One of the great benefits of the SB Network is the opportunity for cross-blog coordination. In addition to participating in a Q&A with us, the folks at OBNUG have proposed a friendly wager, with the winning team's blog getting to pen an article for the losing team's blog. More motivation for a Husky win! On to the Q&A:
1. Much has been made over the last year plus in these parts of the major culture transformation at Washington with Chris Petersen taking over from Steve Sarkisian. How has the transition been at Boise State? With Bryan Harsin and much of his staff having coached there under Petersen, has it been a relatively smooth process?
Bryan Harsin, being a former player, coach, and native of Boise is familiar with the culture of Boise State, so the transition has been relatively smooth. No huge changes have come as far as player and team expectations go. One thing I've noticed, though, is how similar in demeanor Harsin and Petersen are, both on the sidelines and in press conferences. No drill instructor mentality, no headset chucking--definitely none of Rich Rod's wannyin':
Normally, if a player messes up on a play, they're more likely to be met with a pat on the helmet and words of encouragement under both coaches. It's a good culture to have, and it's only a matter of time before the good folks of UW reap the benefits of positive reinforcement that Petersen brings.
2. When Jake Browning committed to Washington in 2014 that cleared the way for Brett Rypien to commit to Boise State. Word is he gave Ryan Finley stiff competition for the starting QB job - what's been your impression so far of Rypien?
Brett Rypien is a pretty smart player, and Bronco Nation has been pretty high on him coming in as a 4-star recruit. (We get those about as often as Alabama gets snubbed in preseason rankings.) I might add the word cautiously though, since our last signee we considered the second coming of Kellen Moore (Nick Patti) fizzled out and ultimately transferred. In the fall game, he played well, going 10-19 for 94 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. There might be a reason why BSU still has Rypien listed as a possible backup to Finley in the recently released depth chart. My gut feeling is that he'll be redshirted (as is the feeling of most of Bronco Nation).
3. When the nation thinks about the great Boise State teams they probably think of offense and guys like Kellen Moore, Doug Martin and Austin Pettis. But those that paid close attention to the Broncos knew their defense was just as important to their success. Tell us more about the 2015 vintage of the BSU defense and who Husky fans should keep an eye on.
Last season, DC Marcel Yates went back to a 4-2-5 defense with two corners and 3 safeties, and looks to continue doing so this season. BSU is pretty deep in the trenches, but might be a bit of a question mark at strong safety, where Dylan Sumner-Gardner is coming back from injury to start. You all probably have heard about how good stud end Kamalei Correa (team sack leader) is, so I'll highlight some other players to watch out for. Free safety Darian Thompson (who has just been named team captain) is a freak athlete who is everywhere on the field. MLB Tanner Vallejo (tackle leader) is excellent at getting backfield and stuffing runs, and CB Donte Deayon is a great ball hawk, grabbing 6 last season and scoring 3 touchdowns. But it might be hard to keep an eye on any of them because rumor has it they'll be wearing blue-on-blue. (I'm still waiting to hear back on my "turf-texture" jersey patent.)
4. Many Washington fans are anxious about the state of the OL in 2015; what can you tell them about Chris Strausser and his track record at Boise State that may (or may not) reassure those fans about how his impact on the OL?
Well, consider this: A quarterback is only as good as his offensive line. Strausser was an offensive line coach in Boise in 2010 and 2011, which happened to be Man-God Kellen Moore's junior and senior years. Moore, bless his goofy heart, ran like someone escaping a mafia drowning, mid-cement pour. But there were many-a-time when he had forever in the pocket to find the right receiver, make a sandwich, and throw a touchdown pass. He ultimately become the winningest quarterback in NCAA history (50-3), and he'd be the first to tell you it was, in part, due to a fantastic O-line. He probably literally owes his life to Chris Strausser. Hopefully, Strausser can work his magic again in Washington (after the season opener, of course)!
5. Given all of the various storylines wrapped up in this game - Chris Petersen returning to Boise, Bryan Harsin & staff facing off vs. their old boss, the rubber match of this 3-game series, big-city Seattle compared to big-sky Boise - how does this game rate in comparison to past Boise State home games in terms of anticipation among Bronco fans?
Honestly, the anticipation of this game might be higher if pundits weren't so quick to pooh-pooh Washington's team as a Pac-12 contender this year. I'd like to believe they can be contenders under Coach Petersen's inspired leadership, surprising everyone and especially stupid-head, mouth-breathin', soap-dodgin', fart-factory Oregon. So much of Boise State's perception in the media has to do with the teams we play, and the stronger the team, the greater the anticipation. That being said, the idea of facing Chris Petersen on The Blue has an appeal very few games can match, especially with the wound being so fresh. The Master/Apprentice aspect of this game is really intriguing, and I have to admit, I'm hoping the young grasshopper has learned something even the wizened sage doesn't anticipate. Good luck, and by that I mean, not good luck!
Thanks again to Russ for answering our questions. To see my answers to their questions, click here.