Thursday, April 22, 2010.
Once upon a time, there was a Boise State freshman from far, far away. Nobody knew what to make of him after his solid redshirt year, because he was suspended for the first three games of the 2006 season. Said Chris Petersen last week, “There was even a time when you were saying, ‘Is this guy going to be able to figure this out?’” But man did Kyle Wilson figure it out, on and off the field. On his very first snap as a freshman defensive back—after the suspension—he picked off Hawaii star Colt Brennan. Wilson took over a starting spot at cornerback a month later and has been turning heads ever since. It culminates in the first round of the NFL Draft, where it is expected he will be chosen tonight.
We could zero in on any of a score of mock drafts out there today. Let’s go with one that seems educated and realistic. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King projects Wilson going No. 20 overall to Houston. “The Texans steal Wilson, a physical force with good closing speed, this low in the round,” writes King. Wilson has flown back to Piscataway, NJ, where there’ll be an ESPN camera trained on Kyle tonight at his home.
Mike Iupati’s introduction to most of the nation was in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl in December, Idaho’s first appearance on one of the primary ESPN networks in 11 years. Iupati was a focal point during the telecast of the 43-42 Vandal victory over Bowling Green, and the exposure continued after the game. The replay shown repeatedly in the following 24 hours on ESPN: Iupati’s stonewalling of two Bowling Green defenders as DeMaundray Woolridge ran by for a touchdown. Then came outstanding performances at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine—and tonight Iupati should become Idaho’s first player drafted in the first round in 43 years. SI’s King sees him going to the San Francisco 49ers with the 17th selection.
Just two WAC players declared early for the draft this year, Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews and Nevada defensive end Kevin Basped. Only Mathews is expected to cash in big money, as his stock has been rising exponentially. He’s now “widely viewed as the most complete ball carrier in this draft” according to SI’s Tony Pauline and could get scooped up in the first round as well. Mathews led the NCAA with seven runs of 50 or more yards last season—and three of them were touchdowns of 60-plus yards against Boise State in the Broncos’ wild 51-34 victory in Fresno.
With Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany saying yesterday that the conference's timetable for possible expansion is still 12 to 18 months, let’s do this: we’ll put a note in the future file for Wednesday, June 30, to see if anything has changed. It’s more unlikely than ever that anything will develop by then in the Mountain West. At the BCS meetings in Scottsdale, BCS executive director Bill Hancock acknowledged for the first time that the Mountain West has accomplished enough in recent years to merit consideration as an automatic qualifier to the BCS bowls in 2012 and 2013. That would seem to support commissioner Craig Thompson’s contention that the MWC doesn’t necessarily need Boise State to reach the BCS promised land.
It’s something that doesn’t often come up in Idaho Steelheads conversation, but isn’t coach Derek Laxdal in a position to be wanted by other organizations? Laxdal just won the John Brophy Award as ECHL Coach of the Year, leading the Steelheads to the Brabham Cup for finishing with the league’s best record. He has won 217 games and a Kelly Cup in five seasons in Idaho. You tend to think of an assistant’s spot in the NHL or a head coaching job in the AHL for Laxdal, should he ever be looking. But the Western Hockey League, probably the top junior hockey circuit in existence, provides a key funnel of talent to the NHL and features some prestigious coaching assignments. One is with the Edmonton Oil Kings, who just fired their head coach. There would be a variety of opportunities out there for Laxdal.
Laxdal would tell you it’s all about what’s on his plate right now: finishing off Utah in the Kelly Cup Playoffs to earn a spot in the National Conference Finals. The Steelheads go into tomorrow night’s Game 4 with a three games-to-none lead on the Grizzlies. As for who awaits the Steelies, assuming they take care of business, it’s still in doubt. Stockton had taken a two games-to-none lead in its series against Bakersfield, but the Condors blanked the Thunder 3-0 last night.
Among the 40 drivers and 78 cars officially entered in the Indianapolis 500 next month is Davey Hamilton. The resilient 42-year-old Idahoan has placed two cars, Luczo Dragons, on the list as a member of the deFerran Dragon Motorsports team. Hamilton, who continues to compete following a six-year recovery from the horrific 2001 accident that severely injured both of his legs, will be shooting for his 10th Indy 500. In addition to the Brickyard quest, Davey will return to the track that interrupted his career in that incident, Texas Motor Speedway, on June 5. Hamilton will also run one other event this season, yet to be determined.
Let’s hit the refresh button on former Boise State stars Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt on the PGA Tour. It’s DeLaet who’s been making the noise the past two months, tying for third in the Shell Houston Open and making his last three cuts. DeLaet has $468,925 in winnings so far this season. Merritt would welcome the refresh button. He has hit the wall in his rookie year, missing seven consecutive cuts since January. He did make $159,770 that month, with two top 20 finishes, but he hasn’t earned a dollar since. Both DeLaet and Merritt are entered today in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
This Day In Sports…April 22, 1876:
The first game in National League history, with Boston defeating Philadelphia, 6-5. The winning pitcher was Joe Borden, who was rewarded with a then-unheard of $2000 a year salary. When he failed to live up to expectations, Borden was forced to moonlight as a groundskeeper to earn his pay.
(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.)