Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick described Bronco football in a word at Mountain West media day.
Consistency applies to so many facets at Boise State. With 129 wins since 2002, the Broncos are college football’s standard bearers. Along with those 119 victories, BSU has won nine conference championships, two BCS bowls and etched its name into the annals of history with its consistency at home.
Bronco Stadium has become an iconic part of college football, perhaps as recognizable as Touchdown Jesus or the numbered, crimson helmets at Alabama.
“It’s disorienting,” San Diego State safety Nate Berhe said of the blue turf.
For seven years, Chris Petersen has manned the sidelines of Bronco Stadium as head coach.
Consistency also applies to Petersen. The MWC welcomes three new head coaches in 2013, after another initiating four in 2012. Since 2010, every MWC program has taken on a good head coach, save three: Boise State with Petersen, Air Force with alumnus Troy Calhoun and Wyoming with Dave Christensen (he started there in 2009).
Petersen has spurned what some might consider more prominent job offers. In doing so, he has established Boise State as a prominent head coaching destination. It’s certainly difficult to argue with the results.
Consistency also describes perhaps the most valuable component of the Broncos’ on-field product, its offensive line. A “blue collar mentality, playing in the trenches,” is the cultural identity central to Boise State’s success, Southwick said.
One-hundred-and-twenty-nine wins in a decade don’t come solely because of one unit. However, the Bronco offensive line has become an NFL pipeline. Nate Potter was an All-American. Ryan Clady was the No. 12 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft and is a two-time All-Pro.
That tradition is something fifth-year Bronco senior Charles Leno embraces as the line’s leader in 2013. He said that continuing the high bar prior BSU linemen set means a great deal to him.
“A lot of great offensive linemen [have come through BSU] in the past,” he said. “That’s [also including] guys who aren’t the marquee names, like Thomas Byrd. He was one of the best offensive lineman when it comes to smarts. Joe Kellogg last year, he was a really great leader.
“The tradition of our offensive line is only going to continue to grow,” Leno added. “We’re getting more talented offensive linemen and smarter offensive linemen. It’s only going to continue to get better and better.”
Some of those young, talented additions will get their first opportunities in a pivotal 2013 season. The coming campaign is the last of the BCS era, and thus the program’s final chance to bust into that upper echelon of bowl games as it has twice before.
Leno’s role as leader is helping the younger Broncos get up to speed for 2013, while also laying the foundation as BSU embarks on the College Football Playoff era.
“Once I’m gone, someone is going to take my spot, most likely Steven Baggett or Rees Odhiambo,” Leno said. “I actually want those guys to be better than me. The way they’re working now, they’re on the verge of doing that.”
Those players can one day look at the skills in which Leno excelled and add them to their own repertoire, as Leno says he has in observing the Broncos before him.
“I try to take a few things from their games,” he said. “The little stuff, like something Ryan Clady did with his hands, or how Nate Potter stepped up, or how Daryn Colledge blocked somebody: I try to incorporate that.”
Reliable play up front has allowed BSU to sustain its success, despite losing such stars as college football’s all-time most winning quarterback, Kellen Moore, and breakout NFL star Doug Martin.
The Broncos lose another key skill position player on offense this year, DJ Harper.
Southwick said that because of BSU’s play up front, the transition to a new featured back should be smooth. Jay Ajayi is the likely candidate to fill that void.
Bronco offensive coordinator Robert Prince is also toying with using Southwick as more of a dual threat in 2013. Southwick showed off his wheels in the Broncos’ Las Vegas Bowl defeat of Washington in December, accruing 39 yards on the ground.
OK, so not everything at Boise State is 100 percent consistent all the time. Prince himself is entering his second year running the offense, filling in for Brent Pease. Pease left for Florida after the 2011 season, his only as Bronco offensive coordinator, coinciding with the departure of Moore after four years as starting quarterback. Before Pease, current Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin ran the Bronco offense.
Adjusting to new play callers is nothing new for BSU, but breaking in both a new coordinator and quarterback simultaneously resulted in some growing pains. The Broncos’ point per game output dropped by more than 14 points from the 2011 campaign. Growing through the process together could unlock both Prince and Southwick’s potential in their second year together.
“[Coach Prince] has been great about asking my opinions on things,” Southwick said. “I think he’s going to make huge improvements in his game in his second year calling plays as the OC. I’m excited to get into the playbook.”