Thursday, August 8, 2013.
Early last season, it seemed the Boise State offense was in need of a little personality. As the fall progressed, it got one from one of the smallest players on the squad. Shane Williams-Rhodes got the first touch of his career on a running play in the opener at Michigan State, and it was about as good as it got that night offensively, as the 5-6, 157-pounder ran for 13 yards. By the end of September, Williams-Rhodes was making believers out of Bronco Nation, especially when his spin move left a New Mexico Lobo grabbing air, resulting in his first career touchdown. SWR’s biggest touch of the year was his last, the 47-yard kickoff return that set up the winning field goal against Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The sophomore possibilities for Williams-Rhodes have the Bronco coaching staff salivating. “He was only a darn true freshman last year,” said coach Chris Petersen. “I think his confidence of playing last year—he’s just unique. He has such quick-twitch fibres in his body, we’ve got to be smart in trying to figure out just how to get the ball in his hands.” Williams-Rhodes finished last season with 25 catches for 142 yards and a TD and rushed for 97 more. That’s short-yardage stuff in the passing game. This year his yards-per-catch could double as he’s fully integrated as a wide receiver.
Quarterback Joe Southwick is as excited as anyone about the growing weapon in his arsenal. “Last year it honestly was, ‘He’s so athletic, let’s just throw him out there. Let’s give him something to do, and that’ll be what he does for the year,’” said Southwick “So now we’re trying to really expand his role. He’ll still do a lot of that fun stuff, but we’re trying to incorporate him into the wide receiver corps. We’re going to find fun ways to put him out there—you can’t not with a player like that.”
That kickoff return against the Huskies dropped a hint of what is to come. Williams-Rhodes did not return a punt last year, what with two accomplished seniors ahead of him in Mitch Burroughs and Chris Potter. But get ready. It looks like SWR is the guy. “We’re trying to get him dialed in—to exactly the responsibility he has being back there (on punts),” said Petersen. “But I think if we can get it in his hands he’ll make some things happen.” The one thing that Burroughs and Potter didn’t do as punt returners was fumble. Williams-Rhodes has to clone that trait.
College football coaches don’t get much slack in major markets. Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer brings up what many are thinking as Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams continue to practice for coach Steve Sarkisian. “The debate here is about what style of punishment is most effective. Though Sarkisian is using team policy as a shield and refraining from making a public announcement about penalties for his star players’ very public sins, it appears the coach doesn’t think he needs to include missing playing time. His tone indicates that he thinks Seferian-Jenkins and Williams have learned their lessons. If so, Sarkisian’s style of discipline will be, at best, a polarizing subject. At worst, Sarkisian will be labeled as a soft, DUI-minimizing coach who, like many of his kind, cares too much about winning and too little about real life.”
The NFL preseason begins tonight, and the Seattle Seahawks are back on the radio in the Treasure Valley. The Seahawks face San Diego on KTIK-FM, so you can listen for the names of former Boise State star Jeron Johnson and ex-Idaho standouts Benson Mayowa and Korey Toomer. Among the other matchups, St. Louis and Austin Pettis are at Cleveland, where Billy Winn and Tommy Smith await. Get a load of what former Rams great Isaac Bruce said about Pettis in an ESPN.com NFL blog. “He is a starter right now,” Bruce said. “He’s not a guy who is just kind of glad to be here anymore. From what I see, I think he’s got the mentality of a No. 1 receiver and that’s big. If you are going to be a dominant guy in this league, I think that’s the right mentality to have.”
Former Bronco D.J. Harper has probably earned some carries tonight in San Francisco’s preseason opener against Denver at Candlestick Park. The Sacramento Bee reports on Harper’s “badge of honor,” a gash on the bridge of his nose resulting from a clash with a 49ers linebacker in a blocking drill. “Afterward in the running backs meeting room, Harper was singled out by position coach Tom Rathman, a rarity for any rookie tailback much less an undrafted one like Harper,” reports the Bee. He’s being compared to Niners star Frank Gore in both size and life experience. Harper is 5-9, 211 pounds, and—like Gore—suffered ACL tears in back-to-back seasons in college.
Three weeks after playing the first major of his career, Graham DeLaet tees off in his second today at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. DeLaet hopes for better luck than he had at the British Open, where he made the cut but finished second-to-last among those who played the weekend. It was DeLaet’s long game that got him to the PGA Tour, but it’s his short game that has sparked his breakout season. The former Boise State star enters the day 36th on the PGA Tour money list. But this week DeLaet’s accuracy off the tee may be a lifesaver –Oak Hill’s fairways are narrow and the rough is tricky.
On the Web.com Tour, Troy Merritt gets back on the course today at the Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, MO, after getting some much-needed R & R last weekend at his cousin’s wedding in McCall. There are just three tournaments left in the regular season with Merritt sitting at No. 63 on the Web.com money list. The top 75 advance to the Web.com Tour Finals next month. The Boise State alum needs to play well to avoid being leapfrogged.
With the All-Star break past, the Boise Hawks retake the field tonight against the Vancouver Canadians at Memorial Stadium. In the meantime, the Hawks can sit back and sppreciate one of their “ancestors,” Josh Harrison, who had the biggest moment of his career Tuesday. Harrison has bounced between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis much of the season, but now he looks like he’s in position to stick with the Pirates for the duration. He came up as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the ninth against Miami and smacked a walk-off homer to give the Bucs a 4-3 victory. The win lifted the Pirates to a season-high 24 games over .500 as they seek their first winning campaign in 21 years.
This Day In Sports…August 8, 1988, 25 years ago today:
The Chicago Cubs play the first night game in the history of Wrigley Field. And it was memorable for its frustration. The nocturnal debut against Philadelphia was rained out after 3½ innings, so the first official night game at Wrigley was the one the following night, when the Cubs beat the Mets, 6-4.
(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.)