December 30-31, 2013.
So what are Boise State fans to make of defensive end Demarcus Lawrence’s declaration for the NFL Draft? It probably would have happened whether or not there was a coaching change. The big picture is that this is one player—albeit a guy who happened to be uber-talented. The Bronco coaching staff recognized Lawrence’s potential coming out of Butler Community College in Kansas, and the new staff has demonstrated the same instincts in the past. Hey, Ryan Clady and Orlando Scandrick declared early after the 2007 season, leaving holes on the offensive line and in the secondary. Two years later Boise State won its second Fiesta Bowl. NFLDraftScout.com rates Lawrence as the 157th prospect and projects him as a fifth-round pick. He leaves the Broncos with two-year career totals of 120 tackles, 34 tackles-for-loss and 20 sacks.
Former Boise State players are 2-for-3 on departing early for the NFL Draft. Clady became the school’s highest draft pick ever, No. 12 overall in 2008. Denver hasn’t regretted the choice, getting three Pro Bowl seasons out of Clady in his first five years in the league. In July he signed a new five-year, $52.5 million contract, although he has missed most of this season after suffering a Lisfranc injury in Week 2. Clady had started all 80 regular season games of his NFL career through 2012.
Scandrick is probably the best comparison when looking at Lawrence’s situation, having been drafted in the fifth round in 2008 by Dallas. Although his draft stock would certainly have risen with one more year at Boise State, as it would for Lawrence, the payoff has come for the 26-year-old cornerback. He has worked his way into the Cowboys’ starting lineup over the years and just signed a contract extension that adds two years and $9 million to the six-year, $28.2 million deal he received in 2010. Lawrence’s professional finances may have benefitted up front from one more year in college, but Scandrick’s blueprint would be acceptable, no doubt.
The third Boise State product to forego his senior year was wide receiver Jeremy Childs after the 2008 season. That’s one roadmap Lawrence doesn’t want to follow. Childs, who as a sophomore set the Broncos’ single-season receptions record just broken last week by Matt Miller, had a number of off-field problems during his career, contributing to his decision to exit early. Childs ran only 4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and went undrafted. He was signed as a free agent by San Diego but didn’t even make it to training camp. There’s no indication that Lawrence will suffer the same fate.
Lawrence has company among his Mountain West brethren. Fresno State sophomore wide receiver Davante Adams declared for the NFL Draft at the end of last week, ensuring that the Bulldogs will be without their top two weapons next year (quarterback Derek Carr, of course, was a senior this year). Adams leads the nation with 131 receptions, 1,718 receiving yards and 24 touchdown catches. Despite that, Adams received only a third-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board. Wyoming’s Brett Smith will also forego his senior year. That’s a bit of a surprise, although Smith is rated by NFLDraftScout.com as the No. 8 quarterback and the No. 94 overall prospect in 2014.
Boise State’s only other draft prospect beyond Lawrence, All-Mountain West offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr., has been invited to both the NFL Combine and the East-West Shrine Game. There aren’t Broncos populating the two major postseason all-star games like in recent years. This will be the first time in five years Boise State hasn’t had a representative in the Senior Bowl. We may never see again what we saw two years ago, when the Broncos sent Kellen Moore, Doug Martin, Shea McClellin, Billy Winn and George Iloka to the Senior Bowl and Tyler Shoemaker and Tyrone Crawford to the East-West Shrine Game.
New Boise State coach Bryan Harsin can get a glimpse of his first opponent this afternoon when Ole Miss takes on Georgia Tech at the Music City Bowl in Nashville. The Broncos open the 2014 season against the Rebels August 28 at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in the Georgia Dome. Ole Miss is 7-5 this season as it awaits the maturation of the No. 1-rated recruiting class of 2013. Turns out former Boise State coach Chris Petersen wasn’t in San Francisco for the Fight Hunger Bowl after all, preferring to stay out of interim Washington coach Marcus Tuiasosopo’s way as he led the Huskies to a 31-16 win over BYU. Petersen is now on the job and will make his staff official in the coming days. Tuiasosopo is reportedly headed to USC to join Steve Sarkisian.
Eagle High grad Taylor Kelly leads Arizona State into the Holiday Bowl tonight against Texas Tech. The Arizona Republic points out that if the Sun Devils win, Kelly would become the first ASU quarterback since Danny White 40 years ago to win multiple bowl games. Since then no Sun Devils QB has won more than once during the bowl season. Not even Jake Plummer. In his second year as starter, Kelly has completed 62.9 percent of his attempts for 3,510 yards and 28 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
On to basketball, and the Mountain West schedule tips off New Year’s Day (or night) with four games. Boise State will have its eye on the Save Mart Center, where Fresno State hosts UNLV. The Bulldogs will be in Taco Bell Arena this Saturday to take on the Broncos. The intriguing team in Mountain West play will be Utah State, which plays at Air Force Wednesday. The perennial WAC power now has to navigate a much more difficult conference schedule, and the Aggies will be doing it without their leading scorer. Coach Stew Morrill suspended Jarred Shaw two weeks ago, and he has since been charged with felony distribution of a controlled substance.
Pierre Jackson got back to normal over the weekend with a couple of 20-point games. In fact, the Idaho Stampede star doubled that with 41 points in a thrilling 129-126 double-overtime win over Texas Friday night in CenturyLink Arena. Jackson was “held” to 22 Saturday night as the Legends got one back with a 115-103 victory. The keys in the defeat, though, were rebounding—the Stamps were out-boarded by 11—and Texas’ 32-of-38 performance at the free throw line. Dee Bost had a solid weekend for the Stamps. The former Mississippi State standout just missed a triple-double Friday night with 19 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists, and he led the team in scoring Saturday night with 27. The Stampede are back at it tonight, hosting the L.A. D-Fenders.
Idaho Steelheads goalie Pat Nagle turned in his best two games of the season over the weekend in the absence of starter Josh Robinson—and then was summarily brought back down to earth in the third. Nagle combined for 81 saves in 5-2 and 4-1 wins at Las Vegas, including a season-high 49 saves in Saturday night’s victory. In baseball terms, Nagle had “goal support,” with Mitch Wahl, Brett Robinson and David de Kastrozza combining for six of the Steelheads’ nine goals. Then last night he got no help offensively as the Steelies fell at Bakersfield, 3-0. What is it with the Condors? They’re 11-15-1 this season, yet they’re 3-1 now against Idaho.
This Day In Sports…December 30, 1988, 25 years ago today:
The final game in the college career of Barry Sanders, who leads Oklahoma State to a 62-14 rout of Wyoming in the Holiday Bowl. OSU was in control 24-7 in the third quarter after two touchdown runs by Sanders. Then the Heisman Trophy winner really went off. When it was done, Sanders had rushed for 222 yards and five touchdowns.
(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.)