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No crisis at linebacker

No crisis at linebacker

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant

KTVB.COM

Posted on August 9, 2013 at 7:13 AM

Friday, August 9, 2013.

We’ve talked defense more often than not during the first week of Boise State fall camp.  Why stop now?  With turmoil in the secondary and on the defensive line this year, you’d think there would be a similar issue at linebacker, where J.C. Percy and Tommy Smith have moved on.  But there’s a calm that has settled upon that spot.  One big reason is Blake Renaud, the quiet junior who has patiently waited his turn and will be unleased at middle linebacker this season.  Renaud, the first Bronco to hail from the legendary program at De La Salle High in the Bay Area, has already made his mark as a hard-hitter, and his 6-2, 243-pound size is there for everyone to see.  “He might not have been one of those headline names, but he’s made a lot of plays for us,” said coach Chris Petersen.  “He’s a great guy to have in the box, and I think everyone will feed off him.”

The projected starter on the weakside is Tyler Gray, the rangy sophomore who quickly earned a spot in the linebacker rotation last year with his playmaking ability.  Gray’s first career interception was a tone-setter in the 40-14 win at Southern Miss, a first-quarter pick that he returned 34 yards to the Golden Eagles’ 11-yard line.  What isn’t known about the ‘backer group is how deep it’s going to be.  There’s a lot of talent and very little experience.  There’s much anticipation about Ben Weaver, Boise State’s Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year last season.  Two local walk-ons who would like to be part of the conversation, junior Dustin Kamper out of Meridian and Nampa Christian High and senior Travis Saxton from Star and Eagle High.

The position known as the “nickel” the past five years at Boise State has now reverted back to SAM linebacker, a better description of the current role for the players at that spot.  Whatever you call it, it’s in good shape.  Two of Petersen’s first three “Campers of the Day” in fall camp were nickels/SAMs: Corey Bell and Jonathan Brown.  "Corey knows only two speeds—fast and full," Petersen said of Bell, the junior out of Capital High.  "He is very dialed in to what we're doing out here, and he brings a lot of positive energy to this team."  Brown is fulfilling the role expected of him this year.  "He's showing great senior leadership for us out here, and he's playing at a high level,” Petersen said.

ESPN.com’s Travis Haney has rolled out his “top 50 breakout players for 2013,” and Boise State will face one of them at the end of the month.  Haney puts Washington linebacker Travis Feeney at No. 42.  Here’s Haney’s synopsis: “Future NFL talent Shaq Thompson gets a lot of the pub, but coach Steve Sarkisian holds Feeney in similar regard.  Feeney was an honorable mention all-conference performer as a redshirt freshman, but he could jump on the first or second teams in his second full year.  ‘Those are talented guys,’ Sarkisian said of Thompson and Feeney.  ‘They have extremely high football IQs.  They’re the real keys to our defense.’  Sark reminded me, too, that both players had moved from safety to linebacker, so they were still learning a year ago.  Neither even played linebacker in high school.  Look for another jump as they get comfortable.”

When Boise State visits BYU in October, the Cougars won’t have their names on the back of their uniforms.  In a move coach Bronco Mendenhall says is permanent, BYU’s taglines, Spirit, Tradition and Honor, will be sewn into the jerseys.  The Salt Lake Tribune reports that players were caught by surprise and not totally receptive to the idea.  “I am not really sure how I feel about them yet,” star linebacker Kyle Van Noy said.  “One thing I have enjoyed about playing here at BYU is having the last names on the backs of the jerseys.”  UPDATE: It’s not even kind of permanent.  After hearing player protests, Mendenhall opted last night for names on the backs of the jerseys, using Spirit, Tradition and Honor for BYU’s homecoming game only.

