Toughness is the buzzword as Boise State football team begins winter workouts

By Chadd Cripe
ccripe@idahostatesman.com
© 2014 Idaho Statesman

I talked to strength coach Jeff Pitman, nickel Corey Bell and offensive lineman Marcus Henry for a story in tomorrow’s paper on the beginning of the Boise State football team’s offseason workout program.

Here are some highlights:

— The Broncos will lift four days a week and run three days until spring ball begins March 10. They get Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday off.

Armand Nance pushes weights across the blue turf of Bronco Stadium during a conditioning workout on Monday morning, led by new strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman.

Armand Nance pushes weights across the blue turf of Bronco Stadium during a conditioning workout on Monday morning, led by new strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman.

— Pitman has spoken several times to Tim Socha, the strength coach who replaced him in 2006 and left for Washington after last season, to get a feel for the program he inherits. “Tim did a hell of a job with these guys, obviously,” Pitman said.

— Pitman will focus on adding weight to the players first, then speed. “That’s just my style,” he said. “I’ve done that for 20-plus years.”

— The Broncos usually eased into the spring semester in the past with a week or two of optional workouts before the winter program began. They started right away last week. “Everybody was just excited to see everybody again,” Bell said. “You’re just so used to seeing everybody every day. You go home for a month and it doesn’t feel right. Everyone is excited to be back, especially with the new program.”

— Bell: “Kind of like what (coach Chris Petersen) said when he left — a program or anything can only go so long before it kind of comes to a plateau. This change will be good. It’s something that will give us a new energy. Anything where you change up what you do every day can revamp your body and make you excel a little more.”

— At the first team meeting last week, each coach introduced himself. “Some of them had a little PowerPoint, some had a video,” Bell said. “There were different ways they introduced themselves.”

— Bell and the other nickels, who were known as strong-side linebackers last year and worked with linebackers coach Bob Gregory, are working with defensive backs coach Julius Brown. “I think things will probably be a little different,” Bell said. “We haven’t gotten into the scheme.”

— Bell: “We need to just attack these workouts, get in better shape, get a little bit bigger. I know that’s what our strength staff is preaching to us — get bigger, but also get in better shape. We’re really focusing on just functioning well as a group and executing.”

— Bell: “(Pitman) is trying to get us mentally tougher and physically strong. I’m sure we’re going to go through a little bit of a learning process. … It’s kind of the old-school Bronco mentality. It’s coming back a little bit — the toughness thing is a big deal. That’s what’s being stressed to us, what it really means to be Bronco tough — mentally, physically, spiritually even, emotionally — how we need to be tough in all aspects so when we face whoever we face we can come at them with that imposing characteristic.”

— Pitman on toughness: “That’s just who I am. That’s what I try to get the kids to understand. At the end of the day, it’s still football. It can be a spread offense or the power-I or the spread option, at the end of the day it’s still about blocking and tackling. That hopefully will never change in football. … The toughest guy is going to win.”

— Pitman on his eight years away: “I learned I really missed this place. That was No. 1. I did a lot of looking from afar, scratching my head a little bit why I left in the first place. It was a good experience. I needed to grow a little bit as a coach. It was good for me as a coach to go through that. The second time around here will be better for the kids because of my experience.”

— Pitman on coming back: “The biggest difference is the kids are all taller than me now. I used to be one of the tallest guys in the building. Obviously the facilities are fantastic. The support has always been great at Boise.”

— Pitman: “Everybody on the staff but one guy I’ve either coached or coached with and we’re all saying the same stuff. That’s the bottom line, we want to be a tougher team. That’s the way we want to practice, that’s the way we want to portray ourselves, that’s the way we want to play. … It’s been a very smooth transition.”

— Pitman was big on running the upper deck of Bronco Stadium during conditioning in his previous stint. “That will never change,” he said.

— Henry: “I feel like I’m brand new in the program again. It’s been good. It’s been fun. There’s a lot of energy and excitement about what’s to come.”

— Henry: “I’m still having trouble learning everybody’s name. I’m excited with what these coaches are all about and the energy they’re going to bring to the program.”

— Henry on Scott Huff moving from tight ends to offensive line coach: “I’m very happy about that. It’s nice to have somebody that I don’t have to prove myself completely to all over again. I know he’s going to do a great job.”

— Henry: “We’re going to be an attacking offense and we’re going to have fun doing it. … I know it’s going to be different, but the change is going to be good for this program. I’m excited to see everyone out there doing their thing (in spring ball).”

•••

Pitman was the strength coach at Arkansas State under coach Bryan Harsin. Pitman on Harsin: “He’s a tremendous communicator. He’s great in the community. That’s something I was impressed with, how he carries himself, how he speaks in public, how he relates to kids. … He likes to coach with an edge. He likes to have fun with the kids. And he’s a hell of an offensive mind. It didn’t matter who we played — whether it was Auburn or Missouri — I always felt like the game plan was going to be solid and if we kept the kids healthy we’d have a shot. We didn’t win them all, but we won more than our fair share and a Sun Belt championship. Ninety-five percent of that was because of Bryan Harsin.”

•••

I’ve been asked many times about the frequent movements Bell makes with his neck. I finally asked him the other day — he said his neck bothers him and he pops it to make it feel better. He laughed at the question — he said people often ask him if he has some kind of a tic.

•••

Former Boise State quarterback Nick Patti said Monday that he will take this semester off. He requested, and was granted, a release from Boise State to discuss a transfer to UCF, his hometown school. Patti started college a semester early and can’t play at a new Football Bowl Subdivision school this fall anyway, so sitting a semester shouldn’t have a major effect on him.


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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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