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Cal Coaching Candidates: A Q&A Concerning Chris Petersen

Chris Petersen. Head Coach of the Boise State Broncos. The Dream Candidate in the eyes of many Cal fans. In this Q & A, we sat down with Drew Roberts of One Bronco Nation Under God to learn a little bit more about Coach Petersen. Thanks to Drew for his time and candid responses; as always, Go Bears!


1. The conventional wisdom is that Petersen would not leave Boise State for Cal. If you had to identify a factor or factors that WOULD make Petersen leave for Cal or some other job, what would those be?

If Petersen felt that the administration was no longer giving him what he wanted, I think that he could possibly be tempted to move on. I'm really not talking salary here, either-Pete is compensated quite well for someone living in Boise, Idaho. I think Petersen wants to feel that his assistants are being paid what he feels they deserve and also that the program is advancing. Stadium expansion, football facilities, etc. all need to be part of Boise State's future plans or Petersen's head could be turned.

2. What is Coach Petersen's greatest strength as a head coach?

Managing the emotions of his players probably. Boise State is generally known for very disciplined teams that execute very, very well. Petersen gets this out of his players by making sure they never get too high or too low emotionally. He abhors distractions and wants his players to do all their talking on the field.

3. Boise State has an impressive grad rate/APR under Petersen. It's no secret that Cal's falling grad rate/APR was part of Jeff Tedford's undoing at Cal. How much credit do you give Petersen for BSU's academic success and why?

I'd give a lot of credit to Petersen for his grad rates. Petersen is a no-nonsense type of coach and he expects his players to be "all in" on AND off the field. If a player is underperforming in the classroom, he takes that as seriously as if they're underperforming on the field.

4. How has Petersen been as a recruiter? Obviously he has been able to get a lot out of lower-rated talent in turning the Boise State program into a nationally known power, but has he been able to translate that success into attracting better talent across the board? What's his pitch like?

I don't really know what Petersen's individual pitch is to recruits...but I know that most recruits say that they really feel "wanted" when they come to Boise. Petersen is more of a father-type figure as a coach than a chummy coach, and he has the respect of his players. Boise State's recruiting has definitely improved over the last 8 years with Petersen at the helm, and some of that credit goes to his assistants...but mostly, I think that recruiting has improved because they see a program committed to winning, and winning the "right way". Petersen always says he's looking for an "OKG" moreso than a 4- or 5-star recruit. "OKG" stands for "our kinda guy". Boise State's kind of guy has a high football IQ, a small ego, a willingness to play wherever they're needed, and a guy that's all about football and school during their time at the university.

5. How would you describe his playcalling and game management, for folks who might not follow Bronco football so closely? Certainly, he first captured the country's attention with those famous misdirection plays in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, but is he known to be aggressive and roll the dice a lot, or does he generally play it pretty conventional, especially when his team can overwhelm inferior competition on a regular basis? How do you think it would translate to a major conference where there might be more parity week in and week out?

Most people think that Chris Petersen was the whole reason that Dan Hawkins had the success he had at Boise State, and a big reason why he couldn't duplicate that success at Colorado. "Pete's Poison" is what Bronco fans termed Pete's offensive philosophy and Bryan Harsin (ex-Boise State OC and current Texas OC) learned everything he knows from Petersen. Petersen does favor aggressive playcalling, but his reputation as a coach that favors trickery is really a misnomer. Petersen calls the offense Boise State runs a "multiple" offense and favors power running to set up the pass. Boise State uses a lot of pre-snap movement to create gaps and spreads the ball around a lot. There's no great trick to just have to have things executed properly. From that angle, maybe Pete's best bit of coaching is that he gets the guys to become as big of perfectionists as he is. I think Petersen's philosophy would be successful in any conference as long as he was able to get his kind of recruits in to execute his brand of football.

6. Have you guys ever had any personal interactions with Coach Petersen? If so, how were they?

Petersen is a pretty close-to-the-vest type of coach...he doesn't ever divulge to much to the media and frankly, I don't think he cares for blogs all that much (he must have never read ours). Outside of football, however, Petersen is a pillar in the community. He and his wife donate a lot to charity and he's a very approachable person away from the confines of the Boise State athletic complex. My interactions with Pete have all been at booster lunches or running into him in the community and he's a genuinely awesome person.

7. Are there any downsides to Coach Petersen? What might they be?

Everyone has them, so Coach Pete is no exception. Speaking as an observer, I know that some fans don't like that Petersen isn't ruthless on the field. Petersen's teams will absolutely not run up the score on teams and sometimes can get overly conservative before the game is firmly in hand...a good example being Boise State practically kneeling the ball to run out the half against Nevada in 2010 when they were up by 2 scores. Boise State, as many remember, was defeated in overtime in that game. It seems counterintuitive because Boise State has won big for so many years...but he rarely played Kellen Moore after halftime and will do nothing but run the ball when Boise State has a big lead. Usually, Boise State can hold that large lead-sometimes not, so Monday Morning Quarterbacks often lament that Pete was too reluctant to "finish off" his opponents. Fair assessment or not, that's one I've heard quite a lot.