Penn State Coaching Search: Chris Petersen

Stoic Chris Petersen is very stoic, much like Penn State's search committee...Match made in heaven? (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The search committee has done a heck of a job keeping things close to the vest, which means that beat writers, bloggers, and face-slappingly popular Twitter rumor-mongers who have BS "sources" can merely speculate at this point with what little information they're able to obtain from their 'connections.' Boise State's head coach Chris Petersen has been no stranger to such rumor-mongering. Ergo, we present you an obligatory profiling.

Head Coaching Record

Year Overall


2006 13-0 8-0
2007 10-3 7-1
2008 12-1 8-0
2009 14-0 8-0
2010 12-1 7-1
2011 11-1 6-1
Total 72-6 44-3

Petersen served as then-head coach Dan Hawkins' offensive coordinator from 2001 to 2005. He was then promoted to head coach after Hawkins bolted for the Colorado head coaching gig, where his greatest accomplishment was telling you to go play intramurals, Brother. It was during Petersen's first year as head coach that the Broncos put themselves on the college football map with their epic upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. A few years later, in 2010, Boise won the Fiesta Bowl again, this time over fellow non-BCS school TCU. In between those Fiesta Bowl appearances were double-digit win seasons. Suffice it to say, the program was elevated to a whole different level when Petersen took over and it doesn't appear to be sinking, yet.

Coaching Philosophy

You probably know Petersen best as the architect behind such plays like the "Hook and Ladder" and "Statue of Liberty" plays that can be viewed in the video below.

As for the question about what type of "system" Chris Petersen's Boise teams run, perhaps it's best if we feature a quote from a Smart Football article that broke down Boise State's offensive scheme:

Boise State’s linebacker coach, Jeff Choate, once told me at coaching clinic two years back, "We run plays, we don’t have an offense. It makes it difficult to defend." At that time he was working with the running backs. Before this project, I wondered how an offense can’t be a system. Coordinators pride themselves on establishing identities: "It’s what we do" is a common mantra among the coaching profession. Urban Meyer at Florida has his spread option, Chip Kelly at Oregon has his QB run game, Steve Sarkasian at Washington has his pro-style offense that he developed at USC. Well, apparently Boise was the Seinfeld of college football — their lack of identity is their identity.

Translation: Boise State's offense is about nothing. Really, they don't have a particular system aside from efficiently moving the ball downfield on offense, as evidenced by their 483.1 yards/game average in 2011. As Smart Football further elaborates:

Boise specializes in getting defenses out of position to make plays by utilizing the three major essentials in offensive football: numbers, leverage and grass. "Numbers" means outnumbering the defense at the point of attack — i.e. more blockers than defenders on the edge, more receivers than zone defenders, etc. "Leverage" refers to out-flanking a defense at the point of attack — i.e. you may not have numbers but the angles are on your side. "Grass" harkens to Willie Keeler’s baseball adage, "hit ‘em where they ain’t." Run the ball where there are the fewest defenders.

Mind you, Petersen's teams have accomplished these offensive feats with lesser talent than your top guns in BCS conference schools. Imagine what Boise State's Seinfeld offense could look like with the caliber of talent a school like Penn State brings in (along with a not-so-convoluted play calling system)...I'll give you half a minute to wipe the drool off your keyboard.

Fit - Cultural, Personnel, Etc.

Fans will embrace a winner with open arms, and Petersen sure as hell fits the description of one, no matter how much you want to pooh-pooh the fact he's coached in the WAC and Mountain West conferences. 72-6 overall and 44-3 in conference play is 72-6 overall and 44-3 in conference play. The main drawback with Petersen is that he is a West Coast guy through and through; his lone year out East as Pitt's quarterbacks coach was not an experience he would care to remember, to say the least. There are also concerns about his ability to recruit the East if he were to take over the PSU job, as Pennsylvania, the DC Metro Area, New York/New Jersey, and New England are critical and fertile recruiting grounds for the program. If Petersen were to take the job, look for him to hire some assistants with staunch ties to the aforementioned geographic areas.

It is no secret that the Acting AD David Joyner and his committee would love to make a splash hire, presuming it's possible. While I'd argue the lone splash hire is currently assembling the rest of his coaching crew in Columbus and poaching other Big Ten schools' recruits, there should be near-universal support and praise for the search committee if Petersen is somehow lured away from his comfortable confines of Boise. Joyner headed a similar type of committee when PSU was searching for a wrestling coach a few years ago and eventually landed Cael Sanderson, one of the greatest NCAA wrestlers of all time, as well as one of the best coaches in the profession. It was a hire nobody saw coming because they presumed Sanderson would never leave his alma mater to try and rebuild a floundering wrestling program elsewhere. Don't rule out Petersen being that Sanderson-type of hire.

Previous Candidate Profiles

Al Golden, Miami HC

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State HC

Tom Bradley, Penn State Interim HC

Tim Murphy, Harvard HC

Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans (NFL) HC

Mark Richt, Georgia HC

Greg Schiano, Rutgers HC

David Shaw, Stanford HC

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