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Pete’s not leaving, but Justin Wilcox may be a different story

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on January 13, 2010 at 8:22 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 13 at 9:52 AM


Wednesday, January 13, 2010.
With Lane Kiffin unveiled as the surprise new head coach at USC last night, there was one big exhale at Boise State (not that Chris Petersen ever would have gone to L.A.). Now eyes turn to College Station. The Austin American-Statesman reports that Bronco defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is interviewing for the same post at Texas A&M. The old saying goes, “You’re only as good as your last game.” If that’s the case, the job belongs to Wilcox if he wants it. He redesigned the Boise State defense in one month’s time for the Fiesta Bowl matchup with TCU. The 3-2-6 plan was perfect against the Horned Frogs. 
If Wilcox departs, well, it’s amazing the Broncos were able to hang onto this talented defensive mind as long as they have. He’s only 33 years old, and he’s single. There’s nothing keeping Wilcox in Boise—except, of course, that he likes living here and enjoys his job so dang much. True, he would be exiting Boise State just when it has a chance to make more history. But despite its recent struggles, Texas A&M is in the Big 12 and has the fan base and financial wherewithal to regain its once-lofty perch. With that said, it would behoove the Broncos to make a concerted effort to keep Wilcox. 
The Kiffin bombshell pre-empted most of what I had originally written for today’s column. I had one reason Chris Petersen would leave for USC, and five why he wouldn’t. The reason he would have gone: it’s USC, and Pete’s a Californian, born and bred. The reasons he wouldn’t have include uprooting his family to live behind walls and attend exclusive private schools, the expectations of a rock star culture, the problems within the USC program, and—believe it or not—recruiting. Despite the fact Petersen would have his pick of any of the ridiculously-talented players between the Tehachapis and the border, one of the great joys of his career at Boise State has been bringing in players who fit…and coaching them up. They’re not the best athletes in the country, but they’ve proven that they’re among the best pure football players. 
Back to Wilcox’s gem against TCU for this example. Could USC have reworked its entire defensive scheme in one month’s time for a BCS bowl game like the Broncos did? Would Trojan players have been able to absorb it, embrace it and execute it on one of college football’s biggest stages without wondering what’s in it for them? That Boise State was able to pull off that switcheroo against TCU was as impressive as anything the Broncos have done during their Golden Era. 
Boise State liked this so much it put out a release. The new Sports Illustrated is going to tab the Broncos as its early No. 2 behind Alabama going into the 2010 season. Andy Staples, who downplayed BSU during the fall, created the list. He doesn’t go into much background in the magazine version of the rankings, but he does at “It's time to stop doubting the Broncos,” says Staples.  “I ripped on their schedule plenty last season, but all they do when they get on the big stage is win.  It's easy to say they wouldn't go undefeated in a better conference, but when Boise State has played teams from better conferences in the past few years, the Broncos have won.  So to all the teams that think Boise State shouldn't be ranked this high, you have one way to prove it: beat the Broncos.” All you need to know about the rest of the list: Virginia Tech is No. 9.
Boise State’s Kyle Wilson not only has his spot in the Senior Bowl in 2½ weeks, he has his invitation to the NFL Combine next month in Indianapolis. That’s where Wilson will go through the meat-grinder in interviews and speed, agility, and strength testing. Bronco fullback Richie Brockel isn’t on the list—he’ll have to chase his NFL dream in other ways (ala Korey Hall?). Idaho’s Mike Iupati will be one of the featured performers at the Combine as a possible first round draft pick. Meanwhile, here’s why people say Fresno State underachieves year after year. The Bulldogs have no less than five players with Combine invites: wide receivers Seji Ajirotutu and Chastin West, cornerback A.J. Jefferson, running back Lonyae Miller, and punter Robert Malone. And the only reason Ryan Mathews isn’t included is because he’s not a senior.
As long as the Minnesota Vikings keep playing, Ian Johnson and Vinny Perretta do, too—albeit only in practice. The former Boise State stars are kind of like scout teamers as the Vikings prepare for their NFL Playoffs debut against Dallas after a bye week. Maybe Johnson is playing the part of Marion Barber or Tashard Choice. Hard to say who Perretta might mimic on the Cowboys offense. Starting wide receivers Miles Austin and Roy Williams are both 6-3.
Coach Derek Laxdal has two solid choices between the pipes. It would seem to be Rejean Beauchemin’s turn tonight against Utah in Qwest Arena, but it’s hard to sit Richard Bachman. Lost in the offensive shuffle in the Idaho Steelheads’ 8-2 pummeling of Victoria Saturday night was another stellar job by Bachman. It was All-Star versus All-Star, as Bachman will join Salmon Kings netminder David Shantz in the ECHL’s midseason showcase next week. But Bachman had the upper hand, matching his season-high with 33 saves. Shantz had had won 10 of his last 11 starts before being roughed up for the eight Steelies tallies. He was pulled after 35 minutes. 
Attendance at Boise State men’s basketball games has reached dilemma mode. The loss to New Mexico State last Saturday combined with the Monday night date against Louisiana Tech created a perfect storm for BSU at the gate—virtually no gate at all. The Broncos drew just 2,186 Monday, perhaps the lowest turnout for a conference game since Taco Bell Arena opened over 27 years ago. Hey, College of Idaho attracted 2,422 for its game against NNU at the J.A. Albertson Activities Center in Caldwell in November. Put a 79-64 loss to the Bulldogs on top of that Monday crowd, and what happens when Boise State comes home against perennial WAC power Nevada next Wednesday? I’m afraid only a road sweep of San Jose State and Utah State could begin to remedy the situation.
This Day In Sports…January 13, 1991:
The Los Angeles Raiders score a 20-10 AFC Playoff win over Cincinnati, drawing over 92,000 to the L.A. Coliseum back when they attracted fans there. But the win would cost 1985 Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson his football career, as a hip injury required four years of rehab and reconstructive surgery. Jackson would try to continue his baseball career, but was never really the same and retired after the 1994 season.
(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.)