Another true freshman for your radar

With Evan Tyler out for the season with a torn ACL, everyone jumps up a notch on Boise State’s depth chart at safety. That means Kekaula Kaniho may not redshirt this season. Word is the 5-10, 175-pounder from Kahuku, HI, has been worthy of playing time as a true freshman anyway. Kaniho was Hawaii’s prep Defensive Player of the Year last season, and why wouldn’t he be after returning interceptions for touchdowns in five straight games, the second-most in high school football history? Anybody who can do that has the attention of the turnover-starved Bronco coaching staff. Boise State safeties combined for just four interceptions all season last year, and those responsible for them are gone.

Kaniho will be an interesting interview once he’s made available to the media. A story in Hawaii Prep World earlier this summer called Kaniho a “self-confessed Lego collector,” and notes that “he dreams of becoming part of another team, one that advances the science of prosthetics into a new realm, making life better and easier for those who have lost a limb.” Kaniho prepared for it in high school. “We dissected a pig in freshman year,” Kaniho said. “Last year, we did a cow’s eye and a bird’s leg.” Kaniho says he wants to go into biomedical engineering.

If you’ve been following along, it’s no surprise that Boise State coach Bryan Harsin named quarterback Brett Rypien, wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch as season captains this year. Rypien was a given, Wilson has won the team over a year after arriving as a junior college transfer, and Vander Esch has been the face of the defense since spring. But what validation this is for Vander Esch, the one-time walk-on from Salmon River High in Riggins. Small-school Idahoans always have to prove themselves, and Vander Esch has done that. That he was a man among boys in Class 1A prep sports was one thing—to be that in FBS football is something else.

The feature story at yesterday afternoon was headlined, “The happiest—and most miserable—college fans bases.” Boise State was 19th, and Idaho was 127th, second-to-last. So what the heck was the criteria? ESPN came up with a “Fan Happiness Index” that includes program power, rivalry dominance (even if it’s been dormant for seven years, I guess), coaching stability, recruiting trend, revenue growth and Twitter buzz. That last one is the only item that directly reflects fan happiness, described as “percentage of tweets from fans that are positive, based on social media sentiment analysis.” Okay. Kansas is 122nd. Maybe that explains why graduate transfer quarterback Montell Cozart thinks he will thrive this year as a Bronco.

College of Idaho coach Mike Moroski said yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday that the Coyotes’ primary goal this fall is a winning season. The first three seasons since the program’s resurrection in 2014 have produced identical 4-7 records, and Moroski now has a veteran team that he feels can turn the corner. If you overlook that little hiatus that covered the years 1978-2013, this season marks the 73rd year of Coyote football as a collegiate program. And through all that, C of I is 274-275-28 all-time. A win in Saturday’s opener at Montana Western would get the Yotes to .500.

Former Boise State star Jamar Taylor made two tackles in Cleveland’s 10-6 win over the New York Giants on what I call Monday Night Exhibition Football. For the Giants, Darian Thompson had two stops and Donte Deayon one, plus a quarterback hit and an interception called back by a penalty. But it’s Taylor’s night that’s showing staying power this week—not due to his performance, but because he joined 11 Browns teammates in kneeling during the national anthem. This demonstration seems to be less contentious than the others around the NFL. Cleveland coach Hue Jackson says the group checked with him first and explained it to him. The players profess to love the anthem, love the flag and respect the military. They characterized it as a “prayer” for those affected by current divisions in the country.

There are some Broncos and Vandals in the CFL this season. The BC Lions have fullback Rolly Lumbala and defensive lineman Maxx Forde out of Idaho, and ex-Vandal coach Chris Tormey is linebackers coach. The Edmonton Eskimos’ roster includes linebacker Chris Edwards of Idaho and defensive backs Mercy Maston and Brandyn Thompson of Boise State. Thompson has a 31-yard fumble return for a touchdown this season. Hamilton has defensive tackle Mike “Canadian Bacon” Atkinson, the 6-1, 312-pound Boise State product. Ottawa defensive back Jerrell Gavins out of Boise State has an interception this season, Jon Gott is still playing on the O-line for the Redblacks. And former Bronco Ryan Dinwiddie is quarterbacks coach for Calgary, which is at or near the top of CFL stats in most key offensive categories.

The words “run support” have deserted the Boise Hawks’ vocabulary right now. The pitching staff was fine last night, but the bats were stifled again in a 3-1 loss to the Eugene Emeralds. The Hawks have pushed across just one run in their last 18 innings. The Western Idaho Fair road trip reaches the halfway point tonight—Boise is 2-5 on the journey so far.

Joe Martarano finally broke through with his first home run for the South Bend Cubs Sunday night—in his 25th game with the Cubs’ Midwest League affiliate. But the former Boise State linebacker and Fruitland High grad’s strife at the plate continues. Martarano is batting just .179 for South Bend, with eight RBIs and 29 strikeouts in 84 at-bats. There are 12 games left in the season.

This Day In Sports…August 23, 1992, 25 years ago today:

Dennis Eckersley becomes the first pitcher in big league history to record 40 saves in four different seasons. Eckersley ended up with 51 saves for Oakland that season and won both the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards. Eckersley had been converted to a closer five years earlier by A’s manager Tony La Russa after a solid career as a starter with the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.

(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.)