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Boise State Football: A Khalil Shakir encore on Pro Day

Most of the heavy lifting (literally) is done for Khalil Shakir ahead of the NFL Draft. He’ll try to put some finishing touches on his portfolio today.
Credit: Ashley Landis/AP Photo
Boise State’s Khalil Shakir catches a touchdown pass from Hank Bachmeier during an NCAA game in Carson, Calif., Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. San Diego State won 27-16.

BOISE, Idaho — Wednesday Weekly: March 30, 2022.

Pro Day is here for Boise State, with Khalil Shakir front and center among the eight former Broncos participating. Shakir won’t be running the 40-yard dash, as the 4.43-second time he posted at the NFL Combine showed scouts plenty. But Shakir will do just about everything else, participating in timed drills and running routes at the Caven-Williams. There are some weaknesses listed on Shakir’s draft profile at NFL.com, which has newly-projected him as a third-round pick. But those are outnumbered by strengths like these: “High-character player, voracious competitive spirit and vastly versatile, receiver used on direct snaps, as a running back, on jets sweeps and in return game, motor rarely gives opponents a chance to catch their breath.” Sure sounds like Khalil Shakir to me.

For others this is their big chance—guys like Kekaula Kaniho, Cyrus Habibi-Likio and Octavius Evans. The intriguing player is long snapper Daniel Cantrell, the former Bishop Kelly Knight. Cantrell won’t blend in with the crowd, as he has a specific skill set that some NFL organization might need. It only takes one. More often than not, you’ll see a long snapper taken in the NFL Draft.

A CLEAN SLATE FOR THE CORNERS

Spring football is giving some Boise State players looks from new sets of eyes. That’s true at the cornerback spot, where Demario Warren has taken over as position coach for Jeron Johnson. But he doesn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle. First of all, is Markel Reed going to work his way back into the starting lineup after being lost to injury five games into last season? Reed is still recovering this spring. Caleb Biggers, the transfer from Bowling Green, took over and ended up leading the corners with 34 tackles, and he’s getting the reps right now. On the other side, Tyriq LeBeauf was solid, leading the team with three interceptions (including the 100-yard pick-six at UCF). Kaonohi Kaniho and Isaiah Bradford are also out right now, so the big audition guy is Jared Reed, the transfer from Utah State who didn’t play in 2021.

TRANSFERS IN THE DEFENSIVE TRENCHES

The quest for three transfers to make impressions at various spots on the defensive line continues. Mainstays Shane Irwin and Jackson Cravens are out for all of spring ball, and Isaiah Bagnah won’t be available until at least this weekend. So George Tarlas, Cortez Hogans and Deven Wright can all log extra reps and get a chance to shine, having never been in the program before. Tarlas, the Borah High grad who came in from Weber State, looks to build on the 20 career tackles-for-loss, 17 sacks, seven forced fumbles and two interceptions he racked up in Ogden. Hogans and Wright are both junior college transfers, and the Broncos don’t bring players like that in unless they have plans for them. Hogans hopes to kick-start a career that began quietly at Northern Illinois.

BIG 12 WATER COOLER TALK

The Athletic has released its survey of more than 1,500 Big 12 fans for their thoughts on the state of the conference. One of the questions: “Do you want to see the Big 12 expand again in the future?” Almost 60 percent said no. Oh well. On to this: “If the Big 12 expanded again, which schools would you prefer?” The Athletic included Arizona State and Arizona just for fun, and those were the top two. The next two were Memphis and Boise State. “It’s interesting to see Boise State garner a little more support than SMU among these voters,” writes Max Olson. “The fans who do want the conference to expand liked Arizona State and Arizona—and were much more supportive of Memphis and Boise State than their peers who don’t want to expand, perhaps because they view those two as more realistic targets.”

GUNDY HAS NO PROBLEM WITH EXPANSION

You may have heard about Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s comments on Big 12 expansion at the end of last week. Gundy told The Oklahoman’s Barry Tramel he feels the conference could be at 14 members five years from now, which means it would need two more. “From a history of success, from what I would call a football school that grabs people’s attention, Boise (State) would be a team that people would be interested in,” said Gundy.

“Some people, the only issue they would say is, can they grab the Northern California television market?” Gundy said. I haven’t heard it put that way before, and I don’t know if the Broncos could do that. But the takeaway here is that Gundy’s opinion was only reinforced by the Cowboys’ trip to the blue turf last September. There was the atmosphere, with a crowd of 36,702 sounding a lot louder than that, and the quality of the opponent (OSU edged Boise State 21-20 on its way to a Fiesta Bowl trophy).

