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Names Change, But Beat Goes On in Boise

From nine to three. After offensive coordinator Brent Pease left to take the same position at Florida and special teams coordinator Jeff Choate the same spot at Washington State earlier today, all that remains of Chris Petersen’s debut staff at Boise State are three loyal assistants: defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, defensive backs coach Marcel Yates and tight ends and fullbacks coach Scott Huff. The departures continue – Bryan Harsin left for Texas last winter, Justin Wilcox for Tennessee the year before – yet Boise State doesn’t miss a beat, continuing to rack up double-digit win seasons as the programs continues its climb up the B.C.S. ladder.

It’s become rote, this heavy pursuit of Boise State assistants, and the fact that major powers look toward tiny Boise for their latest cure-all speaks volumes about the respect programs like Florida, Tennessee and Texas hold for the work Chris Petersen has done over the last six seasons.

As an offensive technician, Petersen’s reputation is second to none. Texas called on Harsin not merely as a game-planner, but as a game-changer: Mack Brown wanted to implement a bruising, physical, pro-style offense, and tabbed Harsin as the sort of coordinator who could reverse a decade of finesse-first football.

And Harsin has delivered, to a degree. By the time this season came to a close, Texas had abandoned its reliance on its quarterback – which was a good thing – and placed the emphasis firmly on its running game. To solid results: two true freshmen fit the bill, and with another ballyhooed high school star entering the mix in the fall Texas looks primed to take another step forward offensively next season.

Florida didn’t hire Pease based on what he achieved over his lone season as Boise’s offensive coordinator, but rather based on his familiarity with Petersen’s pro-style philosophy. One year of experience calling plays with the Broncos doesn’t justify such a leap – though Pease was once the coordinator at Kentucky and Baylor – but six years under Petersen makes him worth the gamble.

Year after year, Petersen’s staff gets gutted. Yet the Broncos continue to excel, coming within a missed field goal of playing for the national title in January. That’s because of Petersen himself, who’s one of the nation’s best, but also thanks to his ability to make the right hires when replacing a departed assistant.

It’s also due to Boise’s tendency to aim small when filling the key spots at offensive and defensive coordinator. Think of the Broncos as a corporation, where responsibility starts the top of the pyramid – with Petersen as the C.E.O. – and trickles down to his coordinators, and then trickles down again to the position coaches.

What better way to ensure a smooth transition than to promote from within your staff? Petersen has done this three times in three years, beginning with moving Kwiatkowski up from the defensive line to replace Wilcox as coordinator prior to the 2010 season.

Harsin heads to Texas; Pease, who joined the Broncos in 2006, replaces Harsin. Pease heads to Florida; according to reports, Petersen will promote wide receivers coach Robert Prince, who rejoined the Broncos this fall after a seven-year absence, into Pease’s spot. And who replaces Choate? There won’t be a better fit that North Texas special teams coordinator Kent Riddle, who held the same job with the Broncos from 2001-5.

This is how the beat goes on for Boise State. By sticking to what got him here – the same system, no frills, no massive changes – Petersen has ensured that the Broncos, despite losses on the field and along the sidelines, won’t drop off their national perch. And that Boise excels with such consistency is what attracts a Florida, Tennessee or Texas to Petersen’s assistants in the first place.

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