Friday, July 25, 2014.
Boise State is all about attacking the future. It's the new Bryan Harsin vernacular. The Broncos have subtly convinced the media that it's going to happen—they were picked to win the Mountain Division of the Mountain West at Media Days in Las Vegas this week. Well, the future is less than five weeks away now. What has to happen for Boise State to live up to predictions and regain its perch in college football? Here are four things.
The new coaching staff has to prove it's as good as the old coaching staff. That's a tall, tall order after Chris Petersen took his 92 wins and most of his staff with him to Washington. Harsin knows what he's walking into. Mike Sanford Jr. takes over the offensive coordinator's spot at the age of 32 for a program that has been to the mountaintop. Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates tries to rally his unit after a rare off-year under predecessor Pete Kwiatkowski. The newness is what may make this work, though. Something wide receiver Matt Miller said about last season was telling at Mountain West Media Days. "We were too comfortable in our own skin," Miller said of the 8-5 season in 2013. "We were too cemented and rigid. The change was necessary to bring new excitement to the program."
The defensive line has to reinvent itself. When you take DeMarcus Lawrence out of the mix, the Boise State D-line was just slightly above average last year. The Broncos' sack count was down by eight to a total of 30, and Lawrence had 10½ of those. Lawrence is out of the mix now as a second-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, and the rest of the crew has to step up. Just three short years ago, BSU had the fearsome fivesome of Billy Winn, Chase Baker, Shea McClellin, Tyrone Crawford and Jarrell Root. Four are playing in the NFL. That's where the bar is set. Can some combination of Tyler Horn, Armand Nance, Beau Martin, Justin Taimatuia, Kamalei Correa and Gabe Perez take on that look? Can the already-popular and formerly homeless Bronco, incoming junior college transfer Antoine Turner, become a football story, too? Big questions.
Ben Weaver has to get healthy. Foot injuries are tricky, and that's what the sophomore linebacker has been dealing with since late last season. Harsin said in Las Vegas that Weaver, Boise State's leading tackler last year with 89 stops, is not 100 percent yet and will be limited in fall camp but would be ready to go in time for the Ole Miss game in the Georgia Dome August 28. With Lawrence now wearing Cowboy blue, the Bronco front seven needs a new centerpiece. Weaver would be that guy.
Grant Hedrick has to have the year of his life. The senior quarterback got a mulligan for some of the rough spots last season after he was thrown into the fire following Joe Southwick's broken ankle. There were the highs—the Nevada and Colorado State games. And the lows—the BYU, San Diego State and Oregon State games. It'll be interesting to see what Hedrick can do with the latitude he'll have to be himself. He rushed for 115 yards versus the Wolf Pack and didn't exceed 30 in any game after that. Harsin will let Hedrick run the ball. "You're holding a guy like Grant back if you don't let him play his game," said the coach this week.
Utah State and San Diego State don't play each other in football this year, but they may face each other in court. The issue is the chant "I believe that we will win!" that gained nationwide life during the U.S. run in the World Cup this summer. It is said to have originated at Navy, but the large and raucous USU basketball student section made it popular. When the Aztecs started packing Viejas Arena, SDSU students adopted it four years ago, and now the school is going after a federal trademark for the slogan. Utah State trademarked the whole chant in February of this year, but it used a state trademark. San Diego State filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and Tuesday marked the beginning of a 30-day period in which can others can file concerns with the patent office over the request. The Aggies are weighing their options.
At Pac-12 Media Days in Los Angeles yesterday, Chris Petersen's session wasn't peppered with questions about the adjustment to life in Seattle after 13 years in Boise. It was all about Petersen's freshly-announced suspension of quarterback Cyler Miles for Washington's season opener at Hawaii. It's presumably Miles' final punishment for his alleged involvement in two assaults after the Super Bowl in February. Petersen says Miles, who had been the heir-apparent to Keith Price at QB, will get a second chance.
The Huskies were picked third behind Oregon and Stanford in the Pac-12 North preseason poll. The poll predicts Arizona State, with Eagle High grad Taylor Kelly going into his senior year at quarterback, to come in third in the Pac-12 South behind UCLA and USC. The Ducks and Bruins, by the way, were dominant choices to meet in the conference championship game.
Joe Southwick has a chance to get his football life back on the road now, having signed with the Spokane Shock of the Arena Football League. How much playing time the former Boise State quarterback gets, if any, remains to be seen—the Shock have one game left in the regular season, followed by the AFL playoffs. Southwick played four years for the Broncos and was the starter the last two before the broken ankle last October. He probably would have started the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve were it not for the infamous hotel incident that spurred the team to send him home early. Here's hoping he gets a fresh start in Spokane.
The Canadian Bronco who was supposed to make waves at Royal Montreal, but it's the American Bronco who's in contention after the first round of the RBC Canadian Open. Troy Merritt fired a four-under 66 yesterday and is tied for fifth, two shots off the lead. His more celebrated former Boise State teammate, Saskatchewan native Graham DeLaet, managed a one-under 69 capped by a bogey on No. 18. DeLaet, playing with Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar, absorbed back-to-back bogeys on the third and fourth holes and was playing catch-up all day. Michael Putnam, who tied for second at the Albertsons Boise Open in 2012 and tied for third last year, is tied for the lead with Tim Petrovic.
The Boise Hawks jumped on Everett early last night, scoring two runs in the first and three in the second. That carried the Hawks to a 7-3 victory over the Aquasox to even the series at a game apiece. Danny Canela set the tone with a two-run homer in the first. Another two-run shot by Justin Marra sealed it in the eighth. In between, reliever Sam Wilson squelched thoughts of an Aquasox comeback, throwing two innings of scoreless relief with four strikeouts to earn the win. Venezuelan infielder Bryant Flete and outfielder Charcer Burks, the Cubs' ninth-round draft pick in 2013, made their Hawks debuts last night—both players went 1-for-3. Tonight the Hawks and Aquasox play a doubleheader, one of the games a makeup for the one rained out on Wednesday.
This Day In Sports…July 25, 1999, 15 years ago today:
At this point his story is still heartwarming—Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France just three years after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs. Armstrong survived the cancer and formed his Livestrong Foundation to support cancer patients. He would win the Tour de France six more times before all seven titles were wiped out by a lifetime ban from cycling in 2012 for the doping offenses that he had denied for more than a decade.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30 p.m. on KTVB's Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB's telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)