Thursday-Friday, August 14-15, 2014.
(Tom Scott's column will return Monday.)
Here are two stories to watch as Boise State's only open scrimmage of fall camp unfolds Friday night. One is "Jersey No. 8, the sequel?" A handful-plus of numeral changes were revealed when Boise State's football roster was updated this month. That's typical, as last year's seniors have departed, leaving returnees to scramble for the numbers left behind. The switch to No. 8 by Kamalei Correa creates some self-imposed pressure. The guy who wore that jersey the last two seasons, of course, was a second-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in May. At least Correa got off to a DeMarcus Lawrence-type start in camp, singled out by coach Bryan Harsin last Thursday after the Broncos' first fall scrimmage. The 6-3, 247-pound sophomore made 12 tackles last year as a true freshman, including a 14-yard sack of Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo.
The other story is, "No. 3 wide receiver coming out of nowhere?" Chaz Anderson sure has gotten the props since moving to wideout from the secondary this summer. Now he can test his skills when the popcorn's poppin' in front of a healthy crowd at Albertsons Stadium. Anderson did play some receiver (in addition to defensive back) at Loyola High in Los Angeles, making 14 catches for 356 yards as a senior. Do the math. That's a whopping 25.4 yards per catch. But can Anderson really pick up the Boise State offense that fast? Especially one that bears no resemblance to the one he defended as a redshirt freshman cornerback last year?
Boise State is certainly milking the popularity of its All-Access videos. The Broncos used an episode yesterday to introduce the new orange helmets they'll wear in the Chick fil-A Kickoff game against Ole Miss two weeks from tonight. And they did it by showing players awakened at 6:03 a.m. after their campout on the blue turf, trudging sleepily into the Bleymaier Football Center and then erupting when they saw the helmets hanging in their lockers. Coach Bryan Harsin pointed out that the orange is bright—and the outline of the Bronco logo on the helmet has a chrome accent to make it stand out. Reviews I'm hearing are positive. For one thing, it's actually a school color.
Whether it's a "worst-case scenario for Year 1 of the College Football Playoff" depends on your perspective, but that's what SI.com's Martin Rickman calls it. He actually picks three worst-case scenarios: undefeated runs by Marshall, Bowling Green or Utah State that could land one of those teams not just in an access bowl, but in the CFP. Writes Rickman: "Utah State has the toughest road, but a dream season out of the Aggies would be hard to ignore. Star quarterback Chuckie Keeton is cleared to play and has been doing Chuckie Keeton things in camp so far, and Utah State has a beatable, big-name foe in Tennessee the first week of the season. Utah State's defense is better than anyone believes and its offense should be even better with Keeton back. If they can string it all together, the committee might be sweating a little bit." That would be bad?
On the Mountain West injury watch, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports the timetable for San Diego State star linebacker Jake Fely's return keeps getting pushed farther back. Fely, who had surgery in the spring to repair a ruptured disc in his neck, was hoping to be back with the Aztecs by Week 3, but coach Rocky Long is now saying Week 6. Fely was poised for a huge junior year before breaking his foot in the fourth game last season. The San Diego State website still calls Fely "possibly the best defensive player in the Mountain West."
Idaho coach Paul Petrino is keeping the pedal to the metal in his team's scrimmages. Last Saturday's first session of fall camp lasted 200 plays, hence numbers like these from quarterback Matt Linehan: 20-of-39 for 276 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. The Vandals just picked up where they left off last spring. Idaho's second scrimmage is set for Saturday morning. Fall camp continues at the College of Idaho as well, with Coyotes now just 23 days from ending their 37-year gridiron hiatus.
There will be some attention paid to Kyle Wilson as the New York Jets visit Cincinnati Saturday night. The former Boise State star, the Jets' second-round draft pick in 2010, has a chance to face his critics with cornerback Dee Milliner hobbled by an ankle injury that may last into Week 1 of the regular season. Will Wilson get a look at Milliner's spot? "That's a possibility, but I like what we're doing now," coach Rex Ryan said. Wilson has been playing the slot/nickel cornerback spot. "I like how Kyle's playing (in) nickel," Ryan said. "Really, guys, that's a starter in today's game. He's basically a starter. So that's kind of how I feel about it. I think he's coming on. I think Kyle's playing extremely well." Wilson, in the final season of his his five-year, $9.905 million contract, has just three career interceptions.
The Idaho Stampede's head coaching job is a Utah Jazz decision now, and the club has settled on Dean Cooper, who spent the last two seasons on Kevin McHale's Houston Rockets staff before being dismissed in May. Some in Houston called Cooper a scapegoat for the Rockets' defensive deficiencies last season. He's a veteran coach, though, with experience in the CBA, college and high school hoops in addition to the NBA. New Jazz coach Quin Snyder likes one particular aspect of Cooper's resume. "Dean has a proven history of player development which is an integral aspect of my coaching philosophy," said Snyder. "As an extension of our staff, he will work hand-in-hand with us to establish a clear, seamless connection to ensure we are stressing the same principles in Utah and Idaho." Cooper is the Stampede's 10th coach in franchise history.
In a league where scores can soar, last night was a stunning anomaly. The Boise Hawks were being no-hit at Hillsboro in the top of the 10th inning of a scoreless tie—that's right, the top of the 10th—when David Bote doubled with one out. The Hawks in turn had held the Hops to one hit at that point. This calls for some recognition for Boise pitchers. Josh Conway threw the first three innings, Ryan Williams pitched the next four and allowed the one hit, and James Farris handled the eighth and ninth frames. After all that, Corbin Hoffner took the hill in the 10th for the Hawks, and allowed a hit and three consecutive walks, the last one forcing in the winning run for a 1-0 Hillsboro victory.
Troy Merritt is back on the PGA Tour trail today for the first time in three weeks. Merritt tees off this morning at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, NC. He's 111th in the FedExCup standings as the season hits its home stretch—he needs to stay within the top 125 to get his tour card renewed. The former Boise State star has made the cut in five of his last six events, notching top 20 finishes in three of them. Merritt has just under $850,000 in earnings this season, most of it since the beginning of June.
For the 10th consecutive season, the Idaho Steelheads will be affiliated ith the Dallas Stars in 2014-15. That means a Steelheads roster in flux, but it's also an attractive benefit for ambitious players wanting to don Idaho sweaters. It marks the third-longest active continuous relationship between an NHL and ECHL team behind Wheeling/Pittsburgh and Florida/Carolina. The Steelies were also a Stars affiliate in 2003-04 before spending one season with the Phoenix Coyotes.
This Day In Sports…
August 14, 1977: In the PGA Championship at Pebble Beach, Lanny Wadkins and Gene Littler are tied at the end of regulation and go into sudden death. On the first hole, each guy got a four. On the second hole, same thing. Wadkins birdied the third hole, while Littler parred it—and Wadkins won the only major of his career. Littler's only victory in a major had come 16 years before: in the 1961 U.S. Open.
August 15, 1993: Greg Norman completes a "Grand Slam" of playoff losses by lipping out his putt on the PGA Championship's second playoff hole, giving Paul Azinger the title. Norman also lost playoffs in golf's other three majors—the 1984 US Open, the 1987 Masters, and the 1989 British Open. Some consolation for the Shark: he had won his second British Open a month before the PGA Championship collapse.
(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.)