By Chadd Cripe
© 2014 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football program enters a key part of its calendar over the next nine days.
The Broncos will scrimmage at 5 p.m. Saturday (open to media and Boise State students, faculty and staff only) and 5 p.m. April 12 (Spring Game; tickets are $10).
“You’ve got to play the game to get better at it,” coach Bryan Harsin said Thursday at his weekly spring press conference. “In practice, you have the coaches and everybody surrounding you the whole time. You’re not really playing the game.”
It’s important for the players to capitalize on their opportunities in the scrimmages, Harsin said. He expects each player to get about 25-30 snaps Saturday.
He used the running backs as an example.
“Out of 25 plays, I might get 12 carries and every one of them is going to matter,” he said. “In three scrimmage opportunities, that might total 20 carries. They better all be good. That’s really what you’re leaving for the coaches to watch through the summer.”
The first scrimmage, Harsin said, was just to give the guys a chance to play and coaches a chance to evaluate. This scrimmage will focus on more situations. The Spring Game will have a more game-like flow.
The scrimmage this week will begin with red-zone and backed-up situations.
“We’re trying to do a little more situational football in this scrimmage before we get into the Spring Game and just go play,” he said.
Other highlights from Harsin:
— On progress: “We feel like we’re in a good position as far as where we need to be on offense, defense, special teams. And we’re still pushing it. We haven’t backed off. We’re getting a lot in.”
— On why this scrimmage is focused on the campus community: “They’re a huge support system for us, not just on game day. We do have student-athletes who play for us. There’s a lot more to it than what goes on on game day. … It’s more about an appreciation of what they do for us, what they’ve done for us and what they can do for us.”
— He said junior tailback Jack Fields impressed in the first scrimmage: “I thought he stood out in that first scrimmage. I thought he ran hard. He knew where to go with the ball.”
— Harsin’s last year as the offensive coordinator was senior wide receiver Matt Miller’s redshirt year. Miller tore an Achilles tendon in fall camp and missed that season. “I thought that he would play that year,” Harsin said. “I don’t necessarily think we were in a situation where we had to have a guy come in and play. He was a guy who kept showing up in practice as a young guy before he got injured. That’s carried over. Yesterday, he had a great catch at practice and ripped it off for a big run. It wasn’t just good; it was great. He’s a guy who has that talent, but he works extremely hard.”
— Harsin has been happy with the linebackers. Most recently, Chris Santini caught his eye. Tyler Gray also has played well and Tanner Vallejo and Blake Renaud have consistently made plays, he said. “Coach (Andy) Avalos is doing a heck of a job,” he said. “That group needs to really provide a mentality.”
— Tight end Connor Peters was injured during spring ball and will miss the rest of the practices. That is the only significant spring injury, Harsin said. Peters and all of the players who have been out this spring are expected back in time for fall camp, Harsin said.
— Harsin isn’t expecting anything new with the uniforms. “We’ve got too many combinations,” he said. “The biggest issue is finding out who is going to pick the combinations.”
— The Broncos will entertain about 50 high school juniors each of the next two Saturdays for junior days. “We get a chance to meet them face to face and then take them through the facilities,” Harsin said. “… They get to see the coaches coach. The biggest thing is being around in this environment. That’s why guys want to be on your campus and be around you. They know the stats. They’ve seen the games. They’ve watched the film. It’s, ‘Does this environment fit?’ … You want to make a good first impression when the guys come in here.”
Here is the updated list of Boise State practice players of the day.
Yesterday, I said I’d post the wide receivers preview today. I forgot about the Harsin press conference, so I’ll post wide receivers on Friday.