Two years ago, you knew what you were getting with No. 82 and No. 6 in the Boise State offense. The former was Thomas Sperbeck, who ended up shattering the school record for receiving yards. The latter was the field-stretching Chaz Anderson. Both uniforms were on the field against last year, but this time they were in the form of true freshmen Octavius Evans and CT Thomas, who posted 15 catches each. Evans, No. 82 and the bigger target, gained steam as the season progressed and scored two touchdowns. Thomas, No. 6 and the not-as-big target, showed a jitterbug ability that’s going to be fun to watch as he develops. Both of them different from Sperbeck and Anderson, but potentially productive. They’ll have their spring recital Saturday afternoon on the blue turf.
Not that Evans is being compared to Cedrick Wilson, but he’s going up and getting the ball like No. 1 used to. Evans is getting raves for a leaping grab of a fade pass in the back of the end zone in the second scrimmage of spring football last Saturday. It’s hard to fit Thomas into any kind of a mold. Not to be forgotten is the most important catch of his young career last December in the Las Vegas Bowl. With Boise State needing to maintain separation from Oregon in the fourth quarter—leading 31-21—the Broncos were bottled up with a third-and-nine at their own 15-yard line, and Brett Rypien’s first two options were covered. Thomas found an open spot, made the catch, and gained 22 yards. That kept alive a 5½-minute TD drive that clinched the game in the 38-28 Boise State victory.
Boise State has even more depth in the secondary now with the addition of junior college transfer KJ Walker from Orange Coast College. Walker will be a preferred walk-on with four years to use three remaining seasons of eligibility. He’s a 6-0, 185-pounder who played both free safety and cornerback at OCC. Walker didn’t have big numbers in JC, but he tweets, “My goal is to get on campus, grind in all areas, and still earn a scholarship. That will come in due time.” (Walker apparently played Pop Warner football with Bronco defensive end Curtis Weaver.)
A combination of the Hall of Fame ceremony and the Spring Game and the annual Gridiron Social has a lot of former Boise State greats headed into town this weekend. One is Matt Paradis. It’s a good time to bring up a tweet that originated this week with the Denver Broncos: “Paradis has played every possible snap in each of the three years he’s been on our active roster (2015-17), the second-longest active streak in the NFL.” Especially significant as we watch what’s going to happen with Leighton Vander Esch in the NFL Draft later this month. Like Vander Esch, Paradis was a walk-on out of Idaho eight-man football. The one-time Council Lumberjack was a sixth-round pick of Denver in 2014. Maybe he’s the reason NFL teams aren’t blinking about going after Vander Esch in the first round.
There’s obviously a backlog of football players waiting to get into the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame. Same is the case with track and field. The Broncos will take care of three of those athletes tomorrow night. Swedish javelin thrower Gabe Walin leads the pack as the only two-time individual national champion in Boise State history, taking the NCAA javelin titles in 2004 and 2005. The Broncos tapped Greece for long jumper Eleni Kafourou, and she produced an NCAA indoor national championship in 2009. The wait has been longest for Abigail Ferguson of the Bahamas. She was supposed to be part of Boise State’s last Hall of Fame class—way back in 2007. Ferguson, a 10-time Big Sky champion and a 1997 All-American in the triple jump, couldn’t attend then and will be welcomed back to campus tomorrow night.
This is kind of like Boise State losing Paris Austin a year ago (although the Broncos did fine without him). Starting forward Bryson Williams has been granted a release from Fresno State and will transfer. The difference with the Bulldogs is they have a new coach, Justin Hutson, who will have to deal with it. Williams, who reportedly was considering a transfer during Fresno State’s 21-11 season, leaves a hole. He averaged 13.8 points and 6.1 rebounds. Like Austin last year, Williams was a sophomore and will have to sit out a year wherever he goes. Austin used his redshirt year at Cal this past season and will be a junior for the Bears this fall.
Boise’s James Hoyt is finally healthy—and he’s finally back in the majors after a rehab stint at Triple-A Fresno. Hoyt made his 2018 debut for Houston yesterday, giving up a walk and a single and recording one out in the Astros’ 9-8 loss at Minnesota. He started the season on Houston’s 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain. The 31-year-old righthander had struggled in spring training, posting an 8.64 ERA after allowing eight runs in 8 1/3 innings over eight appearances. But the Astros had him penciled in for middle relief this year.
There haven’t been many circuitous routes to the big leagues like that of Hoyt, a 2005 Boise High grad. He went undrafted out of Centenary College in Louisiana in 2010 and got out of baseball for a year, building sailboats in San Diego. Then Hoyt gave it another shot in the Indiependent League, eventually landing in the Mexican League. That led him into the Atlanta Braves organization and ultimately to Houston, and the Astros called him up in 2016 (he was not on the club’s postseason roster last fall when Houston won the World Series. In 65 big league outings, Hoyt is 2-1 with a 4.42 ERA.
This Day In Sports…April 12, 1954:
The Minneapolis Lakers defeat the Syracuse Nationals 87-80 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. And April 12, 1958: The St. Louis Hawks beat the Boston Celtics to win the NBA championship in six games. It was nice when basketball season ended when basketball season should end. Game 7 of the NBA Finals this year is scheduled for June 17. Just before summer officially begins.
(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.)