Friday, August 6, 2010.
They’re butted up against each other, a perfect setup for the showdown at FedEx Field on Labor Day night. Boise State is No. 5 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll released early this morning, and Virginia Tech is No. 6. It goes without saying that this is the Broncos’ highest preseason ranking ever. Alabama and Ohio State take the top two spots, but the coaches’ panel couldn’t bring itself to vote the Broncos No. 3. Despite being faced with replacing superstars at quarterback, Florida and Texas are ranked third and fourth.
The Boise State-Virginia Tech game is one month from today. Judging by the Hokies’ ranking, there’s a strong affinity for Virginia Tech’s weapons on offense: quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. The question is defense. Elsewhere in the poll, the Broncos’ home opener has its own buzz to ride, as Oregon State was ranked No. 22. And the Beavers have their own monster matchup in their season opener, as they take on TCU at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Where did the Horned Frogs land in the Coaches Poll? Right behind Boise State and Virginia Tech, at No. 7.
There’s always going to be dissection of the roster—position by position—when Boise State fall camp begins. But what about the coaches? The Bronco defense has developed into as much a calling card as the offense, especially after the crafty master plan that brought down TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. Now defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is at Tennessee, and long-time BSU player and D-line coach Pete Kwiatkowski has taken over.
Kwiatkowski was an easy pick for Chris Petersen back in February. “There’s just no substitute for continuity—you can’t overestimate the importance of that,” said Petersen. Then he went out and snagged a former Bronco coach to fill the opening on the defensive staff, as Bob Gregory returned from Cal. After eight years as the Bears’ defensive coordinator no less. “We were so blessed to get Bob back,” Petersen said. Gregory is a mentor to Kwiatkowski—and a happily over-qualified linebackers coach.
Petersen says the change in coordinators will not deter the creativity of Boise State’s defense. “We like defensive linemen who can stand up and linebackers who can put their hand down,” said Petersen. “It makes personnel tough to identify.” TCU certainly experienced that back on January 4. Shea McClellin was a defensive lineman who stood up in the Fiesta Bowl—and threw the Horned Frogs for a loop. Byron Hout was a D-end who will stand up all the time now as he moves to linebacker.
Safety Jeron Johnson has watched (and participated in) the evolutionary process of the Boise State defense, especially in bowl games. How weird was it to go from the implosion against East Carolina in the 2007 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl to the defensive domination of TCU in Glendale? “Well, I don’t feel too badly about Chris Johnson,” said Jeron, noting what the ECU superstar has done in the NFL after puncturing the Broncos for 223 yards. The surprise scheme change for the Fiesta Bowl was something else, though. “It was a shock to us when they told us what we were going to run,” said Jeron. “But we just went out and did it. It worked out for the best.” Understatement.
Former Boise State star Korey Hall is already into his fourth training camp with the Green Bay Packers. The pride of Glenns Ferry is working hard to ensure it isn’t his last. The Packers kept three fullbacks on their roster last season—extremely unusual in the NFL. That’s unlikely to happen this year. The Pack has invested in Quinn Johnson, an athletic fifth round draft pick out of LSU a year ago. But Johnson was very average in his rookie season. With Hall and John Kuhn, the Packers know they have two dynamic special teams players.
The Boise Hawks have had some bad first innings this season, and so it was again last night. Juan Yasser Serrano, the Cuban defector who came into the game in Everett at 4-0, yielded four first-inning runs to the AquaSox. Everett won, 6-2, and Serrano lost his first decision of the season. Alvaro Ramirez had two of the Hawks five hits, with his Northwest League-leading batting average remaining at .393. The rest of the team bused back to the hotel in frustration again, though. The Hawks have now gone 17 straight games without hitting a home run.
This is one of those baseball statistical nuggets that reaches a little bit, but it’s still unique for a former Boise Hawk. With a home run in the Cubs’ 15-3 rout of Milwaukee Wednesday night, Colvin reached 17 for the season. That’s the most by a left-handed-hitting Cubs rookie since Mel Hall hit 17 in 1983. Pretty good for a guy who wasn’t expected to make Chicago’s Opening Day roster in April. For the season, Colvin is hitting .258 with 39 RBIs.
BAM Jam 2010 takes over BoDo (among other places) today for an intense two-day run. There are more than 220 teams and 1,000 players registered for the tournament. The team that won the inaugural BAM Jam men’s elite championship in 2008 is back, including former collegians Chris Allen (Lewis Clark State), Dan McFaul (College of Idaho) and Ryan McCarthy and Wade Joseph (NNU). Former Boise State guard Booker Nabors brings in a team that’s made the finals each of the last two years. Other familiar names in the event include former Boise State star Reggie Larry and current C of I standout Matt Ballenger.
This Day In Sports…August 6, 1999:
San Diego’s Tony Gwynn has a four-hit game to reach the 3,000-hit plateau as the Padres beat the Expos, 12-10, at Montreal. Gwynn’s historic evening came six years to the day after his 2000th hit, and both milestones came on his mom’s birthday. Vendella Gwynn was there, but only 13,539 other fans joined her at Olympic Stadium, underscoring the attendance problems that would eventually trigger the Expos’ move to Washington, D.C.
(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.)