Tue, Jul 22, 2014
By Patrick Woo
LAS VEGAS – Despite finishing 8-5 in 2013 – Boise State’s worst record since 1998 – the Broncos are again the favorite to win the Mountain West, even with first-year head coach Bryan Harsin replacing Chris Petersen.
“The goal is to win the division and to win our conference. We’re not going to shy away from that,” Harsin said. Harsin also mentioned much of the philosophies in Boise will stay the same because he believed in everything Petersen believed.
The media selected Boise State to finish at the top of the standings for the fourth straight year. The Broncos have won just one title in that span and it wasn’t outright.
“It fuels the fire a little bit,” said senior receiver Matt Miller. “Looking back on it, there’s a few plays here or there and we would’ve won an outright title, but we don’t take too much interest in the preseason polls. The conference as a whole is a great conference.”
“At Boise State, we’re supposed to win conference championships and that’s not something we’ve been doing as of late,” senior safety Corey Bell said. “That pick has kind of proven to not mean a whole lot.”
Boise State received a total of 20 first-place votes, eight more than last year’s division champion Utah State, but even the Aggies couldn’t beat the class of the conference.
Other coaches admitted that until proven otherwise, Boise State deserves the spotlight “until somebody knocks them off and truly says this is ours,” Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain said. “They’ve established themselves as a consistent winner no matter who’s there and they have the infrastructure in place to keep that going on for a long, long time.”
Utah State and Colorado State were picked second and third, respectively, and are both trying to break through against the Broncos on the field.
“I think they’re still the top dog,” Colorado State senior quarterback Garrett Grayson said. Grayson thinks the Rams are close to breaking through but “Boise has been so good for so long. Until they’re consistently not at the top, it’s going to be kind of rough to dethrone the king.”
“They deserve the credit,” Utah State senior linebacker Zach Vigil said. “We haven’t won the big games yet.”
Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson emerged on the field last season with one of the best statistical seasons in school history, orchestrating the Rams’ best ever offense and setting a single-season record with 3,696 passing yards.
But, it’s what Grayson is doing off of the field that defines who he is.
“I’ve gone to homeless shelters a lot and the Fort Collins rescues mission,” Grayson said. “I’ve been helping them make food, I’ve cleaned up their buildings and I’ve organized their food pantries.”
It’s something that Grayson has always wanted to do and needed to find time to do it.
“If I can make a presence there, being a football player and them knowing the responsibilities we have to take on but still taking the time out to give back to them, I hope they appreciate it.”
Grayson got started when a former teammate told him about his experience working with the rescues mission and Grayson got involved.
“I’ve always been wanting to do something like that so I went and gave it a try and I liked it,” he said. “I saw the faces and the smiles of everybody. I feel like it’s a necessity to give back. I’ve been pretty blessed and fortunate to have a safe home growing up and to see people that are less fortunate and have gone through some rough times in their life, being able to give back to them is something I like doing.”
This past summer, Grayson added another community connection to his list of duties by working a four-day church camp in June and speaking to the group of kids.
“I went out and coached some kids up for three days and just tried to be a positive influence in their lives,” he said. “If I could go back every year, I’d go back.”
Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson stated that he believes the College Football Playoff will expand beyond four teams before the end of its 12-year contract.
An expansion of the playoff would benefit a team from the Mountain West’s chances of playing for a national championships, but Boise State’s Bryan Harsin thinks a non-Power Five team can break through in the current format.
“You take care of your business, you do your job and that should put us in position to have a chance to do that,” Harsin said.
Harsin also mentioned that Boise State’s two previous BCS Bowl wins likely would have gotten the Broncos into the national championship game if this format existed then.
As for whether the playoff is good for college football, some coaches still aren’t sure.
“I don’t know,” New Mexico coach Bob Davie said, “I don’t think we’re going to be in this year.”
If there would be a guy at media days to answer the questions on the changes coming to college football, it would be the straight-forward, unfiltered, great story-teller like Bob Davie.
The New Mexico head coach said part of what makes people so passionate about college football and keeps people going to the games is because the players are not paid.
Here’s what else Davie had to say on potentially compensating the players and the autonomy likely coming to college football:
“I do see the side that the revenue five conferences should have a more weighted vote when it comes to student-athlete welfare, but the gap competitively should not widen. They should not make it to where it becomes if we want to be included, we don’t have a chance to do that.
