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Boise State football: John Bates will go earn it

John Bates’ path to the NFL is all about how far he has come since becoming a Bronco—and how far he can still go as a tight end. There’s a lot of upside.
Credit: Steve Conner/AP Photo
Boise State tight end John Bates celebrates a touchdown reception against Air Force in an NCAA game, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won 30-19

BOISE, Idaho — Friday, April 30, 2021.

Let’s go to NFL.com to get as credible a draft profile on Boise State’s John Bates as there’s going to be. “Bates has an athletic background in his high school past, but his play speed tends to be inconsistent as a route-runner,” writes Lance Zierlein. “He's lacking the foot quickness to uncover underneath, but he might be able to work up the field with more development. Bates will need to get more physical and improve his hand usage and footwork to become a functional blocker as a pro.” You can read upside into that, though, especially with this footnote: “Doesn't always play to his true speed.” So go get ‘em, Bates. This is where work ethic kicks in. "I think he's going to test pretty well, and if he does that, along with his size, he's getting drafted," said a West Coast scout for one NFC team.

LVE WAITING FOR MONDAY

The Dallas Cowboys drafted a linebacker in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night (Micah Parsons of Penn State). So there’s more uncertainty surrounding Leighton Vander Esch beyond 2021. Stephen Jones, Jerry’s son and the Cowboys’ executive vice president, said on a Dallas radio show this past Monday that the team will wait until after the draft to decide whether to exercise the fifth-year option on the former Boise State star. They can’t wait long, though—the deadline to use the option is 3 p.m. on Monday. If Dallas declines, Vander Esch would be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

The Cowboys understandably have concerns about Vander Esch’s long-term availability, as he’s been struck by the injury bug. There’s the spine issue he was born with, the neck injury in 2019 and the broken collarbone at the beginning of last season. It could be a money thing, too, as teams are watching their bank accounts after being socked at the turnstiles by the pandemic last year. Vander Esch’s 2022 team option is $9.145 million.

COACH PETE’S UNRELENTING POSITION

There was one thing Chris Petersen did while he was coach at Boise State that didn’t happen most other places—nor does it happen here anymore. But then, Chris Petersen had this aura about him. Coach Pete would not accept a verbal commitment from a recruit unless he was absolutely sure. After that, the prospect was expected to be all in and shut down his recruiting. Now we wonder if Boise State’s first commit of the 2022 class, quarterback Katin Houser of St. John Bosco in Bellflower, CA, will be in the fold in December. Houser tweeted this Wednesday: “Blessed to receive an offer from Michigan State University!!” Just an offer, but buckle your seat belt. There will be others. Gotta be tough to be an 18-year-old with that much talent. And Houser says he’s still committed to the Broncos.

SPRING SPORTS SWING

A lot of comings and goings in spring sports this weekend. On the diamond, Northwest Nazarene holds at No. 9 in this week’s National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division II rankings, and the Nighthawks have climbed to No. 19 in the College Baseball News DII poll. NNU wraps up conference play with four games today and tomorrow in Nampa against Saint Martin’s. College of Idaho was to close out its 2021 baseball season with a four-game weekend series at Simpson University, but that has been cancelled. The Yotes finish 19-28. The 23rd-ranked C of I women’s softball team finishes the regular season with a pair of doubleheaders versus Warner Pacific in Caldwell, while Boise State has a three-game series against Fresno State Saturday and Sunday at Dona Larsen Park.

The Boise State men’s golf team, coming off a runner-up finish in a 20-team field at BYU’s Cougar Classic, plays in the Mountain West Championship today and Saturday at Tucson National Golf Club. The Broncos were 18-under on the final day in Provo, their best team round in 3½ years. They were second to San Francisco and were followed in the next four spots by BYU, New Mexico, Colorado State and Utah. Boise State capable of contending for the conference title this weekend. Only once have the Broncos finished better than sixth—that was in 2017, when they were third, just two shots behind champion UNLV.

MERRITT’S PRIORITY: RINSE AND REPEAT

Troy Merritt’s prospects are good for a four-round tour at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, FL. His opening round was uneven Thursday, but Merritt had more peaks than valleys. He had three bogeys, but countered those with six birdies and shot a three-under 68, tied for 15th. Today Merritt just has to avoid what happened two weeks ago, when he came in at 68 in the first round and ballooned to a 76 the next day, missing the cut. Here’s to a happier ending this weekend.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…April 30, 1961, 60 years ago today:

I listened to this game on the radio in my formative years. Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants joins another elite club—those who have hit four home runs in a single game. Mays did it against the Braves at County Stadium in Milwaukee, a couple of ‘em going over the head of Hank Aaron. The “Say Hey Kid” still ranks sixth on the career home run list behind his godson Barry Bonds, Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols. Next week we’ll commemorate a big day in Willie Mays’ life.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

   

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