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Potential Coach Profile: Bryan Harsin

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The successor to the Boise dynasty has proven everything he can in his current fiefdom. Will the challenge of an SEC program and SEC recruiting lure him away?

NCAA Football: Boise State at Colorado State Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Bryan Harsin is about as “Boise” as you can get: born in Boise, played at Capital High School in Boise, played quarterback for Boise State, and has worked for Boise State after his college graduation for all but 4 years. Some might be surprised that such an institution could be removed from home but word on the street is that Harsin feels like he has proven everything he can at his alma mater and is looking for a new challenge. That’s what lead him away in the first place; he wanted to spread his wings outside of the Bronco nest because he never thought Chris Petersen would leave for any other job. Once Petersen left for Washington, Harsin came back to steer the home school for the next six years. If he truly wants a unique challenge, Missouri would certainly be the place for him.

Bryan Harsin’s Coaching History

Chris Petersen runs a tough but rewarding program and anyone who has spent enough time under his wing has come out as a competent head man. Harsin came up in the Boise culture when Dan Hawkins was building it and was at the forefront of the Bronco revolution of the late aughts. Brief stints at Texas and Arkansas State proved his coaching acumen and the last six years have shown his ability to crank out G5 contenders that vastly outperform their recruiting rankings.

Expertise

Harsin played and coached on the offensive side of the ball and has only one truly awful offense to his credit— the lone year as the head coach of Arkansas State. Other than that, his three next worst offenses have all been under his watch at Boise, although a) part of that is quarterback injuries in 2017, and b) they’re still consistently damn good for a mid major offense. Petersen brought a reputation of trick plays, but he and Harsin really made hay with multiple shifts and funky, technical formations to throw opposing defenses off their assignments. It’s not up-tempo or option heavy, but is always well-run and disciplined under Harsin’s watch.

Recruiting

As previously mentioned, Harsin and the Boise staff excel at talent identification and development, frequently bringing tough, football-smart 2- and 3-star kids and molding them into a 3- and 4-star type of team. Most of the kids he grabs hail from the California/Washington/Canada corridor, although he’s made in-roads with certain Texas programs to grab running backs and quarterbacks. If he were to be hired at Missouri, he’ll need to lean heavier on that pipeline and might need to hire a few recruiters who are more familiar with the southeast to help out. Recruiting is finicky— a school’s brand can frequently get you in the door with high school coaches, but the relationship with the coach is what’s going to get the kids to commit. This is the one spot where I’m hesitant on a Harsin hire, but I’m confident he can build his personal brand successfully with local/regional talent within a few years.

SP+ History

The Boise State program is truly amazing: a program with very little history blowing up to finish in the Top 25 of SP+ four times with Harsin as OC and ranking in the Top 40 every year he’s been head coach. It speaks volumes to the program’s development of their kids and his ability to game plan around his opponents. The SEC schedule is quite a bit tougher than a Mountain West schedule, but Boise has proven itself against the big boys countless times; I would trust Harsin to be able to make Missouri competent within a few years.

The thing that sticks out to me is that, unlike Mike Norvell, Harsin had a direct hand in creating the Boise culture during the early 2000s and then came back and kept it going once Petersen left. He has seen first hand what it takes to build and maintain a program and that’s what needs to happen in Columbia.

Bryan Harsin Deconstructed Record

And now to my favorite part, the deconstructed record. The homeroad splits are predictable and good, but while he’s only 5-4 against ranked teams, he has a healthier 26-17 record against teams with records better than 6-6. Granted, it helps when your team out-recruits your opponents by 20+ spots but, as you can see, 13 of those are P5 teams (and usually mid-to top-tier P5 programs) so the 6-7 record against the P5 looks a little more respectable from that lens. He’s only had 5 cracks at an SP+ Top 25 team and won two of those games while his record against those ranked 26th or higher is a stellar 57-14.

Conclusion

I think I’d rather take Bryan Harsin over Mike Norvell, which is good considering Norvell is apparently out of the running. My only concern is his ability to recruit in Missouri's turf, but I’m certain that he will either acclimate quickly or hire some assistants to make quick in-roads. Harsin has been an established name for so long and is still, somehow, only 44 years old; if it clicks, and we don’t have to worry about a “momma is calling you home” threat from his alma mater, this could be a hire that lasts a long time. As long as he’s successful, anyway. Oh, and as long as he is offered the job, of course.