers, a couple of safeties, almost all of their defensive linemen, their top three wide receivers, all of their tight ends and all of their offensive linemen.
With so many starters and key players returning, is that good because everyone knows their job, or does it stifle competition a bit since roles are already fairly defined?
“Well, it’s a little bit of both,” Harsin said. “You enjoy the fact that you have some experience coming back. They know what to expect. They’re able to pick things up fairly quickly when you put it in. I also feel like we’ve got some good young players that have pushed these guys – not just the new ones, but even the guys last year that played small roles have improved. So I feel like the competition level amongst our football team is pretty good. I also feel like the guys that played last year are certainly not satisfied even just with their play. They’re developing and trying to improve. So we’ll find out. All that is kind of how we feel at this point, but we’ve got to go out there and test that and see where we’re at. September 4 is going to be our first opportunity to do that.”
Indeed, Boise State opens with arguably its toughest test of the season, a home game against Washington. The Huskies, of course, are coached by Chris Petersen, who spent more than a decade at Boise State and helped lead the program to national prominence.
That night might be emotional for both Petersen and Harsin, but both will be focused on the task at hand.
“It’s obviously been a storyline and (understandably so),” said Harsin, who coached under Petersen form 2001 to 2010. “We’ve always thought about it. He and I haven’t spoke about that situation, but the reality of it is (that’s a) component to the game. But for three-and-a-half hours, the players on both sides – they’ve got to go compete. I think that’s really what it’s about. I think that’s the one thing that I’ve learned over time and with Coach Petersen, you go out there and compete. These guys will do that. Before the game, after the game, there might be moments there, but during the game, it’s time to go play. We’re looking forward to that. I know our guys are excited primarily to be at home. We haven’t opened up at home in six years. We’ve been at all these kickoff classics, and our guys are really excited to be on the blue and just to get after it and go play in front of our fans.”