Boise State football coaches share stories from the recruiting trail

By Chadd Cripe
© 2014 Idaho Statesman

I was able to meet with eight of the Boise State football team’s assistant coaches (all but tight ends coach Eliah Drinkwitz) on Thursday at the Big Al’s event. I left with so many quotes, anecdotes and tidbits that I’m going to spread the content across three days.

Today: Stories from the road and some miscellaneous notes.

Monday: The stories behind the Broncos’ offensive recruits in the class of 2014.

Tuesday: The stories behind the Broncos’ defensive recruits in the class of 2014.


More car trouble for Scott Huff

The offensive line coach hit a bear in Arizona last year. He hit a paint bucket this year while driving to San Diego. He was on the phone with coach Bryan Harsin, updating him on a home visit with lineman Troy Bacon. A paint bucket rolled off a truck in front of him.

“I smoked it with my rental car,” Huff said. “I get to the home visit (with Andres Preciado at 11:30 p.m.) and don’t pay any attention to it. I was staying at my in-laws. At 1 o’clock, all the tires on the rental car were still white after probably a 2 1/2 –hour road trip. The whole bottom of the car was completely white.”

Driving Mr. Caldwell

Linebackers coach Andy Avalos, the former defensive line coach, didn’t have any players to recruit at his position. So he spent much of his time showing new defensive line coach Steve Caldwell around Southern California. Caldwell has spent most of his career in the Southeast.

“He knew these kids. He knew something about them. He would pick me up at the airport in Southern California and he would drive me everywhere, so that worked out great for me,” Caldwell said.

Said Avalos: “That was my co-pilot. We covered a lot of land together, and it was fun. We had a good time doing it. I will remember this recruiting experience for the rest of my life.”

This way or that?

Defensive backs coach Julius Brown was in Texas on a Monday and due in Atlanta the next day for home visits. His flight was canceled because of weather and he was told he couldn’t get to Atlanta. He called Harsin.

“He said, ‘I need you. You’ve got to go to California,’ ” Brown said.

Brown walked up to an airline agent inside the secured part of the airport and tried to buy a ticket to California.

“They looked at me like I had three heads,” he said. “Like, ‘How’d you get through security?’ ”

The 12:01 visits

Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and Drinkwitz made home visits at 12:01 a.m. on the first day of the contact period in January. Sanford wouldn’t say which player he visited; Drinkwitz visited tight end Chase Blakley of Coeur d’Alene High.

One reason Sanford wanted to do the unusual visit was because another school’s head coach had scheduled breakfast with his prospect on that day.

“Just kind of thinking outside the box — I’m going to try to beat them there,” he said. “This is the very first time that this staff can get out in front of these prospects. … The family and the kid thought it was awesome. They got a kick out of it.”

Sanford brought Harsin into the visit by using FaceTime on his iPad.

“Coach Harsin was awake at 2:30 (Mountain),” Sanford said. “… It was pretty unbelievable for a head coach to do that.”

Sanford also called Drinkwitz on FaceTime. They chatted during their middle-of-the-night visits and gave the two players a chance to talk.

“(Drinkwitz) must have drank 15 5-hour Energys,” Sanford said. “He was in full Gus Malzahn mode.”

Drinkwitz worked with Malzahn, the Auburn head coach, earlier in his career.

A three-city tour

Running backs coach Kent Riddle visited schools in Houston, Dallas and San Diego in one day. He hit the Dallas area on a layover while traveling from Houston to San Diego.

He ended the day at a high school basketball game.

“You have to do what needs to be done to make sure we’re maximizing our time,” he said.

Close call for Avalos

Avalos returned from a recruiting trip at midnight the night of Thursday, Jan. 30. He ran into travel delays and had to switch airlines in San Francisco to make it home and keep a promise to his wife, Summer.

“The lady (at the airport) could see the panic on my face,” Avalos said.

His first child, daughter Paityn Joy Avalos, was born Friday, Jan. 31 — two weeks early. Avalos didn’t know the baby was coming so soon, but he had told his wife he’d be back by that day.

Paityn received a gift tied to this recruiting class. Tight end David Lucero’s mother made her a blanket.

Avalos was Lucero’s primary recruiter.

“That’s what recruiting is, creating relationships,” Avalos said. “When you’re able to create that special bond with families and student-athletes, you know you’re onto something good.”


— Sanford, the former recruiting coordinator at Stanford, said “this is the best recruiting staff I’ve ever been on from top to bottom.” “When we’re all together, it’s pretty awesome the chemistry we all have,” he said. “That starts at the top with coach Harsin. He’s an unbelievably good recruiting head coach. A lot of head coaches don’t want to do it. He was hands-on the entire time. … It sure has been a whirlwind 30 days, but a fun 30 days.”

— Huff has taken Twitter by storm with his “Ride the Lightning” hashtag. Since he was a player, he has been writing those words on the game day schedule cards, right next to the game time. He draws a lightning bolt he compared to the Gatorade logo. The words are on most of his hats, too. “That’s always been a way of life for me,” he said.

