BOISE — The Boise State football team has been ranked so many years in a row that coach Bryan Harsin couldn’t even remember.
“We’ve been ranked for how many years in a row?” Harsin asked Thursday. “A lot. So every year we have to address the same situation: how do we stay focused?”
Harsin spoke on the eve of today’s first practice of fall camp, and just hours after the Broncos were included in the preseason USA TODAY Coaches Poll at No. 22. To answer Harsin’s question, it’s the 17th consecutive season that the Broncos have been ranked at some point in the Coaches Poll.
Oklahoma State, Boise State’s opponent in week three, came in at No. 25.
The Broncos were the top-ranked team from a Group of Five conference, but barely. Boise State had 261 points to rank No. 22, while Central Florida had 259 points and was No. 23.
Boise State was not ranked in either the Coaches or AP polls to start last season, but got as high as No. 23 before a loss to Fresno State to finish the regular season. They finished No. 22 in the final Coaches Poll of 2017.
It’s the seventh time in the past 10 years that Boise State has opened the season in the Coaches Poll.
“I think it’s great recognition for our program and I think it’s great for our players,” Harsin said. “But now let’s go out and do the work. That’s what it comes down to. Once we start practicing on Friday, none of that will be on our minds.”
Boise State’s group of five incoming wide receivers is down to four. Cam Thomas, a 6-foot-4 freshman receiver from Austin, Texas, didn’t qualify academically and won’t be joining the Broncos.
“He didn’t make it,” Harsin said.
Thomas decommitted from Oregon State and signed with the Broncos on Signing Day in February, and was expected to contribute because of his size. He would have been the biggest wide receiver on Boise State’s roster.
The Broncos still have four newcomers at wide receiver — junior college transfer John Hightower and incoming freshmen Khalil Shakir, Stefan Cobbs and Billy Bowens.
HILL WANTS OFFENSE TO BE MORE PHYSICAL
Quarterbacks coach Zak Hill enters his third season as offensive coordinator and his second as the play caller. His offense has plenty to improve upon from a subpar 2017, and it starts with today’s first practice.
“The biggest thing as an offense we want to focus on through fall camp is No. 1 fundamentals, and really getting those guys in position-specific fundamentals so they can play faster and more confident,” Hill said. “Fall camp is all about fundamentals.”
The word ‘physical’ has also been thrown around a lot by the offensive coaching staff and players heading into fall camp. The Broncos struggled in many areas offensively, in part, because of a lack of physicality.
That will be another focus for the offense over the next month, as will learning and mastering a complex play book.
“As an offense, we want to be very physical and we want to be tough, so we’re just going to ingrain the grind of fall camp,” Hill said. “And then the attention to details. Our offense is very detail oriented and they need to know the ins and the outs of each play and be good with our shifts and motions and whatever we’re asking them to do with that play.
“We want to be prepared. At the end of the day we want them to be able to play fast and confident, but the physical part of it is going to be a big portion of the offense.”
Boise State will hit the grass practice field for a pair of split practices Friday on the first official day of fall camp. The veterans will practice in the morning, and the newcomers and selected returners will practice in the afternoon. They will have three days of split practices before the first full-team practice on Tuesday of next week.
The Broncos will have Sundays off during fall camp.