Tuesday, February 5, 2013.
Everybody wanted to know what was up with Lee Hightower and Hayden Plinke. It hadn’t looked good for the two Boise State players since they were suspended last fall. Now it’s official: Hightower and Plinke are no longer enrolled, suspended by the school for violating university rules. Whatever happened, it was sudden. Hightower appeared at a press conference the Monday leading into the UNLV game in October and was fairly up and bubbly talking about the Broncos’ new uniforms for the “black-out.” He led the team onto the field with the hammer against the Rebels—and we haven’t seen him since. The saving grace for the Broncos the rest of last season was the play of Hightower’s replacement at safety, redshirt freshman Darian Thompson, who was second on the team with three interceptions and made 43 tackles.
Plinke wasn’t as high-profile as Hightower—yet. But the 6-4, 255-pound tight end looked to have limitless potential. Plinke had two catches for 20 yards before he was shelved. With that said, Boise State could be suitably stocked at tight end this season. Holden Huff had a big finish in 2012, ending the campign with 17 catches for 250 yards and four touchdowns, including two in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas win over Washington. Connor Peters didn’t have a breakout season. In fact, he didn’t make a catch, save for a two-point conversion grab at New Mexico. And oh by the way, Gabe Linehan will be coming back from an injury that ended his season at the end of September. Linehan had only one catch last year, a 23-yarder in the opener at Michigan State. He was missed after making 29 catches, six of them for TDs in his first two seasons.
At the same time, Boise State yesterday announced the players who were added to the roster at the start of the second semester. After all, it’s going to be mighty busy tomorrow—so let’s get these names out there. Four junior college transfers are in school: running back Derrick Thomas, kicker Tyler Rausa, defensive tackle Deuce Mataele and cornerback Cleshawn Page. Check out their positions, and you know these are important guys. Thomas is the 6-1, 210-pound running back from Butler Community College in Kansas. Also aboard are three grayshirts: Eagle High wide receiver D.J. Dean, linebacker Darren Lee and offensive lineman Archie Lewis. Lee was a longtime grayshirt, having signed three years ago before embarking on a two-year church mission.
Now it gets interesting for Titus Young. Will anyone want him? Boise State’s career leader in receiving yards was finally cut loose yesterday by the Detroit Lions, and the trail of self-destruction he leaves behind may scare off other NFL teams despite 81 catches, 990 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Young was kicked out of the Lions’ team facility three different times last year for disruptive behavior, once for inexplicably lining up wrong on purpose in Week 14 against the Packers. The Detroit organization hasn’t said much about Young’s release, but those who cover the Lions have—espousing skepticism about the wide receiver’s future.
The Tacoma News-Tribune has released its “Western 100” of the top recruits in this part of the country. It’s important to note that the list cuts a wide swath, including 13 states and Western Canada, and two of the 100 have committed to Boise State. One is at a position that excites Bronco Nation the most: quarterback Ryan Finley of Paradise Valley High in Phoenix, who led the state of Arizona in passing last season. Finley could have semi-muddied the waters this spring the way Nick Patti did last year. “I had good enough grades to graduate early but I wanted to play basketball and finish this out with the guys for my senior year,” Finley told Pros2Preps.com. “(Coach Pete) told me to enjoy my last semester of high school.” The other “Western 100” player in the Boise State fold is linebacker Tanner Vallejo of Nevada Union High in Grass Valley, CA.
Boise State has to face San Diego State in hoops tomorrow night away from Taco Bell Arena. But given last year’s results, that may not be the worst thing that could happen. The Aztecs suffocated the Broncos in Boise, 66-53, but Boise State took SDSU to the wire at Viejas Arena before losing 58-56, and again in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament before falling 65-62. The effort on the Aztecs’ home court took particular gumption—and it will again tomorrow. San Diego State is averaging 12,414 fans per game, featuring “The Show,” a phenomenon that has been called the Aztecs’ “nonsensical, whimsical, illogical” student section.
There’s a modicum of respect for the Mountain West in the new Coaches Poll, and a modicum of motivation within for Boise State. San Diego State held onto a No. 25 ranking in the poll despite a loss at Air Force Saturday. That gives the Broncos one more thing to shoot for tomorrow. New Mexico, all alone in first place in the Mountain West, is No. 15 in the AP Poll and No. 16 on the Coaches docket. The Lobos go for their 20th victory of the season tomorrow at The Pit against Air Force. Among those also receiving votes, Colorado State is third in line in AP and second in line in the Coaches Poll. UNLV is further down the list.
Too bad the Idaho Steelheads don’t have this guy anymore, because he was sure noticed around the ECHL last month. Austin Fyten has been named the league’s Rookie of the Month for January after collecting 17 points in 12 games, leading the Steelheads to a 7-4-1 record. He ended the month on a seven-game point streak before being loaned to the Texas Stars of the AHL. Despite his absence, Fyten remains second among ECHL rookies in scoring and assists. Idaho still has a previous Rookie of the Month honoree on the roster—goalie Josh Robinson won the award in November. The Fyten-less Steelies will be back on the ice tomorrow night in CenturyLink Arena against the Utah Grizzlies.
The crew at Taco Bell Arena will have to be perfectionists when planning the court and laying it down for the Davis Cup quarterfinals between the U.S. and Serbia April 5-7. Because the world’s No. 1 player will be watching. Novak Djokovic railed on the condition of the courts before Serbia took on Belgium in a Davis Cup first-rounder over the weekend. A red clay court was installed at Charleroi’s Spiroudome de Charleroi, and Djokovic went nuts over its quality. He toned it down a bit in a later tweet: “Being extra careful here. The conditions are quite dangerous 4 all players. I know organisers did their best, but still....#worried.” Clay surfaces couldn’t be more foreign in Idaho. I’m thinking a nice, traditional hardcourt in the arena for the Boise match.
This Day In Sports…February 5, 1942 and 1943:
A birthday oddity as former NFL quarterbacks and teammates Roger Staubach and Craig Morton are born on the same day one year apart. Staubach (with Navy) and Morton (with California) were each Heisman Trophy candidates in 1964—Staubach won it. Then Staubach succeeded Morton as starting quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys in 1971…and beat Morton in Super Bowl XII in 1978 when the latter was the Denver Broncos’ starting QB. Roger Staubach 71 years old today—Craig Morton 70.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)