There are lots of people hoping Idaho publishes stats from the Vandals’ first scrimmage of fall camp tomorrow morning, just to see if the running backs’ numbers tell them anything.  Two Bay Area junior college transfers, City College of San Francisco’s Kris Olugbode and College of San Mateo’s Jerrel Brown, could be game-changers at a position that produced only three rushing touchdowns last year.  Idaho returns only one running back who had more than 40 carries last season, James Baker.  He was also a JC transfer, rushing for 395 yards and two touchdowns on 95 attempts.

Among former Boise State standouts in the NFL last night, there was nothing stupendous.  The preseason began with Tampa Bay star Doug Martin getting two cameo carries for no gain in a 44-6 loss to Baltimore.  Tommy Smith, trying to catch on as an undrafted free agent with Cleveland, had two tackles and Billy Winn one in a 27-19 win over St. Louis.  Here’s hoping D.J. Harper blocked well, because he had two carries for minus-6 yards and lost a fumble in San Francisco’s 10-6 loss to Denver.  Among former Idaho Vandals, Benson Mayowa came up big, notching two tackles and a sack in Seattle’s 31-10 win at San Diego.  Mayowa was also credited with three quarterback hits.

The spotlight tonight is likely to be on Kellen Moore, who will finally don a game uniform again.  Moore, who hasn’t seen action since the final preseason game last August, is expected to get significant snaps for Detroit.  Maybe he’ll face the Jets’ Kyle Wilson on some of them.  Word out of Miami is that Jamar Taylor, still less than 100 percent after sports hernia surgery in May, will be held out again tonight at Jacksonville.  Other Boise State grads to watch include Chicago’s Shea McClellin at Carolina, Kansas City’s Tyler Shoemaker—who may have some meet-ups versus Chris Carr—at New Orleans, and Minnesota’s Chase Baker, who spent last season on the Vikings’ practice squad, versus Houston.

It’s a different animal in golf’s majors, and man is Graham DeLaet finding that out.  The former Boise State star turned in an erratic first round yesterday in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, recording five bogeys and five birdies to finish at even-par 71.  Most of the birds came on the way in, though, allowing DeLaet to recover on a scorecard that at one point had him three-over.  He’s tied for 36th, so he’s in position to make the cut—and that would make a difference in FedEx Cup points.  If DeLaet can get into the season-ending Tour Championship, restricted to the top 30 in FedExCup standings, he would qualify for the 2014 Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.  He happened to be ranked right at No. 30 going into the PGA Championship.

DeLaet’s one-time Boise State teammate, Troy Merritt, also has a lot at stake as the Web.com Tour winds down.  Merritt carded a two-under 70 yesterday in the Price Cutter Charity Championship and is tied for 46th pending the finish of the first round (a good chunk of the field was chased from the course by darkness).  Ranked 63rd on the money list, Merritt is trying to stick in the top 75 to gain entry into the Web.com Tour Finals next month.

Yasiel Balaguert soothed some frayed Boise Hawks nerves last night when he smacked a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, gving the Hawks a 7-3 lead over Vancouver.  The homer was Balaguert’s sixth of the season, and the three RBI gave him the Northwest League lead again in that category with 35.  But it wasn’t over.  Vancouver scored twice in the top of the ninth and had the bases loaded with one out.  Then Tyler Bremer came in and put out the fire, striking out two Canadians to end the game.  No. 2 overall draft pick Kris Bryant also homered, getting his fourth in the first inning and extending his hitting streak to 11 games.  Boise and Vancouver play again tonight and tomorrow night before finishing the series with a Sunday afternoon doubleheader.

This Day In Sports…August 9, 2012:

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt becomes the first man in history to sweep the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes in back-to-back Olympics.  Bolt won the 200 at the Summer Games in London, adding that gold medal to the one he captured in the 100 a couple nights earlier and the two he won in Beijing in 2008.  At that point Bolt had won seven of the last eight major individual sprint titles in the 100 and 200 in the Olympics and world championships, a four-year streak of unprecedented dominance.  The only exception was the 2011 World Championships, when he was disqualified for a false start.

(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.)

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