Friday, April 23, 2010.
I asked Kyle Wilson last Saturday at the Blue & Orange Game whether he was a Giants or Jets fan while growing up in Piscataway, NJ. “Giants,” said Wilson. And last night the former Boise State star was the 29th overall pick in the NFL Draft—by the Jets. Most of us didn’t think Wilson would last that long in the draft, and there had to be pits in a lot of stomachs as the first round dragged on. Then, before their selection, we saw that the Jets were No. 1 in the NFL in pass defense last year. “Okay, who’s got the 30th pick?” But commissioner Roger Goodell called Kyle’s name, and he gets to stay close to home in Jersey and help make the Jets D that much more formidable.
It was interesting the way the evening unfolded for Wilson. When Cleveland came up at No. 7, ESPN reported that the Browns staff was split between Wilson and Florida’s Joe Haden—and that team president Mike Holmgren said his tiebreaker vote would go to Haden based on the competition he played against in the SEC. Then the trade winds started to blow, and a lot of draft boards were shuffled. That had to make things tense in the Wilson household. When Baltimore, where a number of mock drafts had placed Wilson, traded the No. 25 pick to Denver and was left without a first round selection, you had to wonder if that was it. But the Jets came along with a compliment. Rex Ryan loves corners. And Wilson was available and was too good to pass up.
Idaho’s Mike Iupati had a night that was close to perfect. The former Idaho star was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers with the 17th overall pick. Iupati thus gets to stay on the West Coast and goes to a team on the rise—with a specific assignment: protect quarterback Alex Smith during his moment-of-truth season with the Niners. Not forgetting that Iupati also has to open holes for Frank Gore.
The analysis of the pick at SI.com was curious and ironic: “The 49ers have a glaring need at cornerback and Boise State's Kyle Wilson is still available, yet they instead pick another offensive lineman. Iupati is a powerhouse road grader who should start at left guard right away. Iupati does have some technique issues, however, that San Francisco will have to work out before the season starts or else the yellow laundry could fly early and often.” The 6-5, 331-pounder is the highest draft pick from the University of Idaho since the late Ray McDonald was taken 13th overall by the Washington Redskins in 1967.
Mike Iupati, Kyle Wilson. Mike Iupati, Kyle Wilson. Mike Iupati, Kyle Wilson. Uh, Ryan Mathews, anyone? The two guys who played in the Gem State got more pre-draft hype, but Fresno State’s star running back went before either of them last night, scooped up by San Diego with the 12th overall pick. Mathews thus becomes the instant heir-apparent to the departed LaDainian Tomlinson with the Chargers. It’s the first time since 1987 that three WAC players have been chosen in the first round of the draft.
Now for the rest of the draft. Chances are that Boise State’s Richie Brockel will have to go the free agent route this summer, as his foot injury against Idaho last November changed his situation. One of the intriguing players is one who faced both the Broncos and the Vandals. Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes was surprisingly left off the Combine invite list in February despite his record-shattering 155 catches last season. “But he had a solid week at the East-West Shrine Game and was a proven collegiate performer,” wrote SI.com’s Don Banks recently. “His issue is speed. He didn't run well at his pro day, posting times in the 4.6-4.7 range, and is more of a possession-type receiver than home run threat.” But one scout said, "He was so productive you can't ignore him. Even at the tail end of the draft, I can see him doing something in the league.''
Boise State coach Chris Petersen was able to watch the NFL Draft last night with the knowledge that his new contract has a unanimous stamp of approval from the State Board of Education. It’s a five-year deal worth more than $8 million, not counting performances bonuses. And Petersen has earned a lot of those during his first four years. Dirk Koetter was 26-10 with the Broncos at the turn of the century, and we thought that was good. Dan Hawkins went 53-11, and we thought that was phenomenal. Petersen is 49-4. What do you call that? He’s already gunning for victory No. 50 on Labor Day.
Idaho spring football wraps up with the Silver & Gold Game tonight in the Kibbie Dome. Considering the number of players they have at the position, running back is not a make-or-break spot for the Vandals this spring. But they’d like to have some direction in the ground game going into fall camp in August. Princeton McCarty, Deonte Jackson and Corey White are all capable, but filling the void left by DeMaundray Woolridge’s 979 yards and 18 touchdowns is a tall order. Coach Robb Akey wouldn’t mind somebody taking charge tonight.
Will the Idaho Steelheads be looking ahead tonight, or will they be focused on getting Utah out of the way in the Kelly Cup Playoffs? It would be easy to be complacent with a three games-to-none lead in the National Conference semifinals, but that doesn’t seem to be part of the Steelheads’ DNA this year. And no ECHL team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. A story in the Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday night’s 6-1 win by the Steelies said the word “deflated” was used more than once in the Grizzlies’ dressing room after the game. The only thing that can save them it seems is better goaltending—and Bridgeport has been eliminated from the AHL Playoffs, making netminder Mikko Koskinen theoretically available. Can he make the trek back to Utah in time for tonight’s game?
The future is now for high school basketball stars. The Northwest Premier Invitational tournament begins this afternoon at Mountain View High, featuring 15 elite club teams and players from six states. Idaho Select created the tournament to give Northwest clubs an alternative to traveling to Las Vegas to get in front of coaches, since Division I coaches are no longer allowed to evaluate players off-campus during the spring. There’ll be plenty of representation from other levels of college basketball at this tourney, though. Among those getting a look will be Craig Spjute, the SIC Player of the Year and first-team all-state selection from Borah.
Just when things were looking dark during Troy Merritt’s rookie year on the PGA Tour, he pulled a stellar round out of his bag at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The former Boise State star offset two bogeys with four birdies and an eagle en route to a four-under-68, his best round since the end of February. Merritt is just three shots behind leader Jason Bohn. The other former Bronco in the field had been hot of late. But Graham DeLaet is in danger of missing the cut after shooting two-over in the first round.
This Day In Sports…April 23, 2008:
Less than five years after starring for Idaho State, defensive end Jared Allen becomes the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL with his trade from Kansas City to Minnesota. The Vikings signed Allen to a six-year contract with $31 million guaranteed—and a total of $74 million possible if he were to reach certain incentives. Allen, the Buck Buchanan Award winner at ISU as Division I-AA’s best defensive player, had led the NFL in sacks in 2007 with 15½ but had a major falling-out with the Chiefs, ending with a breakdown in contract negotiations.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He’s also handled color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football the last five seasons.)