Friday, January 29, 2010.
Senior Bowl practices couldn’t have worked out any better for Boise State’s Kyle Wilson and Idaho’s Mike Iupati. Both players have seen their NFL Draft stock rise exponentially. Now for the game tomorrow. Unfortunately, you need the NFL Network if you want to see how Wilson and Iupati do. It’s really an afterthought, though, because scouts have seen everything they need to see this week during the all-important practices in Mobile, AL. Very few “mock drafts” go beyond the first round yet, but Fox Sports.com has a round two. Fox has Iupati going in the first round to the Eagles as the 24th overall pick, and it has Wilson being picked up in the second round by the 49ers as the 49th overall selection. This morning on ESPN Radio, draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said he thinks Wilson has played himself into the first round during Senior Bowl week.
Not surprisingly, both guys are being eyed by multiple teams. In a story at NFL.com, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum indicated the secondary is an offseason priority for his team. “While Tannenbaum did not directly address anything about his team’s needs or who he is targeting in the draft, he did answer a question about Wilson, who is attracting some attention for both his coverage skills and ability as a returner,” said the article. “’Those (versatile) guys are invaluable. From the standpoint of on the 45-man roster, the more jobs you can do (the better),’ Tannenbaum said. ‘I think he certainly will play for a long time, and he has good ball skills.’”
I know there are some factions out there that don’t want to see Boise State’s game against Virginia Tech pushed up to Labor Day. But the Broncos might not mind, based on one of Heather Dinich’s pressing questions for 2010 at ESPN.com. “Can Virginia Tech reload on defense?” asks Dinich. “This is the key to whether or not the Hokies are a legitimate national title contender. Yes, Bud Foster always seems to find a way to reload on defense, but losing six starters will be a true challenge, especially if the Boise State game is moved up to September. The Hokies have to replace three of four up front, two in the secondary and one at linebacker.” Okay. So how many starters does Boise State have back on offense again?
Since the announcement that Eastern Washington was planning to convert to red turf in its football stadium, I’ve been trying to put that in perspective. It’s difficult when you’ve been looking at Boise State’s blue turf for 24 seasons. Ah yes, there are complaints across the country that the blue is “hideous,” and people need to avert their eyes during those ESPN games. But blue and green are from the same family. They’re cool colors, while red is a hot color. We may live in a glass house down here in Boise town, but I do think it’s going to be tough on the eyes. Fortunately, you won’t be seeing any Eastern Washington games on ESPN. Fox Sports Northwest, maybe.
There’s a brouhaha in Reno right now, at least in print, online and around water coolers. Nevada coach Chris Ault has long been criticized by Wolf Pack fans—now Dan Hinxman of the Reno Gazette-Journal says Ault’s job is in jeopardy unless improvement is made this year. "There's a firestorm up there right now," one source said, alleging that things are testy between Ault and athletic director Cary Groth. “According to the sources, Groth told the 63-year-old Ault in the days following the 45-10 Hawaii Bowl loss to SMU that he must contend for a Western Athletic Conference championship and not have an embarrassing performance in a bowl game or his 26th season could be his last,” wrote Hinxman. One thing’s certain: them’s some wicked message boards.
Boise State tries to show it’s turned the corner tomorrow night when the second half of the WAC schedule tips off against Fresno State in Taco Bell Arena. The first half of conference play was forgettable—until the buzzer went off Monday night in Moscow, with Anthony Thomas’ three-pointer ripping the bottom of the net. Any rebirth starts with Thomas, who has to play within himself like he has the past two games. The senior guard has scored 36 points on 55 percent shooting, with nine steals and 10 rebounds. The Broncos need that to rub off on Thomas’ backcourt colleagues, Reggie Arnold and La’Shard Anderson, who combined to go 4-for-21 from the field against the Vandals Monday. They’ll face a Bulldogs team that’s either hungry or demoralized, as Fresno State absorbed a 74-59 loss last night at Idaho.
This is an important weekend for the Idaho Stampede, losers of five of their last six games. The Stamps try to find the glue that’s been missing with their myriad roster changes when they host the Bakersfield Jam tonight and tomorrow night in Qwest Arena. One thing coach Bob MacKinnon’s likely looking for is a leader after Wednesday night’s 18-point loss to the Maine Red Claws. “We came out flat and didn’t play with any effort,” said MacKinnon. “When you do that in this league people can take advantage of that.” Tomorrow night’s game will be tape-delayed at 9PM on Versus.
Lots of sidebars as the Idaho Steelheads go to Bakersfield for games tonight and tomorrow night. The trip marks the return of Steelheads captain Marty Flichel, who was suspended for five games by the ECHL for a hit he laid on Victoria defenseman Neil Petruic three weeks ago. At the time, Flichel was second on the squad in scoring. He’s now fifth with 25 points, including nine goals. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Idaho’s Mark Derlago, who has five goals and 10 assists in his last six games. Derlago played his first two ECHL seasons in Bakersfield before signing with Idaho in the offseason. This is the first time the Steelheads have played the Condors this season. Conversely, the Steelies have already completed their entire 12-game season series with the Stockton Thunder.
Troy Merritt and Graham DeLaet put themselves in position to make their third straight PGA Tour cuts yesterday after the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open. Merritt shot a three-under 69 on the Torrey Pines North Course and and DeLaet a two-under 70 on the South Course, which is 712 yards longer. The Boise State products are five and six shots off the pace, respectively.
This is when the Boise State men’s tennis team finds out a lot about itself—at the second annual ITA Kickoff Weekend beginning this afternoon in Champaign, IL. The 21st-ranked Broncos open against 26th-ranked Washington. BSU will then face either No. 15 Illinois or No. 27 Virginia Tech tomorrow. The winner of the tournament qualifies for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. The Broncos are coming off last week’s 4-3 victory over Oregon, which Patton described as “handling adversity with calm and composure, fighting from insurmountable odds, chasing the speeding train and catching it just in the nick of time.” Meanwhile, the 8th-ranked Boise State wrestling team has embarked on its final Pac-10 road trip of the season, facing Stanford tonight and UC Davis tomorrow night.
This Day In Sports…January 29, 1974:
History would prove the Pittsburgh Steelers to be brilliant with their picks in that day’s NFL Draft. The Steelers’ first four choices were wide receiver Lynn Swann, linebacker Jack Lambert, wide receiver John Stallworth, and center Mike Webster. They would become key components of the Pittsburgh dynasty that would win four of the next six Super Bowls. All four were eventually voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
(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.)