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College football: The very talented hangers-on

COVID-19 created a new layer of players: the “super seniors” like Boise State’s Riley Whimpey, who seems like he’s been around forever.
Credit: John Locher/AP Photo
San Jose State’s player looks downfield against Boise State in an NCAA game for the Mountain West championship, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. San Jose State won 34-20.

BOISE, Idaho — Friday, July 16, 2021.

“Super seniors” coming out of the COVID season have inspired The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel’s to come up with a 2021 Preseason All-“wait, they’re still playing college football?!” Team. The quarterback and “co-captain” of the team is San Jose State’s Nick Starkel, whose Spartans beat Boise State for the Mountain West championship last December. Mandel points out that Starkel “has been around long enough to have started for both Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Arkansas’ Chad Morris in their final seasons at those schools. He resurrected his career in a big way with the 7-0 Spartans last season. Then he announced on Twitter: ‘College Football might be tired of me, but I’m not tired of College Football!’ Which makes him arguably the greatest spokesman for the college experience since John ‘Bluto’ Blutarsky.”

Boise State will face another player on Mandel’s self-described “All-Geezer Team” right out of the gate, defensive end Big Kat Bryant of UCF. And ironically, Bryant’s a transfer from Auburn, where he started his career back in 2017. “When your name is Big Kat, people tend to remember it almost immediately, which is why it feels like he was at Auburn forever,” writes Mandel. “And now he’s reuniting with head coach Gus Malzahn in Orlando. Byrant memorably returned a fumble 83 yards against Oregon in the 2019 season opener, and earned second-team All-SEC honors last season. He should be a big-time addition for the Knights.” Forty-eight days from Orlando, everybody.

THE BRONCOS & THE BONNIES

The Boise State men’s basketball schedule is sneaky good next season. The Charleston Classic bracket was offcially announced on Thursday, and the Broncos open the tournament on November 18 against defending Atlantic 10 champion St. Bonaventure, a trendy Sweet 16 pick for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The Bonnies finished last season at No. 31 in the NCAA NET rankings and return all five starters. Boise State faces either Clemson or Temple on the second day. The first-round games on the other side of the bracket pit West Virginia against Elon and Marquette against Ole Miss. Six of the eight teams in the Charleston field finished last season in the top 100 of the NET rankings, including Boise State at 53.

PROBLEMS AT THE TURN AND AT THE END

At first glance, three-over par doesn’t sound so good for Troy Merritt. But this is the Open Championship, a.k.a. the British Open, and the Royal St. George’s course was unforgiving for a lot of the field on Thursday. Nevertheless, the former Boise State star will have to be solid today to make the cut. Merritt bogeyed the last two holes on both the front nine and back nine and made only one birdie to finish with a 73. Meanwhile, Boise State’s Hugo Townsend has been named a third-team Division I All-American by PING. The last Bronco to win All-America honors? It was Merritt—a third-teamer in 2008.

STEELIES & STARS ARE STILL AN ITEM

The long-standing relationship between the Idaho Steelheads and the NHL’s Dallas Stars will continue into 2023, thanks to a two-year extension of their affiliation agreement on Thursday. The Steelies first paired with the Stars in 2003-04, the season Idaho moved to the ECHL. A year’s hiatus followed, but now the Steelies have been Stars affiliates continuously for the past 16 years. The Idaho-Dallas partnership is currently the third-longest uninterrupted NHL affiliation in the ECHL. Eleven former Steelheads have made the NHL with the Stars, and two former head coaches have advanced in the organization (Derek Laxdal and Neil Graham).

GAME 48 TONIGHT, WITH 48 TO GO

After clubbing four home runs Wednesday night, the Boise Hawks stayed the course early against Great Falls Thursday night. The Hawks got a solo home run from their third batter of the game, Alejandro Rivero, and another from Bo McClintock in the second inning. But the Voyagers put up three runs in the third and didn’t look back in an 8-4 victory. Tonight’s game versus Great Falls marks the halfway point of the season. Boise sends Pioneer League strikeouts leader Matt Dallas, the Capital High grad, to the mound.

PREP FOOTBALL IN THE AIR

If Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer, then the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl 7-on-7 tournament (now known as the FIPB High School Passing Tournament and Lineman Challenge) is the unofficial kickoff to prep football, right? The event returns to the Optimist Youth Football fields today and tomorrow with 17 teams, 90 coaches and 838 players slated to compete. This is the biggest year yet for the lineman challenge, with 15 squads entered. Every year since the event began, the 7-on-7 champion has gone on to either make a deep run into the state playoffs or win it all.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS…July 16, 2009:

The most successful coach in Idaho Stampede history resigns to take an assistant’s spot with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Bryan Gates, who didn’t play basketball as a student at Boise State, rose from a job as an unpaid intern under Bobby Dye during the Stampede’s first season in 1997-98 to become the team’s head coach in 2006. Gates had a three-year regular season record of 100-50 and won the D-League Coach of the Year award in his first two seasons. More importantly, he guided the Stampede to their only D-League championship in 2008. Gates is now an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

(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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