BOISE – Kent Riddle is entering his 25th season as a full-time college football assistant coach. For the first time since 1998, his duties won’t include heading up special teams.
The longtime Boise State assistant was stripped of his title as special teams coordinator and took a pay cut following a dreadful 2018 in which the Broncos had their worst statistical seasons in punting and field goal kicking in more than a decade.
But instead of sulk or be upset with the demotion, Riddle, who is the tight ends coach and associate head coach, instead has embraced it.
“It’s been a great deal for me in terms of professional growth,” Riddle told the Idaho Press. “Really I’ve done the exact same thing for 17,18 years. I was flipping back and forth a little bit with running backs and tight ends, but in terms of the interaction with the offense, it was about the same because there was so much time devoted to special teams.
“Being able to spend more time with the offense has helped me grow as a person and a coach. I feel a better connection with the tight ends and the rest of the offensive staff.”
In addition to his duties as a position coach, Riddle has led the special teams at every stop he’s had since he took on the role at Army in 1999. He coached special teams during his first stint at Boise State from 2001-05, at Colorado from 2006-10, at North Texas in 2011 and 2012 and at Arkansas State in 2013.
Riddle returned to Boise State and his familiar role as special teams coach in 2014 when Bryan Harsin took over as head coach, and he did so in each of the past five years while also serving as either the running backs coach or tight ends coach.
But Boise State struggled on special teams last fall for the second time in three years, and had several game-changing gaffs, including two blocked kicks by two different kickers and two blocked punts from two different punters. Riddle admits a blocked extra point in the fourth quarter of the Mountain West title game last December, cost the Broncos a conference championship.
So Harsin removed him as special teams coordinator after the year and instead will go with a committee approach. Lee Marks has the special teams coordinator title, but each of the assistant coaches are much more heavily involved in that area than in years past.
“The production didn’t match our expectations here, so that was the reality,” Riddle said. “I don’t think the effort or decisions were not thought out or passed over or anything, and I don’t think it was a gross miscalculation or that sort of thing, but I didn’t feel good about the results and I understood it.
“The other side of it is, for a long time, I’ve been trying to get more involved in the offense and do those things, so I’m excited about it.”
Riddle, who also has been the associate head coach since 2014, took a $50,000 pay cut as part of the demotion. He made $300,000 in 2018, his highest annual salary in 25-plus years of coaching, but will be paid $250,016 this year — his lowest salary since his first year at Boise State in 2014.
While some fans cheered the change in leadership on special teams, Riddle instead looked for the positives. He’s spending way more time on other things that may have been neglected some in the past.
“I’ve been able to get way more involved with the tight ends and the offense and also help coach Harsin with the associate head coaching stuff and be more involved in that,” Riddle said. “I’m working on some projects on game management, officiating, rules, things that come up like that. I’m able to spend way more time on that stuff instead of just a little in each area.
“For me personally, it’s been awesome and I think it’s good for the team to hear some other voices. At some point you do get a little tired of hearing the same thing over and over and over from the same person, so I think it will give our team a chance to grow.”
Riddle started as a full-time assistant at Army in 1995 when he coached the fullbacks. He became the special teams coordinator in 1999, a spot he’s coached wherever he’s been ever since.
His players have also seen the change as a positive.
“I think it’s been a little less stressful on him,” tight end John Bates said. “Honestly, being a player I don’t think any of it was his fault. It comes down to the players and we were the ones making the mistakes. He did everything he could to put us in the right position. He took it all really well, and I’m proud he’s my coach and of what he’s done for this team.”
Bates painted the picture of a coach that is heavily invested in the success of his players and the team, saying he didn’t notice a change in Riddle’s attitude or demeanor despite the struggles and outside criticism.
“He’s a very genuine guy and he really deeply cares about this team,” Bates said. “I know he’s got to be one of the hardest working coaches on the team for the hours he spends here. I know personally he does whatever he can to help put everyone in the right position. He’s an extremely intelligent guy and I think everybody trusts in what he does and what he teaches and what he coaches.”
Riddle is still involved with the special teams units, as all the assistant coaches are this fall. He got a position on each team to coach, and is more involved with the scouting report and game plan for the kickoff return team.
“I can hopefully offer some advice and experience, at least thoughts,” Riddle said. “They might not be what we decide at any point, but at least it’s an opinion and can give somebody something to think about. I still feel like I am contributing in that area, but certainly not at the same level.”
The change has Riddle refreshed and re-energized as he enters his 11th total season with the Broncos. He’s hoping to see it pay off for everyone.
“It’s been good,” Riddle said. “It’s exciting.”