Thursday, August 5, 2010.
With fall camp 24 hours away, the cream is getting ready to rise to the top among Boise State’s redshirt freshmen. One of them got a head start a year and a half ago and is looking for a breakout camp. Wide receiver Aaron Burks was a greenshirt, the relatively new term that refers to a guy who graduates early from high school and enrolls in the winter—in time for spring football. Burks did that in 2009 coming out of Grand Prairie, TX, and has no regrets about abbreviating his senior year. “I’m a better person for it,” says Burks. He’s talking off the field, and on. “I look back at tape of what I did in high school. I’m a totally different receiver now,” he says. He gives all the credit to wide receivers coach Brent Pease. Now Burks tries to make it pay off. The Broncos didn’t have any greenshirts in the 2010 recruiting class.
If I singled out a redshirt freshman on offense, I’d better do the same on defense. I’m going with defensive end Kharyee Marshall. You could call Marshall one of the new breed at that position. But then, that breed may not have been bred yet. Marshall is only 6-1, 207 pounds, yet he bewildered the Bronco offense in spring football with speed and baffling moves. I mean, a defensive end who runs a 4.42 in the 40? Marshall will have to fight through the logjam at D-end in fall camp. But considering the havoc he wrought in the spring, a backup slot behind Ryan Winterswyk or Shea McClellin is doable.
Benchmarks, benchmarks. Idaho opens fall camp today with a goal of sustaining success. Coming off last year’s breakout 8-5 campaign, the Vandals are looking for their first back-to-back winning seasons since the end of the 1990’s. Nothing is a given, as five of last season’s victories were by four points or less. And then there is the issue of playing better in November, a month where Idaho hasn't won a single game since 2004. The challenging part of that month this year will be home games against the top two teams in the WAC, Boise State and Nevada. Idaho does open its season at home for the first time since 1998. And the Vandals are playing non-Saturday games for the first time in more than 35 years.
Nevada coach Chris Ault has drawn a line in the sand for Thanksgiving weekend—at least for Wolf Pack fans. Ault was asked by the Reno Gazette-Journal how much this season would be defined by how the Pack plays against Boise State. He immediately brought the fans into it. "Let's say this before we get into that," Ault said before taking a deep breath and raising his voice, according to the paper. "Get those Boise tickets now, fans. I don't want any orange in that stadium. We need it all silver and blue. Buy them now. Single-game tickets are out there right now, and season tickets." If you’re relatively new to this rivalry, know that this Bronco fan migration down the desert to Reno has been going on for more than 30 years—and it drives Ault crazy.
This is a cool deal for the Wolf Pack, though. The College Football Hall of Fame is creating a mural to salute Nevada becoming the first team in college football history to have three 1,000-yard rushers in a season. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running backs Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott all eclipsed that plateau last year, of course. Kaepernick and Taua are back this season. The mural will reportedly go next to Ault’s bust in the Hall. Ault was inducted in 2002, two years before he came back for his third stint as coach of the Pack.
As training camps get down to it, the expectations for offensive line improvement are high in Pittsburgh. That’s because the Steelers hired O-line coach Sean Kugler away from Buffalo. Kugler spent one year on the Boise State staff, and it was a monster year. That was 2006, when the Bronco offensive line was a machine, paving the way for Ian Johnson’s school-record 1,713 yards. Oh, and that first Fiesta Bowl win. Kugler headed to the Bills after that. The Steelers recognized his role in developing Ryan Clady, already now a Pro Bowler in Denver. “There's absolutely no question that he's the best football coach I've ever been around," Chris Petersen told ESPN’s Tim Graham earlier this year.
You start to wonder if Boise Hawks outfielder Alvaro Ramirez might hit .400 this season. Ramirez went 3-for-4 with an RBI and scored three runs last night in their 7-0 win at Tri-City. The 24-year-old Dominican’s average is up to .393—no one else in the Northwest League is close. Also noteworthy in the victory over the Dust Devils was Jordan Latham’s ninth inning. The former Centennial High star, who’s had trouble with his command since returning to Boise, did walk the first batter he faced last night. But Latham retired the next three men to end it. Now the Hawks get their first look at Everett as they open a five-game series there tonight. The AquaSox were the runaway first half winner in the West Division.
Boise State doesn’t have any BCS conference schools on its men’s basketball schedule for the upcoming season, unless you feel like getting ahead of yourself. The mystery addition to the Broncos’ slate turns out to be Utah, which has one more year in the Mountain West before it goes to the Pac-10. The Utes will host BSU in Salt Lake City December 17. That would be two days before a Bronco home game versus Texas Pan American. This is a pivotal year for Utah coach Jim Boylen as he enters his fourth season—the Utes were 14-17 last season, including an Opening Night home loss to Idaho.
The third week of September will be homecoming week for Troy Merritt, as the Boise State alum has committed to play in this year’s Albertsons Boise Open. Merritt has survived nicely in his rookie year on the PGA Tour, earning $647,788 to date. This will be Merritt’s third Boise Open—he played the tournament on a sponsor exemption in 2008, then again as a full-fledged Nationwide Tour player last season. Merritt earned his PGA Tour card by winning Q-school last November. He and former Bronco teammate Graham DeLaet are playing the Turning Stone Resort Championship this week in Verona, NY.
This Day In Sports…August 5, 1985, 25 years ago today:
Amateur golfer Jim Cobb scores three holes-in-one over a 30-hour period. The odds against this happening are 8,404,101,101 to 1. Calculated by some guy with entirely too much time on his hands.
(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.)