Some people are going to look at their screens a week from Saturday, see No. 16, and say, “Hey, there’s the new Cedrick Wilson.” They want to will John Hightower into being someone he isn’t (at least not yet). Like people tried to will Brett Rypien into being the second coming of Kellen Moore. “He’s not where Ced’s at right now,” said Harsin. “John’s got a ways to go—he knows that. But he’s done some things.” As a 6-2, 183-pound junior college transfer, Hightower could be like Wilson and, well, do some things. But the scene at Troy will be unlike anything he saw at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. And the staff still has to see what it has in Hightower, who had only 13 catches for 236 yards and four touchdowns last year.
If he’s healthy, No. 82 might be better-fitted to be like last year’s No. 1 at the outset for Boise State. Octavius Evans is 6-1, 199 pounds and is an emerging playmaker. Side note: in Latin, the name Octavius means “born eighth.” Sean Modster already has No. 8. Maybe Evans should have taken Jake Roh’s old No. 88 this year. If there’s magic in a number, though, we can turn to true freshman Khalil Shakir, who did nothing in fall camp to dim predictions of immediate playing time as a true freshman. Shakir wears No. 2, a Bronco jersey sported in the last decade by the players ranked first and third in career catches, Matt Miller and Austin Pettis. If Shakir’s meter starts September 1, maybe he can catch ‘em.
It’s probably not easy for the national media to track down former Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier in retirement, but ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson found him while doing a story on UCF’s bogus declaration of a national championship after last season. Adelson asked Bleymaier if he would have done the same thing the Knights did after the Broncos’ two undefeated seasons. “To go and declare ourselves national champions, I didn’t see that as anything that was really going to advance our situation,” said Bleymaier. “I have never been happy with the structure. I testified to Congress about that whole issue and explained our record over consecutive years, and why it didn’t feel right that we were not given an opportunity.”
But Bleymaier liked what UCF athletic director Danny White did in orchestrating the charade. “It gets people talking, and gets people thinking about it, and hopefully they’ll continue to tweak it,” Bleymaier said. “But the Power 5, in my opinion, continues to try to pull away from the Group of 5, and I don’t think that’s good for college football.” Part of the issue White had with the rankings last season was the major disparity between the way the CFP committee ranked UCF and the way the BCS system ranked undefeated Boise State, Utah and TCU. In nearly every instance, UCF was ranked much lower. In 2006, for example, the Broncos finished No. 8 in the final BCS standings, while UCF was No. 12 last year in the final CFP rankings. (After the bowls, Boise State was No. 5 in 2006 and UCF No. 6 last season.)
Nevada’s current athletic director, Doug Knuth, has an interesting perspective on the prospects of the Oakland Raiders holding training camp in Reno once they move to Las Vegas. Knuth thinks it would be awesome, providing a big boost to the Pack’s exposure and recruiting—and the Reno economy. Key word being “Reno.” Knuth says the university itself “would 100 percent need help” to pay for upgrades to football facilities. Notes the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Chris Murray: “The Raiders, who got $750 million in taxpayer money to help fund its stadium in Las Vegas and a discount for its practice field property in Henderson, have a history of looking for and getting handouts.” Knuth, whose department owes the university $5.6 million, said his program can’t be fronting the money.
As we thought, George Iloka wasn’t out of work long after being released Monday by the Cincinnati Bengals. The former Boise State star has been signed to a one-year contract by the Minnesota Vikings, who are coached by his former defensive coordinator in Cincy, Mike Zimmer. Iloka will either compete with or play alongside starting free safety Andrew Sendejo depending on how Zimmer configures the NFL’s reigning No. 1 defense, according to the Minnespolis Star-Tribune. The Vikings had made a run at Iloka when he was a free agent in 2016 before the Bengals offered him a five-year $30 million deal, one that likely led to his release this week.
With a left arm hopefully healed after emergency blot clot surgery, Troy Merritt will dive into the FedExCup Playoffs today in the Northern Trust at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey. The Boise State grad and Meridian resident took last week off to rest up after giving it his best shot at the PGA Championship, less than a week after the operation. The Northern Trust includes the top 125 players in the FedExCup Playoffs. That number will be cut to 100 for the second tournament, the Dell Technologies Championship next week. Then it goes to 70 for the BMW Championship, and down to 30 for the Tour Championship. Merritt goes into the Northern Trust No. 75 in the FedExCup standings.
Boise Hawks starter Alec Byrd shut out Salem-Keizer over four innings last night. Byrd pitched five innings, though—the other was the first, when the Volcanoes put up a five-spot. That was all they needed to beat the Hawks 5-3. Elsewhere, Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich continues to toil in Sacramento, where he has spent most of the season since being sent down by the Giants. The bad news for Osich as he tries to work his way back to the bigs: his ERA is 4.93 for the season. The good news: he’s whittled his ERA from 6.23 a month ago and has allowed just one earned run in his last seven appearances.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by MAZ-TECH AUTOMOTIVE…your car says, “Take me to Maz-Tech!”
August 23, 1978: The birthday of one of the NBA’s most iconic players. Kobe Bryant went directly from high school in Philadelphia to the NBA as the 13th overall pick in the 1996 draft by the Charlotte Hornets. Less than two weeks later, Bryant was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, and he played his entire 20-year career in L.A., winning five NBA championships. He is third in NBA career scoring with 33,643 points, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. Bryant is the only guard in NBA history to play for 20 seasons. Kobe Bryant…40 years old today.
(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.)