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The second-most important position this year

The second-most important position this year

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on April 10, 2012 at 7:29 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 4:43 PM

Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

Quarterback, schmarterback.  Well yes, a lot revolves around Kellen Moore’s successor at Boise State.  But the Bronco secondary has two hugely important jobs open at safety, and how those spots go will greatly affect the defense this year.  BSU lost both starters, George Iloka and Cedric Febis, with Iloka headed to the NFL.  Lee Hightower looks like a lock at Iloka’s spot.  Now, can Jeremy Ioane have a breakout season and swoop in on Febis’ starting job?  Ioane had the chance to take the next step last season and didn’t, starting in place of Febis against Georgia and being yanked during the game in favor of Travis Stanaway.  But Ioane has been working with the first team this spring and has been drawing praise from new secondary coach Jimmy Lake.  Chris Petersen, too, who said, “I’ve definitely noticed him—he’s taken a step forward, no question.”

Hightower was first seen making big hits in mopup time when he was activated as a true freshman in early October.  Then, when Jamar Taylor joined Jerrell Gavins on the injury list, Hightower had to shelve his apprenticeship at safety and move in at cornerback.  It was not easy.  The Inglewood, CA, product was burned against TCU by one of Casey Pachall’s three pump-and-go touchdown passes but did make a big interception in the game.  The experience Hightower received by burning his redshirt year has paid off.  He passed the audition.  “Lee is tall and long and can run, but was he mentally ready to compete?  To be beat and not back down?” said Petersen.  His answer is yes.  Petersen notes now that Hightower has been on the big stage, the transition back to safety has been seamless. 

Russ Lande of the Sporting News still has Boise State’s Doug Martin as a first-rounder in the NFL Draft in a couple weeks.  Lande sees Martin going 22nd overall to the Cleveland Browns, who brought him in for a workout last week.  “After drafting a quarterback of the future (Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill) with the fourth overall pick, the Browns select Martin to improve their rushing attack,” predicted Lande.  That’s presuming Cleveland would get Tannehill—and not Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

Former Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease has completed his first spring ball session at Florida, and the reviews of the Gator offense are generally good.  The moment of truth will come this fall, depending on who Pease and coach Will Muschamp choose as their starting quarterback.  Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are said to be even.  But the shifts and motion Pease brought with him from Boise State are having an effect on the defense.  “It’s like a Jedi mind trick at first,” linebacker Mike Taylor said.  Of course, at the Gators’ level you do have distractions, like the new Sporting News expose, “From champs to chomped: How Urban Meyer broke Florida football.”  The gist of it is that Meyer let UF players, especially the stars, do whatever they wanted under his watch.

Where have these Idaho Steelheads been all season?  Enduring key AHL callups and 330 games lost to the injured reserve list.  The important thing is: they’re here when it counts—at playoff time.  The Steelheads laid an unfathomable whuppin’ on Ontario last night, beating the Reign 5-0 on the road in the deciding game of the best-of-five first round series.  The Steelheads got a two-goal night from Jacob Cepis and multi-point games from Kory Scoran, Derek LeBlanc and Joe Pereira.  And Jerry Kuhn came up with his biggest victory of the season in the shutout, making 46 saves.  The Steelies now advance to the ECHL Western Conference semifinals against the Las Vegas Wranglers beginning next Monday night at Orleans Arena..

With his introduction yesterday in Fort Worth, it’s official: Trent Johnson will not be on the sideline when LSU visits Boise State in Taco Bell Arena later this year.  Johnson, who 35 years ago was a star forward for the Broncos, has left the Tigers to take the head coaching job with TCU as the Horned Frogs enter the Big 12 next season.  LSU doesn’t sound especially upset about this turn of events—the Tigers went 18-15 with an NIT berth this season but were 22-41 the previous two campaigns under Johnson.  But the guy who took both Nevada and Stanford to the Sweet 16 is ecstatic, and TCU hopes Johnson can get them to the NCAA Tournament, where they haven’t been since 1998.

The Idaho Stampede season is in the books, and we wrap it up with a stat that affected the 21-29 record as much as any other.  The Stampede seemed to be searching for the right combination from day one.  Over the course of the season, 26 different players suited up for the Stamps.  Managing investor Bill Ilett was on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday and said that while it isn’t an excuse, the Stampede are at a disadvantage these days.  “With the nine teams that are (single) affiliated with NBA teams now, they have the legal right to manipulate their rosters to make them better,” said Ilett.  “That just means we have to get up in the morning and work harder.”  At least until the Stampede are single-affiliated themselves.  “The first opportunity I get with any of those organizations—I’ll jump on it,” Ilett said.

The Boise Hawks have their 91st and 92nd major leaguers, as Marwin Gonzalez and Ryan Flaherty made their debuts over the weekend.  Flaherty was inserted as a defensive replacement Saturday for the Baltimore Orioles against Minnesota and is still looking for his first big league at-bat (he didn’t play last night against the Yankees).  Gonzalez debuted with the Houston Astros last Friday and recorded his first major league hit, a double, Saturday in a win over the Rockies.  He went 3-for-4 last night in an 8-3 win over the Braves.  Flaherty and Gonzalez were teammates with the Hawks in 2008.

ESPN.s Jason Churchill has identified Fruitland’s Joey Martarano, a Boise State football recruit, as the top corner infielder in baseball’s 2013 draft after he batted .475 with 16 home runs and 50 runs batted in for the Grizzlies last year.  Martarano, standing 6-foot-3 and tipping the scales at 230 pounds, generates top-end bat speed and has big, raw power,” writes Churchill.  “The swing is lengthy, but the right-handed batter has quick wrists and hits the ball well to right-center field.  Martarano could be a first-round pick 14 months from now, but he's also committed to Boise State and could be difficult to sign.”  Baseball is always a hot topic in Fruitland and neighboring Payette, especially as the border communities approach the one-year anniversary of native son Harmon Killebrew.

This Day In Sports…April 10, 1936:

The birthday of John Madden, former analyst for NBC Sunday Night Football.  Madden, of course, has a ring from leading the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl XI championship—he coached the Raiders for 10 years before moving to the broadcast booth.  John Madden is 76 today.  And on April 10, 1938: another analyst was born—the late Dandy Don Meredith, who became an icon of Monday Night Football in the 1970’s.  Dandy Don would have been 74.

(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.)