When I saw the feature at ESPN.com headlined, “Breakout spring players for each top 25 team,” I wondered which way they would go for Boise State. My vote went to wide receiver Octavius Evans. ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter concurred, writing, “With wideout Cedrick Wilson now on the Dallas Cowboys, the Broncos came into the spring looking for new primary weapons for QB Brett Rypien. One of those could be the sophomore Evans, who had 124 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Boise State’s spring game.” Key word being “could.” It sounds like Trotter looked at the stat sheet and pulled Evans’ name out of a hat. We’ll see this fall if he chose the right one.
So is it all for real? Evans has been trending upward since late in 2017. He began last season with two catches for 26 yards against Troy—then had a grand total of two receptions for two yards over the next six games. Then Evans emerged a bit, ending the campaign with 11 grabs for 95 yards and two touchdowns over the final six games. Fellow Boise State wide receiver A.J. Richardson broke out this spring, too, unless you figure he had already done that last November. Richardson’s trajectory last year was similar to that of Evans. One of the Broncos’ explosion plays of the year was his electric 87-yard touchdown catch from Brett Rypien against Air Force. Coach Bryan Harsin said recently on Idaho SportsTalk the play was called “fuego.” Harsin said, “We told Richardson, ‘If you catch this, don’t get caught.’”
It looks like Shea McClellin’s six-year NFL career is over, as the former Boise State star’s life takes a new direction (although he tells the Statesman’s Dave Southorn he hasn’t officially retired). McClellin has been named linebackers coach on Judd Benedick’s staff at Mountain View High and will debut next week when the Mavericks begin spring football, according to the team’s website. In 66 career NFL games, McClellin has logged 202 tackles, 8.5 sacks and four fumble recoveries. He missed all of last season with reported concussion problems and was released by New England two months ago after a failed physical. The Mavs have an impressive staff. One of the guys McClellin mentored with the Broncos, Tyler Horn, is the defensive line coach at his alma mater.
Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison had pulled out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago by the time it got underway yesterday. B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press-Tribune reports it is not injury-related. It sure seems like the Combine would be the platform Hutchison needs to showcase his skills and maintain the projections that have him as a first-round pick next month. But Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com says Hutchison has received assurances of a “safe landing spot” in the form of an apparent “promise from a team drafting in the 20-30 range.” I talked the other day about Portland’s interest in Hutchison. The latest ESPN mock draft has the Blazers taking him No. 24 overall on June 21.
A couple of pro notes today: Troy Merritt is back on the tour this week as the AT&T Byron Nelson tees off today in Dallas. The former Boise State star tied for 42nd two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. Merritt has made five straight cuts. And the hottest former Boise Hawk in the majors this season has been Javier Baez. The Chicago Cubs second baseman leads the National League with 36 runs batted in and is tied for fifth with 10 home runs. Baez, in his fifth major league season, has always been a dandy on defense—now he’s producing at the plate as well. He has teetered a bit of late, though, going 5-for-27 over his last seven games. Baez is batting .267 overall.
When you win your first Mountain West championship, you expect some recognition from the conference. The Boise State women’s softball team got plenty of it yesterday, sweeping MW Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Coach of the Year honors. The player was junior shortstop Rebecca Cervantes, who led the league in hitting with a .476 average. The pitcher was Kelsey Broadus, who went 10-3 with a 1.66 ERA over the final two months of the season. The coach, of course, was Cindy Ball, who needs no further embellishment as she leads the Broncos into their first NCAA Tournament appearance at Washington tomorrow night.
Boise State Athletics yesterday launched a “strategic plan” that will serve as a roadmap for the department in the years to come. It covers all the bases (FYI, it doesn’t touch on conference changes). Under “Marketing/Branding,” is “Increase audience and exposure for Boise State Athletics on a local, regional and national scale.” To me, “local” means newcomers in this exploding region of ours. That is crucial right now. Also: “Create a meaningful in-game experience for Boise State fans at home athletic events.” Scroll down to “Capital Improvements” and you’ll find one of the keys to that statement: “East Side Albertsons Stadium Renovation—new seating options, restrooms, concessions, gathering spaces.” Yes sir.
Word out of New Mexico is that it’s inevitable the Lobos will cut at least one sport as part of a mandate to stop the bleeding in its athletic department. UNM athletic director Eddie Nunez inherited the mess in the form of a $4.7 million deficit. Nunez acknowledges that programs could be eliminated and emphasizes that athletes’ scholarships would be honored in that case. New Mexico offers 19 sports—two of them are not sanctioned by the Mountain West: men’s soccer and skiing (operated as a co-ed program). The Albuquerque Journal says “the working deadline for a ‘reduction in sports’ and trimming of $1.9 million for 2018-19 remains July 1.”
This Day In Sports…May 17, 2011:
The most prolific professional athlete ever to come out of the state of Idaho passes away at the age of 74. There was no brighter beacon from the Gem State in pro sports than Harmon Killebrew—on so many levels. The Pride of Payette broke into the majors as a 17-year-old in 1954 and hit 573 career home runs. He was the top right-handed home run hitter in American League history until being passed by Alex Rodriguez. But Killebrew also left a legacy of caring, typified by the golf event he founded in 1977 honoring a Minnesota Twins teammate, the Danny Thompson Memorial Tournament in Sun Valley for leukemia research.
(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.)