“If it’s a cost of attendance stipend, I agree with that. If it’s unlimited meals, more power to you. But, if we go paying players then I’m not at all for that because then we change the essence of college football. I think people watching will eventually turn on us. I think ESPN’s ratings will go down if we start to do that because we’re not going to compete with the NFL so why do we want that model?
“I plan on beating some BCS teams while I’m at New Mexico. I don’t want that gap to widen to where it’s not competitive across the board. What about the Minnesota’s and Purdue’s of the world? It’s not just New Mexico now. Where’s that gap in those conferences start to happen?
“Now that Louisville went to the ACC, is there really that much of a gap between Louisville and Cincinnati in the history of college football? So should that just become significant now because now they’re in adifferent league?
“Let’s not lose that. At least give us the opportunity to be included because that’s not good for college football.”
Another autonomous discussion could a new rule allowing free transfers without penalty.
“That’s crazy,” Davie said. “Chaos.”
“How many kids have I coached,” he continued, “I would say 80 percent as a freshman says I’m getting my (sic) out of here. I got kids on my team right now – first time kids coming for summer school – and if we said they could just leave without penalty, are you kidding me? Is that what the parents what? Is that what’s really good for that kid? To make it where there’s no consequence? You just come and you leave the first bad day you have. That’s crazy, isn’t it? If you’re a parent and you send your son to UCLA and the first bump in the road he leaves, what are we accomplishing by that? At some point it’s sticking it out. It’s kind of like in marriage, if you didn’t have to pay your wife alimony, you’d get out of there.”
And finally, another recent hot topic has been the thought of an early signing period.
“In some ways, I think it would help our conference,” Davie said, “because it would force those guys to go make that decision and sign and then we wouldn’t mess with them. It would keep that thing where we’ve recruited them for six months and then all of a sudden Oklahoma State comes in and offers him the night before (Signing Day) and he goes to Oklahoma State. So I’d kind of like to get those guys that are going to go to those schools and make them sign so we don’t spend any revenue and time on recruiting those guys.
“I also worry about how many kids have signed and committed early and end up being not what you thought they were going to be. And kids signing and committing before they play a game in their senior year and I’m that high school coach that wants that hungry kid who’s going to play his butt off but, he’s already signed, he’s already got his scholarship and he’s wearing his green Oregon t-shirt around. It’s kind of screwed up to me that you haven’t played a snap your senior year. I’d hate to be the high school coach.”
Bryan Harsin may be new to the Mountain West but he’s been a part of Boise State success and has faced some of the former-WAC foes now in the league.
On the other hand, Craig Bohl is starting over at Wyoming after winning three straight national championships at the FCS level with North Dakota State.
Bohl said this transition is more difficult than when he took over in Fargo but it was the right fit at the right time.
“He could honestly keep winning national championships year after year,” Wyoming junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough said, “but instead he’s coming to Wyoming and giving us a chance. He could’ve easily been at a way bigger program but he chose us.”
Yarbrough also said Bohl is “a guy you go have a beer with after the ballgame” which is the much different than former coach Dave Christensen where Yarbough said “you’d be walking on egg shells” around the facility.
“With Coach Bohl, you can relax your shoulders and let your hair down a little bit.”
The offense will look different, he said, as Wyoming moves away from the air-it-out offense to a more pro-style attack.
One thing that helps is to have one of the league’s best wide receivers, Dominic Rufran.
“He’s very dynamic and makes a lot of big plays,” Bohl said. “The skillset that he’s going to be asked to do is going to be much more aligned to the NFL as opposed to what they did in the past.”
Rufran said he was a “little scared at first” with the new scheme on offense as he enters 2014 as a four-year starter but realized being in a pro-style will help him in the future.
What Wyoming needs to figure out for Rufran to thrive is the quarterback situation where Brett Smith declared early for the 2014 NFL Draft and did not get selected.
A record number of underclassmen declared for the NFL Draft last year, leaving some to wonder what needs to change and leaving Bohl without a star quarterback to inherit.
“Every young man makes a decision for different reasons,” Bohl said, “but I do think it’s imperative that they’re able to get as much information as they can and make sure they make a measured decision. I’m convinced you’re seeing more and more underclassmen that are coming out at an alarming rate, so I think it’s important for all of our students to recognize first of all how important their degree is and second, just because they see the NFL on Sunday doesn’t mean they may be set and ready to play. I think you’re seeing that in the number of guys that choose to come out and then not get drafted.”