By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Robert Prince has seemed on the verge of becoming Boise State’s offensive coordinator for about a decade.
From 2001 to 2003, he was the Broncos’ wide receivers coach and then-coordinator Chris Petersen’s right-hand man. If Petersen had taken one of the many job opportunities that came his way, Prince would have been promoted.
In December 2005, Prince and Bryan Harsin were the leading candidates to become the coordinator when Petersen built his first staff. Petersen talked to Prince, who had been in the NFL for two years, about the job.
“I wanted to keep pursuing the NFL opportunity,” Prince said.
And in January 2011, after Prince agreed to replace departing wide receivers coach Brent Pease and Harsin took a job at Texas, Prince called Petersen to check his job status.
“I called him up joking, ‘Oh, man, did I already get promoted? I haven’t even stepped on campus yet,’ ” Prince said.
Petersen informed him that he had left the door open for Pease to return from Indiana and be the coordinator, which he did.
A year later, Pease left again — this time for Florida — and Prince replaced him. He’ll be the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach in 2012.
Prince is the fifth playcaller for the Broncos since Dirk Koetter installed the offense in 1998, following Koetter, Petersen, Harsin and Pease.
“Every coordinator has maybe his own little twist of something,” Prince said. “I’m not stupid; I’m not going to break something that’s already fixed. We’re always looking for new ideas without trying to do too much.”
He has coached quarterbacks in the past but Petersen suggested he keep the wide receivers, the position he coached for most of the past 11 years.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Prince said. “That way, we don’t have to train two different positions.”
Tight ends coach Scott Huff, one of only two remaining original Petersen staffers (defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski is the other), takes over special teams this season. He replaces Jeff Choate, who built on the Broncos’ tradition of special teams excellence over the past six years.
Huff worked closely with Choate the past two years and in 2006 as the tight ends coach. He wasn’t involved in special teams much from 2007 to 2009 because, as offensive line coach, he was busy putting his linemen through drills during those periods of practice.
“When the whole thing shook down, I think Coach Pete had in his mind I was the perfect guy to do it,” Huff said. “It’s a great opportunity for me and one I’m ready to jump into.
“It kind of blindsided me a little bit.”
In an interview last month, Choate said he and Petersen discussed a plan to succeed him at the end of the regular season. That’s when Choate interviewed for the head job at Eastern Illinois. He eventually took the linebackers job at Washington State.
“He has a plan in place,” Choate said. “It’s going to be seamless.”
Huff plans to keep the structure of the special teams schemes, which will help with continuity. He also will spend part of the offseason studying special teams so that he can put his own spin on the groups.
“The beauty of special teams is it’s really offense and defense, so for an offensive guy to be able to learn a little bit of defense is awesome, especially for my career long term,” he said. “It’s another challenge that hopefully is going to grow me as a coach and make me more valuable.”
Huff, who played with Andy Avalos for a couple years, was pleased to see him hired as the new defensive line coach.
“He’s going to fit in great, he knows a lot of football, he brings a lot of energy, he’s a good recruiter,” Huff said. “Just knowing our guys the way I do, and knowing him, it’s going to be a slam dunk.”
Kwiatkowski worked with new defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake at Eastern Washington and Montana State.
“Jimmy was the first guy that came to mind when Marcel (Yates) told me he was going to go to (Texas A&M),” Kwiatkowski said. “He’s just very knowledgeable, a great teacher. He’s going to get the most out of all those guys.”
The three new coaches were not made available to the media Wednesday. They did talk on the school-produced radio show Wednesday night, and here are a couple of highlights from new quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith, formerly the offensive coordinator at Montana and quarterbacks coach at Idaho.
— “The respect the program has nationwide now is unbelievable. To have the opportunity to come and be a part of that and be a part of coach Petersen’s staff, it’s really a real benefit to me.”
— “Jimmy (Lake) earlier talked about taking some beating out on this blue, I sure took a couple of those at another place (Idaho).”