A BUMP IN THE MEMPHIS BID

Meanwhile, Memphis has a little problem on its hands. The Tigers are looking at four NCAA Level I and two Level II violations, the most damning allegations a school can face. And the only person named in the NCAA investigation is coach Penny Hardaway, whose team defeated the Broncos 11 days ago. Not many details have been released yet. What if Memphis was forced to vacate results of the 2022 NCAA Tournament? To be sure, I don’t expect something like that to happen. In fact, the investigation centers on things that happened in 2019. But it makes for interesting fodder.

ABU KIGAB GETS AN NBA AUDIENCE

NBA Draft analyst Jon Chepkevich reports that Boise State’s Abu Kigab has been invited to the 68th annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament next month, giving him a chance to showcase his talents in front of NBA scouts. Kigab is not seen as a serious NBA prospect, but at the very least, this will give him a G League audition and boost his stock for a spot overseas. NBA personnel will like his effort, character and leadership skills, and he certainly finished his career as a Bronco on a roll. Over the last month of his career, Kigab averaged 18.1 points per game, shooting 57 percent from the field and 48 percent from three-point range. Really. The Portsmouth event takes place April 13-16.

STEELIES FLY FAR, FAR AWAY

The Idaho Steelheads have packed up their momentum and taken it as far away as you can go in the ECHL. The Steelheads, riding a five-game winning streak, are more than 2,200 miles away as they open a three-game series tonight against the Florida Everblades in Estero, FL. The Steelies scored a whopping 19 goals in a three-game sweep of the Wichita Thunder last week in Idaho Central Arena. You may remember the first time these two teams met. It was in the 2004 Kelly Cup Finals, with Idaho beating Florida four games-to-one to capture its first ECHL championship (in its first season in the league, no less). By the way, there are eight games left in the regular season.

MERRITT LOOKING FOR ONE MAGICAL SUNDAY

Strange things happen on Sunday in the PGA Tour. Troy Merritt knows all about it after a four-over 75 in the final round of the Valspar Championship two weeks ago, costing him a shot at a six-figure payday. Over a five-hole stretch on the front nine, the former Boise State star carded three bogeys and a double-bogey. He finished tied for 27th, earning $54,600. Today, following a week off, it’s a fresh start in the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. Merritt goes in ranked 64th in the FedExCup standings.

BOISE STATE SOFTBALL IS SOARING

It’s about time we gave some props to the Boise State softball team, right? The Broncos have landed their second Top 25 spot in school history, coming in at No. 25 in the new DISoftball.com rankings. And Tuesday they were ranked No. 23 in the ExtraInningsSoftball poll. Boise State, under first-year head coach Justin Shults, has turned “mercy-rule” into a verb, having mercy-ruled Nevada with early endings twice in three wins in Reno last weekend. The Broncos are now 27-5 and are riding a 10-game winning streak. They lead the Mountain West in runs scored, hits, doubles and home runs. Boise State also has the reigning Mountain West Player of the Week, Kelsey Hall, going into its three-game series against UNLV this weekend at Dona Larsen Park.

SPRING GRID AT C OF I AND U OF I, TOO

Spring football opened Tuesday night at College of Idaho as Mike Moroski enters his ninth season (believe it or not) as head coach of the Coyotes. It seems like running back Nick Calzaretta has been around the whole time, but he is indeed gone now after a five-year run that saw him become C of I’s career rushing leader with 3,503 yards. Two Treasure Valley products are candidates for carries. Former Columbia High star Allamar Alexander rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns last season, while Timberline High grad Ed Osterberger is slowly but surely recovering from an injury he sustained a year ago. Meanwhile, all is new in Moscow. The Idaho Vandals opened spring football Tuesday, their first under new head coach Jason Eck.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…March 30, 1998:

After coming through the Boise bracket unscathed a couple of weeks earlier, WAC champion Utah makes it all the way to the national championship game. Kentucky ended the Utes’ run 78-69, but not until they had mowed down two No. 1 seeds, defending national champion Arizona and North Carolina (the Tar Heels were ranked first in the nation at the time). Utah was coached by Rick Majerus and captained by Michael Doleac. The Utes’ top player was first-team All-American and future NBA standout Andre Miller.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.) 

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