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Boise State football: Harsin, 2,000 miles away

He was born in Boise in 1976, graduated from Capital High in 1995, played at Boise State, and coached there for 17 of the last 20 years. Why is he so far away now?
Credit: Julie Bennett/AP Photo
Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin talks to players during the A-Day spring football game Saturday, April 17, 2021, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.

BOISE, Idaho — Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

There’s a much talked about story that was posted online Friday by Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger. The headline: “Leaving the House of Boise: How and Why Bryan Harsin is Auburn’s coach.” Off the bat, it sells Boise as “one of the fastest growing cities in America for a reason” (oh great). Dellenger calls it “a serene place—the wilderness, the people, the city.” 

So why did Harsin leave, since he was born here, played for the Broncos, and coached them for a successful seven years? Dellenger traced it to 2019, when Boise State was left out of the New Year’s Six bowls despite a 12-1 record. Harsin wants to be at a place where he has a chance to win it all. The story pays tribute to the Broncos’ coaching lineage dating back to Dirk Koetter—and Dellenger makes sure to point out that Andy Avalos continues it.

THE HIGHEST BAR FOR HARSIN

Now that Harsin is settled in at Auburn, there’s a clear consensus. “There’s no bigger challenge to the staff than recruiting,” writes Dellenger. Koetter, who went from Boise State to Arizona State to a 14-year tour of duty in the NFL, was blown away when he got to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007. “The caliber of high school football in the South and how recruiting is year-round and so intense. I was shocked,” said Koetter. “There is nothing like that on the West Coast.” Of course, Dellenger stretched it a bit, suggesting that Idaho high school prospects flock to Boise State, making recruiting easy. Scholarship players from Idaho are rare, and Harsin’s recruiting has never been easy. But he is in a different world now.

FINDING FAOLUI’S NICHE

Boise State’s official press release calls Andrew Faolui an outside linebacker, but it’ll be interesting to see where the Broncos plug in the 6-3, 255-pounder from Santa Ana, CA. Many see the new Oregon transfer at the team’s newly-renamed “edge position” (formerly the STUD), which could be lumped in with the defensive line. Faolui’s stats as a Duck would certainly justify that. Nearly a third of his 13 career tackles resulted in sacks (and he also forced two fumbles). Faoliu appeared in three games as a true freshman in 2018, so he was able to preserve his redshirt season. He played mainly special teams in 2019 but still recorded a pair of sacks. Last year, Faolui played in all seven games and notched two more sacks.

HABIBI-LIKIO LOOKING AHEAD

Boise State’s first transfer from Oregon, running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio, was on Idaho SportsTalk with Prater & the Ballgame Monday and said he’ll report to the Broncos in early June. Then he’ll hit summer workouts and “build a nice healthy relationship with all those dudes.” Habibi-Likio acknowledged the limited role he played with the Ducks as a third-down, short-yardage and red-zone back. “It’s just a new start (at Boise State), and it feels good to have that,” Habibi-Likio said. “When coach Avalos went to Boise State, I knew it was the right spot.” He added that unless he has a monster year making the NFL a possibility, he plans on using his two remaining years of eligibility with the Broncos.

So where does Habibi-Likio fit into the Boise State running game after the Broncos struggled so much in 2020? It’ll be a lot better if George Holani can stay healthy, and Habibi-Likio envisions Holani and him as a one-two punch. He’ll just have to ramp it up on the versatility scale. Habibi-Likio had just 122 carries in his career at Oregon and averaged 3.4 yards per attempt. He did, however, score 21 touchdowns—one for every 5.8 carries. Andrew Van Buren carried the ball 111 times last year, and he averaged, coincidentally, 3.4 yards per carry. Boise State needs somebody besides Holani in the 4.5 area in the upcoming season (Holani’s career average is 5.3).

VANDALS MOP-UP

Idaho got back its starting quarterback for its season finale this past Saturday at Northern Arizona. Mike Beaudry played okay, but okay wasn’t good enough. Beaudry couldn’t guide the Vandals into the end zone, and the result was a 19-9 loss to the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff. This time it was the Idaho defense that was missing a couple of uber-important pieces, linebackers Christian Elliss and Tre Walker (for unknown reasons). The “D” played well, but NAU wore it down as the day went on. The Vandals finished the Big Sky spring season at 2-4. It’s a small sample size, but the bottom line is that this is their fourth straight losing season and their 19th in 21 seasons in the 21st century.

WALKER UP FOR A TOP FCS AWARD

This we know about Walker: he has been named a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award that goes to the top defensive player in the FCS. Walker led the Big Sky with 13.5 tackles per game this season, the third-best mark in the country. He played only four games in the condensed spring schedule but still logged 54 tackles. In three seasons, including the most recent shrunken one, Walker now has 233 total tackles and sits just outside the top 20 in Idaho history (he is only a junior). Walker is one of 18 finalists for the award—the winner will be revealed on May 15.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…April 20, 1986:

Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls’ budding superstar, scores the most points in NBA Playoffs history with a 63-point performance in the Boston Garden. He did it against a Celtics team with five future Hall of Famers—and Boston did indeed prevail in double-overtime, 135-131. Jordan was in only his second year and had missed 64 games in the regular season with a broken foot. He broke the postseason record of one-time College of Idaho Coyote Elgin Baylor, who scored 61 points for the L.A. Lakers in the 1962 Finals against the Celtics.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 

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