Wednesday, May 8, 2013.
The one position on defense where Boise State looked really deep coming out of spring football was defensive end. It’s amazing how one departure can change that paradigm. Sam Ukwuachu has been dismissed from the Bronco program by coach Chris Petersen for a violation of team rules. Ukwuachu was nowhere to be seen during the Blue & Orange Game on April 13. “He has some personal things he’s taking care of,” said Petersen on the blue turf following the game. Maybe that was a hint—then again, Ukwuachu participated in Boise State’s “Junior Pro Day” just last Friday. He had a terrific freshman year last season, earning Freshman All-America honors with 4½ sacks and three fumble recoveries. It is a loss, without question. When you throw in Lee Hightower, Hayden Plinke and Jeff Worthy, that’s a lot of kicked-off talent since the first of the year.
Now Boise State defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski and D-line coach Andy Avalos have to play a shell game along the defensive front. If they feel good enough about what they have at tackle, they could slide Tyler Horn back to end. On the other hand, the outside spots could be covered with Demarcus Lawrence, Beau Martin and Kharyee Marshall—and freshman Sam McCaskill, if he’s as good as he looked in the spring game. Maybe Horn maintains the switch to tackle, joining Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Armand Nance and junior college transfer Deuce Mataele. And maybe Englishman Eliot Hoyte is ready to contribute. Sam Ukwuachu missing from Boise State’s roster is akin to Austin Sefarian-Jenkins missing from Washington’s lineup (if the latter indeed happens August 31). It’s significant.
Petersen also announced that sophomore quarterback Jimmy Laughrea has left the team on his own. Attrition could have been expected at Boise State’s quarterback position. The Broncos like to balance their classes and had five quality players at QB, including incoming freshman Ryan Finley out of Phoenix. Now they have four. And there’s no real urgency to fill Laughrea’s spot, with Joe Southwick the cemented starter and Nick Patti and Grant Hedrick as capable backups.
Maybe Laughrea’s decision is for the best. A 2010 article in the Modesto Bee about Laughrea has kind of haunted me. Laughrea was taken out of a Rocklin High game against Oak Ridge with a concussion after the referee intervened when he noticed vomiting and memory loss. Laughrea was said to have suffered a similar concussion as a high school sophomore, but the article said he “kept silent for fear of being taken out of that season's final game.” His dad had some interesting quotes. “He's not the kind of kid who'll say, 'I'm not feeling good. Take me out,'” said David Laughrea. “In the whole scheme of things, the game's not that critical,” the father said. “But I don't know if a high school athlete has the ability to differentiate between just a game and permanent brain damage. If you give the athlete the choice, they're going to play all the time."
If Titus Young is looking for a path back to the NFL, this is not it. The Oakland Press in Michigan reports the former Boise State wide receiver was arrested twice in a 15-hour period Sunday in Southern California—once for suspicion of DUI just after midnight, and again that afternoon for burglary after he allegedly climbed over the fence of a tow yard trying to retrieve his impounded black Mustang. Young has been unattached since the Lions cut him loose in February for, in effect, insubordination. The Rams thought about giving him a go and claimed him off waivers but thought better of it and released him 10 days later. Young will be lucky to get into a training camp.
Former Boise State linebacker Tommy Smith finally gets his NFL shot, although it is just a tryout. Smith will audition during the Cleveland Browns’ minicamp this week. Perhaps he could draw upon his experience at fullback—it worked for Korey Hall. Heck, Smith caught a pass from Kellen Moore in 2011. Two other Broncos went the NFL tryout route—linebacker J.C. Percy with Kansas City, and cornerback Jerrell Gavins, who wasn’t signed after trying out with Tampa Bay.
Clarification on the new logo that will go at the center of the blue turf in Bronco Stadium this year. It won’t be the “B” logo as I presumed in yesterday’s column. It will be the new “horse head” logo. It’s interesting—in the old days of the blue turf, some written “Boise State” or “BSU” identification was important for name recognition. In 2013, the blue needs no introduction.
KREM-TV in Spokane reports former Idaho coach Robb Akey has filed a lawsuit against the school seeking payment of one-third of his salary. Akey was fired two-thirds of the way through last season when the Vandals fell to 1-7 after a 70-28 rout at the hands of Louisiana Tech. He was 20-50 in just under five seasons in Moscow. His contract was set to expire in December of next year with an annual base salary of $165,796. “All I'm looking for is getting the money I earned,” Akey told KREM. “I'm not looking for anything more than that. I just want a fair resolution.”
Goaltender Olivier Roy has been Stockton’s steadying force throughout the Kelly Cup Playoffs, and especially in this ECHL Western Conference Finals series against the Idaho Steelheads. Roy recorded a playoff-high 36 saves in last Sunday’s Game 2 overtime victory after stifling the Steelies by stopping 35 of 36 Idaho shots on goal in Game 1. He’s won eight of his last 10 playoff starts. Last season, Roy was just 16-18-5 for the Thunder, but a look between the lines shows that to be deceiving. He had a 2.49 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Roy spent most of this season in the AHL, returning to Stockton for good in mid-March.
Now the Steelheads have to pull a rabbit out of their hat in front of one of the most rabid fan bases in the ECHL as they try to start rallying from a two games-to-none deficit in Game 3 tonight. The city of Stockton may be depressed and bankrupt, but the Thunder are a big draw. They attracted 5,485 per game during the regular season, fifth in the ECHL (the Steelheads drew 3,987 per night). Since their birth in 2005, the Thunder have played in Stockton Arena, which seats 10,000.
This Day In Sports…May 8, 1968:
One month after the A’s debut in the Oakland Coliseum following their move from Kansas City, they give their new fans an historic thrill. Jim “Catfish” Hunter threw a perfect game—the first in the American League in 46 years—as the A’s beat the Minnesota Twins, 4-0. Hunter would remain the heart of the Oakland pitching staff as the A’s would win three straight world championships in the early 70’s.
(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.)