COURTESY BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY
First-year Boise State head coach Chris Petersen worked with the offense last year as coordinator but is working more with the defense now and the players on that side of the ball like him -- in some ways better than his predecessor, Dan Hawkins. "I think he (Petersen) relates to the guys maybe a little better," All-WAC linebacker Korey Hall said. "He's more on our level and talks to us more. ... I think you can learn a lot from both coaching techniques. It was definitely nice for me to have a change. Not necessarily a better change or worse, but different."
Boise State players happy with new coach
Despite the Broncos' success under Hawkins, some felt a change was needed
BOISE, Idaho » Boise State football coach Chris Petersen didn't mind when Chris Ault of Nevada went overtime and took 5 of his allotted 30 minutes with print reporters yesterday.
Not that he was hard to deal with during his session at the Western Athletic Conference Media Day. Petersen answered every question thoughtfully and thoroughly. It's just that 5 fewer minutes with the scribes is 5 more minutes with his team, and that made Petersen happy.
"I'm doing this job because of the players and to be with those guys," the Broncos' first-year head man said. "My favorite time by far is in the meeting room and on the practice field. Not doing this and not the games."
Not the games?
Aren't they the payoff for all the hard work? Especially for Boise State, which has won four consecutive WAC championships?
For Petersen, 41, who was promoted from offensive coordinator when Dan Hawkins left for Colorado in the offseason, it's about the journey -- even if most of it is spent doing what others might consider tedious.
"The guys (Petersen's assistants) are in the film room doing the fun stuff right now," he said, without a hint of sarcasm.
Hawkins did his share of grunt work, but he liked to talk, too, quoting everyone from Mother Teresa to Mao Tse-Tung.
It was fun, and Hawkins' leadership put Boise State on the football map. But Petersen and Broncos players say the timing was probably good for a change.
"I think Hawk was a players' coach. But one of the things before Hawk left to go to Colorado was we felt like the players were getting a little stale and maybe we lost our edge. After hearing the same thing over and over you can get numb, even if it's right and they know it's right," Petersen said. "Just by my personality being different and my stories being different ... the kids loved that old staff, but they've embraced the change. You can skin a cat a couple of different ways and get the same results."
All-WAC linebacker Korey Hall has a lot more contact with Petersen than when he was offensive coordinator.
"I think he relates to the guys maybe a little better. He's more on our level and talks to us more. Hawk was really into reading books about ancient warriors and stuff like that. I think you can learn a lot from both coaching techniques. It was definitely nice for me to have a change. Not necessarily a better change or worse, but different," Hall said.
"When (Petersen) speaks he has a purpose. He doesn't talk to hear himself talk. When he gets up and says something it's to get something done."
Former Hawaii defensive back and graduate assistant Keith Bhonapha recently started a new job as football operations manager for the Broncos. He said he likes his new boss' direct style.
"I think he's a good guy. He's a professional, really to the point, so you know where you stand and that's good," Bhonapha said. "He treats everyone with respect. He's a grinder, so you can look up to him. He's very organized."
BSU is known for its wide variety of offensive schemes, often using players deep down the depth chart for various roles. And Petersen, considered one of the top offensive minds in the nation, was the architect.
"He was the guy," quarterback Jared Zabransky said. "Those were his plays."
In his five seasons as offensive coordinator, Boise State had the top scoring average in the nation, with 41.6 points per game. In 2002 and 2004, he was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant coach.
Petersen will leave the play-calling duties to new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.
"I'll be involved in the game-planning. I think that's the critical part of what we're doing. The grind is during the week getting (game plan) right. Calling the game is the fun part, but I think lots of guys can do that. Brian is ready."
He said his input on the other side of the ball will be limited to telling defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox what drives him crazy as an offensive coach.
Petersen said he doesn't plan on scheduling Colorado.
"I don't know about playing those teams that are your friends," he said. "It can be awkward and weird. Someone has to lose and you don't like beating your friends."
The inevitable question came about the pressure of replacing a coach who went 53-11 in five seasons.
"I'll just say this. I don't think I'd feel one bit different if I took over a program that hadn't won a game in five years," Petersen said. "Probably one of my weaknesses is putting too much pressure on myself. If we lost a game here I firmly believed it was my fault for not scoring enough points. Now I have to step back and see the big picture."