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Boise State football: To portal or not to portal

The transfer portal has, in theory, been good for college athletes who want a change. But it’s been bad for sports in general. It’s a fact of life now, though.
Credit: David Zalubowski/AP Photo
Boise State’s Jack Sears throws against Air Force as John Bates blocks in an NCAA game Saturday Oct. 31 2020, at Air Force Academy, Colo. Boise State won 49-30.

BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, May 13, 2021.

It’s a “list” time of the year as college football bides its time until fall camp, and today we check one from The Athletic: “The College Transfer Portal Top 50.” More than 2,100 FBS players have entered the NCAA transfer portal since last August, and there won’t be new homes for all of them. But it’s big for the cream of the crop. Among those who Max Olson and Bruce Feldman see as the top 50, only one involves the Mountain West. Justin Rice, last year’s preseason Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, opted out before he played a down for Fresno State last season. Rice transferred to Arkansas State, which was coached by Blake Anderson, and Anderson has since taken the Utah State job. Rice followed him back to the MW and is now an Aggie.

Boise State football has been cool and calculated in using the transfer portal, careful to find players who will build on their chemistry rather than erode it. The only major additions to the squad this year have been running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio from Oregon and cornerback Caleb Biggers from Bowling Green. Last season the key additions were quarterback Jack Sears from USC and linebacker Brock Miller from North Carolina State. Their first year as Broncos are well-documented. Some moments of brilliance out of Sears were tempered by a hit to the head against BYU and COVID challenges later on. Miller wasn’t ever completely healthy and was rarely seen after he tore the plantar fascia in his foot at Air Force.

LENO’S NEW LEASE ON LIFE

You don’t start 93 consecutive games in the NFL unless you are 1) durable, and 2) good. Former Boise State star Charles Leno Jr. checks those boxes, and the Washington Football Team took notice. The WFT has signed Leno to a one-year, $5 million deal, according to agent Ron Slavin. Leno had been cut by the Chicago Bears right after the NFL Draft as a salary cap casualty despite his longevity as an offensive line anchor. Washington is looking forward to getting Leno on the field, as it’s had a revolving door going at the left tackle spot. And we look forward to the time he lines up next to tight end John Bates, the fellow former Bronco who was drafted in the fourth round on May 1.

KELLEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT TO START

The 2021 NFL schedule was released Wednesday, and the juices have to be flowing for Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The season opens Thursday, September 9, with Moore and the Cowboys visiting, well, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s not like the former Boise State great will be matching wits with the G.O.A.T., but he’ll want his offense to look good while Brady stands on the opposite sideline. The Dallas attack was very ordinary the only other time Moore has faced a Brady team—the Cowboys lost to the Patriots 13-9 in 2019, Kellen’s first year as O-coordinator. The Bucs are early six-point favorites in this one.

MERRITT MARCHES ON

Man, Troy Merritt has been a busy man during this PGA Tour season. Since it began last September, the Boise State alum has played 22 tournaments, and today he tees off in a 23rd, the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch north of Dallas. Merritt has missed three of his last four cuts, including last Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship when he shot a four-over-75, a round punctuated by six bogeys. But the cut he made was golden. Two weeks ago Merritt tied for eighth at the Valspar Championship and made more than $200,000.

COMINGS & GOINGS IN THE MW

Speaking of portal lists, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello ranks the top 100 transfers in men’s college hoops, and five involve Mountain West departures and arrivals. No. 16 is Matt Bradley going from Cal to San Diego State, and No. 20 is Marcus Williams from Wyoming to Texas A&M. Also on the docket: UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton, still undecided; Jermarl Baker, who Fresno State picked up from Arizona State, and Jamal Mashburn Jr., who followed coach Richard Pitino from Minnesota to New Mexico. RayJ Dennis, who has transferred from Boise State to Toledo, did not make the list.

ROCCO REWARDED FOR HER DEBUT YEAR

Bella Rocco’s name is sprinkled throughout Mountain West women’s softball statistics, and now her name will be on the Mountain West Freshman of the Year trophy. Even if she’s “co-player of the year,” Rocco’s been a rock for Boise State this spring. The redshirt freshman third baseman from Fontana, CA, ranks second on the team and 10th in the MW with a .333 batting average. Her slugging percentage of .419 is also 10th in the conference, helped by four doubles and five home runs. Rocco and the Broncos wrap up the season with a three-game series against Nevada Friday and Saturday at Dona Larsen Park.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…May 13, 1961:

The birthday of one of the most polarizing players in NBA history. Dennis Rodman was one of the game’s great rebounders, but he had some quirks, from his multiple hair colors and piercings to his marriage to Carmen Electra to his friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But as disruptive as he could be on the court, Rodman’s hoops skills were indisputable. He led in the NBA in rebounds per game a record seven consecutive seasons and was part of five NBA championships. Dennis Rodman…60 years old today.

(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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