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Boise State Broncos: Back to the Future

The Broncos’ new head football coach may take the team forward by returning to its past

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

In his introduction speech last Friday night, Boise State’s new head coach Bryan Harsin gave some indication about his plans for the offense after he has a chance to evaluate the current program former head coach Chris Petersen left in place. Some of it, he says, might be kept by combining those schemes with ideas of his own.

"Big-play opportunities, that changes the field position, and you have to try and find a way to create that," he said. "And having a little bit of fun. Having some things in there those have continued through my coaching career and guys that I’ve been around. That’s just part of who we are."

Harsin was the offensive coordinator at Boise State from 2006-2010 before leaving for a co-offensive coordinator spot with the University of Texas Longhorns. When he left, he left behind one of the best offensive juggernauts in college football. In his absence the fabric of that offense started to unravel. Looking for a way to stabilize the offense after Harsin left, HC Chris Petersen and his new OC Robert Prince, began to look at other ways to maintain the offensive prowess. In 2013, the playbook was streamlined and dummied down, returning the program to basic formations and configurations. That allowed Petersen to charge ahead with a scheme that has been sweeping the nation: a no-huddle, fast-tempo attack system. The Broncos also started to employ their attack out of the pistol. Combined with simplified, easily readable play calling the once powerful Broncos had seemingly lost their edge.

Harsin is well aware that Petersen's strategy has had mixed results for Boise State. While there was a large increase in both points scored and total yards this season over 2012, there are plenty of reasons for him to take a serious look at the present setup. For one thing the boring, almost predictable play calling by Prince was highly unpopular with the fans. For another, the fast tempo by an unpolished, often sluggish offense put the exhausted defense right back on the field before they had time for a rest. But more critical is that smaller programs like Boise State do not have both the talent and depth at many key positions that teams like Washington and BYU have. The increased injuries that occur in an up-tempo offense by a smaller program that lacks depth can be devastating. In Boise State’s case, by midseason an unusually large number of starting players were out of the action, including the starting quarterback.

Maybe that is why Bryan Harsin is already hinting at a return of the Boise State offense he helped to develop. Call it old school if you must, but many in Bronco Nation are already hoping for a return to their former offense---one that kept the opponents second guessing with an unpredictable array of shifts and motions, and the unpredictably of an occasional trick play. Harsin was 61-5 in those five years as OC at Boise and won two Fiesta Bowls. His teams also led the nation in scoring with 41 points per game. That is why apprehensive Bronco fans are hoping for a return to their former glory under his leadership.

The question on everyone's mind is if Harsin will go back to the past to set a new course for the future? Before any decisions can be made he first needs to get his coaching staff in place. Once that is complete it should help indicate the direction he intends to take the program. But he is already indicating some of the changes he invisions for the future.

"I’ll say this," Harsin said. "Our style is our style and it’s a Boise thing, and I’m looking forward to implementing that and getting involved back in that again."