— On QBs: “They’re excited about the opportunity to compete for a starting job. All of them are known as workers. I’ve enjoyed meeting them the last week and a half. They’ve all been champing at the bit to get in the playbook and see what’s going on. I’m excited about spring ball coming and letting all four of these guys spin the ball around.”
Bob Gregory’s title will just be linebackers coach. He has absorbed the nickels and now will have a weak-side linebacker, middle linebacker and nickel linebacker.
The updated coaching staff:
Chris Petersen, head coach
Robert Prince, offensive coordinator/wide receivers
Chris Strausser, offensive line
Scott Huff, tight ends/fullbacks/special teams
Keith Bhonapha, running backs
Jonathan Smith, quarterbacks
Pete Kwiatkowski, defensive coordinator
Andy Avalos, defensive line
Bob Gregory, linebackers
Jimmy Lake, defensive backs
Brian Murphy and I met with all of the returning position coaches last night to talk about the recruiting class. Today, Murph breaks down the new defensive recruits here. Tomorrow, I’ll do the same with the offensive recruits.
A few position notes:
— Junior Joe Southwick, the backup the past two seasons, would be the starting quarterback if the Broncos played a game right now, Prince said. So he clearly enters spring ball March 12 with a lead. “Although we used Grant (Hedrick) for some wildcat-type things, Joe was truly our backup,” Prince said. “Now those other guys will have an opportunity to learn the offense this spring.” Recruit Nick Patti’s early arrival creates a challenge for the spring — the Broncos will need to get four quarterbacks enough snaps to evaluate them. Hedrick is a sophomore and the other QB is redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea. “When you’ve got four guys, the good thing is you’ve got four guys, and the bad things is you’ve got four guys,” Petersen said. “That’s a little bit of an issue, but it’s an issue we’ll work through. It’s going to make those guys have to be very focused and maximize the reps they do get.” All of the quarterbacks are run threats.
— Redshirt freshman tailback Jay Ajayi is on track to return for fall camp. He tore an anterior cruciate ligament last year. “We need some guys to step up,” running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said. “Jay’s going to get his opportunity when fall camp comes.”
— The Broncos only recruited one defensive tackle, Elliot Hoyte of England, who is going to be a project. “We’ve got a lot of those guys coming back,” Kwiatkowski said. “We lose three of those guys next year, if you count (Darren) Koontz. We’ll try to make that up next year.”
The three walk-ons who received scholarships this semester join a fairly distinguished list.
Here are the 49 Boise State football walk-ons who have been awarded scholarships since 1998, when Dirk Koetter took over the program. Coaches Dan Hawkins (2001-05) and Chris Petersen (2006-12) have continued the tradition.
1998 (5): OT Willy Van Gorder, WR Matt Sevieri, TE Jeb Putzier, TE Nate Colbert, DT Tony Altieri
1999 (6): FB Shay Swan, DE Jeff Copp, DE Sky Dumont, RB Brock Forsey, PK Nick Calaycay, WR Jerry Smith
2000 (1): TE Shaelan McDonough
2001 (4): LS Tom Anderson, OG Jeff Cheek, LB Kris Foster, WR Tim Gilligan
2002 (3): FB Greg Swenson, WR T.J. Acree, PK Tyler Jones
2003 (5): RB Jeff Carpenter, DT Andrew Browning, TE Trent Lundin, OL Klayton Adams, P Kyle Stringer
2004 (1): LB Colt Brooks
2005 (5): LB Ben Chuckovich, ST Ia Falo, WR Cole Clasen, WR Vinny Perretta, S Robby Jones
2006 (1): RB Brett Denton
2007 (5): FB Michael Lose, WR Tanyon Bissell, LB Tim Brady, PK Kyle Brotzman, DE Ryan Winterswyk
2008 (3): OT Matt Slater, WR Michael Choate, WR Tyler Shoemaker
2009 (4): FB Andy Silsby, S Travis Stanaway, OT Michael Ames, LB J.C. Percy
2010 (2): LS Chris Roberson, TE Sean King
2011 (1): OL Matt Paradis
2012 (3): RB Drew Wright, CB Josh Borgman, S Hazen Moss