Aye, captains—watch list season is here

Boise State is sending Brett Rypien and Tyler Horton to Las Vegas with coach Bryan Harsin next week for Mountain West Media Days. Fittingly, they’re the first two Bronco players to make national watch lists this year. For the third straight season, Rypien is on the roll call for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the nation’s top player. He is 2,814 passing yards away from the Mountain West career record of 12,690 held by San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley. That’s fewer yards than Rypien had last year—even with his massive struggles in September and early October. It was outhouse-to-penthouse for Rypien in 2017. Over the second half of the season, he threw for 2,231 of his 2,877 yards, and 15 of his 16 touchdowns against just three interceptions. That’s the momentum he carries into his senior year.

This is the first time Horton has appeared on a watch list—he’s on the docket for the Bednarik Award that goes to the top defensive player in the country. Horton emerged last year as the Broncos’ top cover corner and was named first-team All-Mountain West. He had two interceptions last season, but it was his two fumble recoveries that were his calling cards. One came in overtime, ending the wild 59-52 comeback win over Colorado State in November. A week later Horton produced a scoop-and-score to give Boise State a 20-point second-quarter lead over Air Force in an eventual 44-19 victory.

With Mountain West Media Days beginning a week from tomorrow, the Boise State roster (including jersey numbers) is about to be finalized. This has been brought up on the chat boards: who will wear No. 1 for the Broncos this year with Cedrick Wilson gone? The first guy I think of is Horton—if he wants it. His presence in Vegas next week is a strong hint that Horton is in line to be a defensive captain this season. It would be the culmination of a journey that began with rough times in his hometown of Fresno. What got Horton through was football at Edison High. Then he decided for forge a new life in Boise. As a Bronco, he’s been influenced by a series of mentors. Now he is one. No. 1? Should be up to him.

This is in line with other predictions we’ve seen—Idaho is predicted to finish fourth in the Big Sky by coaches and fifth by the media as the Vandals return to the conference this year. One factor: Idaho has only 11 starters back from the team that went 4-8 last season (3-5 in the Sun Belt). Eastern Washington is the pick to win the league. Three Vandals were tabbed Preseason All-Big Sky, offensive lineman Noah Johnson, punter Cade Coffey and linebacker Kaden Elliss. Wouldn’t it be something if Elliss was all-conference at the end of the season as a tight end? It could happen. He played both ways last year, catching seven passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns. As a linebacker, he has 228 career tackles and 10 sacks.

Also from the Big Sky media clambake, which has moved to Spokane this year from its longtime home in Park City, UT, Mountain View High grad Josh Buss of Montana has been named the conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Buss, a senior linebacker, is the Grizzlies’ leading returning tackler and now has 198 career stops with 12 sacks. He was a finalist last year for the Buck Buchanan Award that goes to the top defensive player in the FCS. Buss made his mark as a running back in high school, earning Idaho 5A Player of the Year honors as a Mavericks senior in 2013. He rushed for an SIC-best 1,986 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Chandler Hutchison’s final game at the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League Saturday night certainly spoke to his consistency. In Chicago’s 72-66 loss to Detroit, Hutchison put up 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Overall in the Bulls’ four games, the former Boise State star averaged…11.0 points, 7.0 boards and 3.6 assists. Hutchison’s first taste of the NBA was positive. Now we’ll see if a wild card has been thrown into Chicago’s plans for Hutchison, as the club has signed Jabari Parker as a free agent from Milwaukee on a two-year, $40 million deal. The Bulls plan to use Parker at small forward. He was the No. 1 high school recruit in America in 2013 and the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft the following year, but he’s had two ACL tears in his left knee the past four seasons.

There’s a story at PGATour.com about Graham DeLaet, and how he and his wife Ruby have split time between Boise and Scottsdale, getting some valuable family time with their twins. And about how all this down time has allowed DeLaet to really focus on his charity work. As far as golf goes, the takeaway is that there’s no clear timeline on his return to the PGA Tour. DeLaet underwent a stem cell procedure late last year to aid his ailing back. It was supposed to foster a quick recovery, but it hasn’t worked. “Now it’s back to the drawing board a little bit and visiting doctors and try to pinpoint what the issue is,” DeLaet said. “I miss playing so much, I miss being out there with the guys and I don’t know anything other than golf. You don’t realize how lucky you are until it’s swept out from under your feet.”

On the pro sports front: the Boise Hawks opened a three-game series at Hillsboro last night with a 3-2 victory. The Hawks trail the Hops by three games with seven to play in the Northwest League South Division first-half race. Meanwhile, former Hawks Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs competed in the Home Run Derby in Washington last night. Schwarber made it all the way to the finals before falling 19-18 to the Nationals’ Bryce Harper in the final seconds. And the Idaho Steelheads have extended their affiliation agreement with the Dallas Stars for two more years, through the 2019-20 season. This coming season will be the 14th straight—and 15th in the last 16—that the two clubs have had a working agreement. Ten former Steelheads have played in the NHL with Dallas.

Congratulations to all in charge of the weekend’s big events in the Treasure Valley—from Mike Cooley of George’s Cycles in the Chrono Kristin Armstrong and Twilight Criterium to the CenturyLink Arena staff for UFC Fight Night. All three events featured elite champions, including two-time world time trial champion Amber Neben at the Chrono (she was a cycling teammate of Armstrong’s at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London). In the UFC event, the main event went all five rounds between Junior dos Santos and Blagoy Ivanov, with dos Santos dominating in his return to the octagon after a nine-month drug suspension. A sellout crowd of 5,648 and a FoxSports1 audience took it in.

This Day In Sports…July 17, 2012:

Stephen Fife becomes only the third native Boisean to make the major leagues, and his debut is a dandy. Fife was called up for a spot start for the Los Angeles Dodgers opposite two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and allowed just one run on four hits over six innings. Fife left the game with a 2-1 lead over Philadelphia—he took a no-decision when the Dodgers ended up with a 2-1 loss. Fife was a member of the 1999 South Central Boise team that made the Little League World Series and helped Borah High to the 2005 state championship.

(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.)