BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, April 4, 2019.
During spring football, when Boise State coach Bryan Harsin talks about guys he thinks are standing out, everyone looks for new names as clues to greatness. After last Saturday’s scrimmage, Harsin mentioned tight end Tyneil Hopper, who committed at the 11th hour before National Letter of Intent Day last year. The 6-2, 228-pounder from Roswell, GA, was rated by ESPN as the No. 11 tight end nationally in the 2018 recruiting class. “He stood out—he made plays,” said Harsin, who wanted to check the tape to see how Hopper’s blocking was. But…“As far as catching the ball and running after the catch, he stood out.” The Broncos need a guy like that. Maybe he’s a Jake Roh clone.
Hopper’s possible emergence kindles hope for the tight end position this year. Last season was a step back as far as productivity goes. The tight ends combined for just 33 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. Roh topped those numbers by himself the season before, with 39 grabs for 410 yards and nine TDs. Everybody’s back at tight end this year except for Chase Blakley. John Bates leads the returnees, and Hopper and the highly-touted Cole Ramseyer are coming off their redshirt years. As deep as the Broncos are at wide receiver, their new quarterback—whoever that may be—will need a boost from the tight ends as well. Watch for those guys in particular Saturday afternoon during the Blue & Orange Game on the blue turf.
ELLISS ELEVATES HIS NFL CHANCES
Idaho held its Pro Day Wednesday. There were only five participants, but one of them had an outstanding day. Linebacker/tight end Kaden Elliss clocked in at 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash and had a vertical leap of 34.5 inches. Elliss participated at Utah’s Pro Day last week, posting elite numbers in agility drills. Veteran analyst Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout writes that, as a linebacker, Elliss “showed off the core flexibility, smooth hips and light feet to change directions smoothly,” and as a tight end, “he showed reliable hands when the ball was thrown to him, snatching hot passes thrown in short quarters.” Rang reports that Elliss already has six team visits set, starting with the Arizona Cardinals on Friday.
BENNETT AND PEARL IN BOISE AND NAMPA
As Final Four weekend approaches, I have some local reminiscenses on Virginia coach Tony Bennett and Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. Thirty years ago, Bennett was a true freshman point guard for his dad, Dick Bennett, at Wisconsin-Green Bay (now just “Green Bay”). Like Tony today, Dick was all about defense and controlled tempo back then. And you know what? So was Boise State under Bobby Dye. Tony Bennett and Bronco senior star Chris Childs had a heckuva battle in the BSU Pavilion in late 1988, with Boise State taking a tense 68-66 win before 8,532 fans. Without Childs the following two seasons, the Broncos lost to the Phoenix 69-39 and 67-59 on the road. Bennett remains the NCAA career leader in three-point accuracy, making an amazing 49.7 percent of his treys in his career.
Pearl was coaching a visiting team here 15 years ago—not in Boise, but in Nampa. That’s when Pearl was leading Wisconsin-Milwaukee (now just “Milwaukee”). When Boise State blitzed UNLV 84-69 in the 2004 NIT, it looked like the Broncos would be traveling for their matchup with Milwaukee in the next round. After all, the Pavilion was booked all weekend. But a date was hastily arranged with the Idaho Center, and 10,153 BSU fans hastily scooped up tickets to see the Broncos get past UWM, 73-70, on a raucous night in Nampa. Boise State’s NIT run would end three nights later with a 66-53 loss at Marquette, the cross-town team Pearl and his Panthers would have given anything to play.
THE ERIC MUSSELMAN TRACKER
Well, it’s Thursday, and Eric Musselman is still the head coach at Nevada. There were no new developments on the Musselman-to-Arkansas front Wednesday. According to Chris Murray of Nevada Sports Net, “Musselman’s hiring at Arkansas is not imminent. We don’t even know if he’s the front-runner for the job.” After analyzing a private plane’s criss-cross of the country on FlightTracker, Murray surmises that Steve Alford, fired earlier this season at UCLA, may also be in the mix, along with Minnesota’s Richard Pitino and Iowa’s Fran McCaffery.
DELAET SHUTS IT DOWN THIS SEASON
Former Boise State star Graham DeLaet, rehabbing his ailing back, was hoping to return to the PGA Tour sometime this spring, but he’s now going to wait until the 2019-20 season tees off this fall. “My recovery has been slower than I expected, but I am getting better each day,” DeLaet said via Twitter. “I want to thank everyone for your support and I can’t wait to be back out doing what I love—playing the game!” DeLaet had back surgery last July. He hasn’t played a tour event in almost a year and a half.
UI’S HAUSMANN IN MASTERS LAND
Idaho golfer Sophie Hausmann was in the field yesterday for the first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur, a newly-created prelude to next week’s Masters. Hausmann opened with a one-over 73 and is tied for 21st. The reigning Big Sky Women’s Player of the Year from Nottuln, Germany, got into the tournament as a premiere international player. Hausmann’s already played in the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. and British Women’s Amateurs in her young career. Players in the Augusta event play the first two rounds on a nearby course, but the entire field gets to play a practice round on the famed Masters course on Friday—and the top 30 from the first two rounds will be on the Augusta National layout again Saturday.
This Day In Sports…April 4, 2016:
The first buzzer-beating three-pointer ever in the NCAA championship game, as Villanova’s Kris Jenkins connects when time expires to give the Wildcats a heart-stopping 77-74 win over North Carolina for the title. That came after the Tar Heels’ Marcus Paige had hit an incredible double-clutch, off-balance three to tie the game with 4.7 seconds left. The contest was as riveting as they come after both teams had won in routs in the semifinals. Villanova’s 95-51 conquest of Oklahoma two days earlier produced the largest margin of victory ever in a Final Four game.
(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.)