Thursday, August 7, 2014.
Jay Ajayi has created more buzz—here, there and everywhere—than any Boise State player since Kellen Moore, and any running back since Ian Johnson. The expectations on this guy are huge going into the 2014 season. Ajayi is aware of it, but he knows it's his job to ignore it.
"I don't really try to stress myself too much on the hype," said the junior yesterday during a wide-ranging post-practice press conference. "I'm just excited to play another season—just really working to get our goal of a Mountain West championship."
Does all the ballyhoo go to his head? "I like to believe I'm a level-headed guy, and I don't let it get to me," Ajayi said. If he hadn't rushed for 1,425 yards and scored 19 overall touchdowns last year, he wouldn't have to deal with this kind of stuff.
The possibility that Ajayi will pass on his senior year at Boise State to go to the NFL is very real. But he knows it's not a consideration unless he perfects his game this year. Ajayi has been working with running backs coach Kent Riddle on refining his running style and his blocking.
"We've really been working on pass protection, and I feel I've really improved," said Ajayi. "My focus is just having a great fall camp—just preparing myself to have a great season this year." Then, whatever happens, happens. "When it gets to that point then I'll really sit down with my parents, with my coaches, and we'll take it from there."
Ajayi was asked about the race for the No. 2 running back spot behind him, and he threw out a couple names.
"Devan (Demas)—he's really stepped up big-time through this summer," said Ajayi. And there's a true freshman to ponder. "Jeremy McNichols—J-Mac—he's ballin' this fall camp," Ajayi said. "He's been doing a really great job."
McNichols, a 5-9, 195-pounder from Long Beach, CA, originally committed to Utah a year ago as a wide receiver. All the hopefuls will get their shots tonight when Boise State holds its first closed scrimmage.
Chris Petersen's first fall camp at Washington is underway, and he started it the same way he always did at Boise State—with a focus on team unity. A story by Larry Stone in the Seattle Times indicates it's been an eye-opener for Huskies players.
"The last couple of years, we always talked about how close we grew, but I feel it's emphasized each and every day," linebacker John Timu said. "I feel we're much closer. We know about the guys that just came in (freshmen); we know their full names, we know about their families." It's paying off in the UW locker room. "There's no cliques on this team anymore," said Timu. "Guys talk to each other now, which is a big difference we see. That's good. It kind of goes on the field as far as trusting each other when we play next to each other." I'm thinking it will show on the scoreboard this fall.
As far as Paul Petrino is concerned, there was no better way for Idaho to start fall camp this week. "The offensive line looked really good; looked way better," Petrino said of his first look at that group. The Vandal O-line needs some more Mike Marboes after allowing 53 sacks last year, the most in the FBS. Marboe, the senior center, was one of two Vandals named preseason first-team All-Sun Belt (the other was kicker Austin Rehkow). Marboe has started 36 consecutive games at Idaho and is on the Rimington Award watch list for the third straight year. Idaho's first scrimmage is set for Saturday morning.
Today is the first day of the rest of the mid-majors' lives, as the NCAA vote on autonomy for the Power 5 conferences will be held today—and is expected to be approved. And it is just the first day. Changes in how the money leagues can compensate athletes won't be implemented overnight. Any new legislation is unlikely to become effective before the 2015-16 academic year. If 125 of Division I's 351 member schools vote to override the new autonomous structure, it would be scrapped. But that would simply mean the Power 5 would carry through with their threat to break away and form a "Division IV."
Old Yotees are surely finding it hard to believe it's going to happen, but the College of Idaho's 37-year absence from the gridiron is less than a month away from ending. The Coyotes begin on the road at Pacific University September 6 before returning for their much-celebrated home opener against Montana Western September 13 in the new-look Simplot Stadium. There are still seats remaining for that game, and the C of I put single-game tickets for its other four home dates on sale yesterday.
By all accounts, Graham DeLaet is feeling better and is ready to fly as the PGA Championship tees off today. If the former Boise State star has indeed recovered from last weekend's flu, Patrick Mayo of SportsGrid.com makes DeLaet one of his top Fantasy picks at Valhalla. "DeLaet is the best ball striker on the planet and will be undervalued after withdrawing (last) Sunday at Firestone," writes Mayo. "Most Major championship layouts don't suit DeLaet's 'bomb-it-first, worry-about-the-rest-later' style, but Valhalla does."
Let's hit the reset button on the Boise Hawks as they return to action tonight at Salem-Keizer following the Northwest League All-Star break. With a 6-7 second-half record, the Hawks are in last place in the South Division's second-half standings but are only three games out of first. They're 28-23 overall. Boise leads the league in hitting with a .282 team average, one point better than Spokane. The staff is second-to-last in pitching, though, with a 4.48 ERA.
BAM Jam Boise hits the pavement on the north side of downtown for its seventh summer extravaganza Saturday and Sunday. Here's another interesting nugget from this year's popular three-on-three basketball tournament. Paul Rush, who in March coached the Capital Eagles to the 5A state championship to cap a 26-0 season, will compete in the men's competitive division. Rush's teammates? His brother-in-law and father-in-law. Always nice to hear a guy's in good standing with his wife's family.
This Day In Sports…August 7, 1995:
The return of the Raiders to Oakland is made official when Al Davis signs a lease that commits the team to at least a 16-year stay at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The Raiders would resume play in the Bay Area a month later. Davis had moved the team to Los Angeles in 1982. But—despite winning Super Bowl XVIII their second year in L.A.—the Raiders never won over fans there. The Los Angeles Rams also moved to St. Louis in 1995, so this will be the 20th year that the nation's second-largest market has been without an NFL team.
(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.)