Monday, January 18, 2010.
On the day of Boise State’s first official team meeting of 2010, let’s check out the makeup of a group that some see as a BCS Championship Game contender. Suffice to say that balance has returned to the Bronco roster. After going through last season (we can now call it “last” season) with a mere four seniors—only two of them starters—there are 20 seniors on BSU’s initial roster this year. That may seem like a lot after last season, but it’s actually an ideal number as the Broncos seek to restore symmetry to their recruiting classes. Next season’s squad will be stacked with upperclassmen for a change, as 27 juniors are also slated to return.
Now, winter conditioning begins. That’s where leadership emerges, although you could see two weeks ago who the influential and inspirational Broncos are expected to be this year. Joining Kyle Wilson and Richie Brockel as captains for the win over TCU in the Fiesta Bowl were Jeron Johnson, Kellen Moore and Ryan Winterswyk. I saw something toward the end of the game that would indicate a fourth player in the run for captaincy status, though. After the Horned Frogs were pinned on their one-yard-line with 1:06 left in the game, the Bronco defense gathered at midfield near the bench, getting ready to go back in for its last stand. Austin Pettis was out there talking to each guy and slapping them on the pads—that after he had contributed to the win while playing at, maybe, 75 percent on a healing ankle. Pettis had the look of a senior captain in 2010.
The Sporting News Daily online edition profiles different NFL Draft prospects every day, and Boise State’s Kyle Wilson has taken his turn. Analyst Russ Lande of the War Room says Wilson, “must add bulk to take on big NFL receivers.” SN lists him as 5-9½, 184 pounds. Lande’s summary: “With rare ballhawking skills and instincts, Wilson has a lot of upside as an NFL cornerback. He will struggle to be effective against the run and to cover big receivers, so he might fit best as a nickel back. With improved strength and technique, he could become a quality NFL starter. He also should contribute as a punt returner while developing as a cornerback.” Lande projects Wilson to go in the third round in April.
How far down the wish list was Derek Dooley at Tennessee? He was about No. 5. And how good a coach is Dooley really? We only saw glimpses of greatness during his three seasons at Louisiana Tech. Dooley did get his team to step up in big home games, though. The 35 points La Tech scored against Boise State in November in Ruston were the most allowed by the Broncos the last two seasons. The Bulldogs also put up 31 on BSU in 2007, the same year they lost by only one point in overtime to BCS-busting Hawaii. Dooley arguably did the best he could with a financially-strapped program, going 17-21. In 2008, Louisiana Tech was 8-5 and won its first bowl game in 31 years. Doubting Volunteer fans may be surprised at what he can do.
The two bright spots on an otherwise struggling Nevada defense were its defensive ends, Kevin Basped and WAC Defensive Player of the Year Dontay Moch. Now it appears half of that tandem will be gone next season, as Basped has signed with an agent and will forego his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. Basped had 19½ sacks the past two seasons. The Wolf Pack had already lost defensive coordinator Nigel Burton, who’s the new head coach at Portland State, and secondary coach Ken House, who was fired.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Pack is now without offensive coordinator Chris Klenakis, who’s leaving to become the offensive line coach at Arkansas. Klenakis helped develop Nevada’s pistol offense and its devastating running game. He was coordinator in title only, though—coach Chris Ault called all the offensive shots. And now the Wolf Pack has lost one of its top recruits, as Eagle High quarterback Taylor Kelly, who led the Mustangs to the state 5A championship, has changed his commitment from the Pack to Arizona State.
The last two former Boise State players active in the NFL Playoffs were shown the exit over the weekend. Chris Carr and Baltimore fell victim to Indianapolis, as Peyton Manning was just too efficient in Saturday night’s 20-3 victory. Carr did have two tackles for loss for the Ravens. Legedu Naanee and San Diego fell victim to, well, themselves—Phillip Rivers threw two costly interceptions and Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding missed three field goals. Naanee had just one reception on the day for no gain.
It was an 0-fer kind of Saturday night, as things go from bad to worse for the Boise State men’s basketball team. In front of the most hostile—and, by far, the best—hoops atmosphere in the WAC, the Broncos were throttled by Utah State, 81-59. They are now 0-6 in the WAC, and 0-16 all-time at the Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum in Logan. The raucous USU student section intended to affect Anthony Thomas in a big way, and it did. Boise State’s senior point guard was 2-of-8 from the field and 0-of-5 from three-point range until he canned a meaningless trey in the final minute. Just as telling was Thomas coughing up eight turnovers. The Aggies were what they are: a well-coached team that knows its system and plays together. And man can they feed off that crowd.
The sudden convergence of new talent on the Idaho Stampede takes some getting used to, especially for the talent itself. The Stampede were swept over the weekend by Reno, but by Saturday night new additions Coby Karl and Patty Mills were at least on the same point-producing page. Karl, the former Boise State star, scored 36 points in his second game back with the club. Mills, the former Australian Olympian and St. Mary’s standout, added 31. Now Stampede coach Bob MacKinnon has to figure out how to glue the entire roster together and get some wins, particularly with Anthony Tolliver having been called up yesterday by the Golden State Warriors. It was Tolliver’s second callup of the season.
Over the years, we’ve followed a number of golfers with Idaho ties as they’ve made occasional ventures onto the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, the three most common words have been “missed the cut.” That’s what makes the weekend results at the Sony Open in Hawaii so remarkable. Troy Merritt made his debut on the big circuit, and Graham DeLaet played only his fourth PGA Tour event—and both former Boise State stars not only made the cut but finished in the Top 25. Merritt, the co-leader after the first round last Thursday, carded a two-under 68 yesterday to finish tied for 20th. DeLaet slipped to a one-over 71 but still tied for 25th. That provides each rookie with a great jump-start in the wallet, as Merritt made $61,820 and DeLaet pocketed $35,436.
This Day In Sports…January 18, 1976:
A former Boise State Bronco plays in the Super Bowl for the first time, as Grandview’s Rolly Woolsey suits up as a kick returner and backup cornerback for Dallas. Woolsey’s Cowboys would fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-17—the game-clincher coming when Terry Bradshaw hooked up with Lynn Swann in the fourth quarter on a 64-yard touchdown. Bradshaw was knocked unconscious on the play and didn’t know about the TD until he was taken to the locker room.
(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 also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)