— Caldwell on coming to Boise State: “You hear about Boise State, you hear about the program, you see them on national TV all the time. Being around Bryan Harsin for a year (at Arkansas State), there was no doubt when I got that opportunity to come here — the decision was easily made.”

— Brown and defensive coordinator Marcel Yates have made a lot of noise about the physical style they expect from the defense as a whole and the secondary in particular. But with just two new players in the secondary (a third recruit is going on a mission), that style is going to have to come from inside the program. “We have a great group of defensive backs here,” Brown said. “… We want to be known as a physical secondary. We’re going to dictate to the offense kind of like Seattle did in the Super Bowl. … The one deal that I think we really have is a bunch of competitive guys and that’s a competitive position. All those kids have all the tools in the world. We’re going to push them.”

— Yates, the former Boise State defensive backs coach, has joked that Brown will be annoyed by him this year. “I won’t,” Brown said. “I didn’t get sick of him as a player. I won’t get sick of him as a coach. The one thing that’s neat is I have somebody I can lean on. … I’ll probably be in his office more than he wants me in there.”

— The Broncos recruited six defensive linemen in this class. “They were in a lot of three-down stuff last year,” Yates said. “For us, going back to four-down as a base, we know we needed to get back to some bigger guys, some girth. That can be coach Caldwell and me being in the SEC. … He felt like he wanted to get some bigger D-linemen and some edge guys, pass rushers.”

— Recruiting a junior college quarterback posed a particular challenge for Sanford because Stanford doesn’t recruit those schools. “Filling that need with Tommy (Stuart) was critical,” he said. “I wanted to have somebody who was a proven winner and somebody you have some familiarity with. I haven’t recruited JC anything at Stanford, but the one person I do know very well is (former Boise State player) Robby Snelling, the offensive coordinator at Butte College. He vouched for (Stuart’s) character.”

— The quarterback depth chart was “a scary movie” when he arrived, Sanford said. The Nick Patti transfer was already in the works when he arrived — they spoke but never met in person. That left the Broncos with one scholarship quarterback who was a sure thing for spring ball, senior Grant Hedrick. Redshirt freshman Ryan Finley is recovering from a shoulder injury. By adding Stuart and true freshman Alex Ogle, the Broncos could end up with four scholarship quarterbacks in four different classes if Stuart doesn’t redshirt and Ogle does. That would put the Broncos back on course to have a senior and true freshman quarterback every year except 2015 (no senior). “I want to take a scholarship quarterback every single year,” Sanford said.

— Sanford, like Harsin before him, said Hedrick is the “incumbent starter” going into spring ball but he’s hoping for some competition. “I’ve been really impressed with Grant,” Sanford said. “I like what he did on tape last year, but of course we’ve got to get better.”

— Wide receivers coach Junior Adams, who left Eastern Washington, called this a “what-if job.” He said Harsin and the Broncos’ tradition attracted him. “This is a job I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “It was a tremendous opportunity.” Adams played at Montana State when Yates coached there. He also was an assistant at Prosser High for a year, where he coached Kirby Moore. “I’ve known Kirby and Kellen since they were 8 or 9 — they’re like little brothers to me,” he said. Kirby visited Adams at Eastern Washington and worked out with him a few times.


Here’s my updated position-by-position roster:

9 Grant Hedrick, 6-0, 202, R-Sr.
Tommy Stuart, 6-0, 190, So.
15 Ryan Finley, 6-3, 186, R-Fr.
13 Richard Hoppe, 5-10, 153, R-Fr.

Alex Ogle, 6-3, 205, Fr.

23 Derrick Thomas, 6-0, 208, R-Sr.
27 Jay Ajayi, 6-0, 220, R-Jr.
21 Jack Fields, 5-9, 195, Jr.
26 Devan Demas, 5-8, 172, R-So.
10 Jamel Hart, 5-9, 195, R-So.
35 Charles Bertoli, 5-11, 200, R-So.

Jeremy McNichols, 5-10, 190, Fr.
Cory Young, 5-10, 180, Fr.

2 Matt Miller, 6-3, 222, R-Sr.
81 Dallas Burroughs, 5-8, 171, Sr.
20 Terrell Johnson, 5-9, 174, R-Jr.
14 Troy Ware, 6-2, 188, R-Jr.
11 Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 157, Jr.
19 Taylor Pope, 6-0, 178, R-So.
82 Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 174, So.
80 D.J. Dean, 6-0, 187, R-Fr.
83 Tanner Shipley, 6-0, 182, R-Fr.
39 David McKinzie, 6-0, 165, R-Fr.
Dusty Fisher, 6-2, 179, R-Fr.
A.J. Richardson, 6-1, 199, Fr.

Sean Modster, 6-0, 185, Fr.

86 Kyle Sosnowski, 6-2, 238, R-Sr.
89 Connor Peters, 6-4, 250, Sr.
84 Jake Hardee, 6-3, 241, R-Jr.
85 Holden Huff, 6-5, 236, R-Jr.
93 Brennyn Dunn, 6-3, 220, R-So.
91 Jackson Reed, 6-4, 226, R-So.
98 Alec Dhaenens, 6-3, 232, R-Fr.
88 Jake Roh, 6-2, 210, R-Fr.

Chase Blakley, 6-4, 235, Fr.
David Lucero, 6-5, 220, Fr.

72 Marcus Henry, 6-3, 285, R-Jr.
71 Rees Odhiambo, 6-4, 307, R-Jr.
Jerhen Ertel, 6-5, 258, R-Jr.
73 Travis Averill, 6-3, 296, R-So.
70 Steven Baggett, 6-3, 285, R-So.
66 Mario Yakoo, 6-3, 323, R-So.
60 Kellen Buhr, 6-0, 285, R-So.
79 Avery Westendorf, 6-5, 292, R-So.
74 Archie Lewis, 6-3, 275, R-Fr.
75 Eli McCullough, 6-5, 271, R-Fr.
52 Andrew Tercek, 6-1, 279, R-Fr.
59 Mason Hampton, 6-2, 266, R-Fr.

Troy Bacon, 6-3, 280, Fr.
Andres Preciado, 6-6, 255, Fr.
Tennessee Su’esu’e, 6-2, 295, Fr.

53 Beau Martin, 6-2, 271, R-Sr.
49 Darien Barrett, 6-2, 225, R-So.
97 Austin Silsby, 6-3, 219, R-Fr.

Rondell McNair, 6-4, 250, R-Jr.

94 Sam McCaskill, 6-3, 240, R-So.
33 Gabe Perez, 6-4, 226, So.
92 Kamalei Correa, 6-2, 244, So.

Jabril Frazier, 6-4, 225, Fr.
Kaleb Hill, 6-1, 215, Fr.

On mission:
Durrant Miles, 6-4, 220, Fr.

69 Tyler Horn, 6-5, 265, Sr.
90 Justin Taimatuia, 6-0, 281, Sr.
58 Robert Ash, 6-3, 291, R-Jr.
40 Armand Nance, 6-0, 288, Jr.
96 Elliot Hoyte, 6-4, 275, R-So.
50 Nick Terry, 6-3, 271, R-Fr.
Deuce Mataele, R-Jr. (ineligible this year)

Antoine Turner, 6-3, 280, R-Jr.
Dereck Boles, 6-2, 275, Fr.
David Moa, 6-3, 235, Fr.

45 Travis Saxton, 6-1, 214, R-Sr.
13 Blake Renaud, 6-2, 243, Sr.
36 Tyler Gray, 6-4, 228, Jr.
31 Andrew Pint, 6-0, 221, R-So.
51 Ben Weaver, 6-0, 233, R-So.
25 Chris Santini, 5-11, 205, R-So.
44 Darren Lee, 6-1, 221, So.
20 Tanner Vallejo, 6-1, 217, So.
7 Joe Martarano, 6-2, 234, R-Fr.
54 Mat Boesen, 6-4, 213, R-Fr.

1 Bryan Douglas, 5-9, 178, R-Sr.
3 Cleshawn Page, 5-8, 179, Sr.
19 Mercy Maston, 5-11, 196, Sr.
34 Promise Amadi, 5-9, 185, R-Jr.
5 Donte Deayon, 5-9, 151, Jr.
6 Chaz Anderson, 5-10, 176, R-So.
30 Jonathan Moxey, 5-9, 175, So.
16 Dionza Blue, 5-11, 186, R-Fr.
21 Cameron Hartsfield, 5-9, 188, R-Fr.

Zavior Hoxie, 5-11, 190, Fr.

10 Jeremy Ioane, 5-10, 190, R-Sr.
38 Corey Bell, 5-11, 210, Sr.
24 Taylor Loffler, 6-3, 212, R-Jr.
4 Darian Thompson, 6-1, 200, R-Jr.
28 Dillon Lukehart, 6-0, 207, R-Jr.
22 Chanceller James, 6-1, 205, R-So.
47 Brandon Brown, 5-11, 192, R-Fr.
Dylan Sumner-Gardner, 6-1, 202, Fr.

Kekoa Nawahine, 6-3, 190, Fr. (expected to go on a mission)

41 Dan Goodale, 5-10, 196, R-Sr.
28 Tyler Rausa, 5-8, 190, R-So.

26 Sean Wale, 6-1, 185, R-So.

46 Kevin Keane, 6-0, 211, Jr.
Kolton Donovan, 6-4, 248, So.
42 Matt Cota, 6-1, 197, R-Fr.

Skyler Seibold, 6-1, 182, Fr. (RB/DB)

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Chadd Cripe has spent the past 12 years as the Boise State football beat writer. You can follow him on Twitter @IDS_BroncoBeat.

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