There are 28 spots on the preseason All-Mountain West teams. Boise State nabbed eight of them. That’s pretty good in a 12-team conference.The league was quarterback-heavy last year, but this season new guys can rise to the top, and the Broncos’ Hank Bachmeier was honored at quarterback. Wide receiver Khalil Shakir, now adorned with star status, and left tackle John Ojukwu joined Bachmeier on offense. After toiling in the shadows of David Moa and Sonatane Lui the past two years, defensive tackle Scale Igiehon gets his shot—and the expectations begin with a preseason All-Mountain West nod. Igiehon is joined by linebacker Riley Whimpey, a unanimous pick, nickel Kekaula Kaniho and cornerback Avery Williams, a mild surprise at that spot. No surprise that Williams got the nod at punt returner.
So, who might Boise State’s “chip-on-the-shoulder” guys be? On offense, it would be running back George Holani. Wyoming’s Xazavian Valladay and UNLV’s Charles Williams were named at running back, and that makes sense, as they were 1-2 in Mountain West rushing last season. But by the end of the year, it was clear that Holani was becoming one of the best backs in the conference. On defense, Jalen Walker certainly isn’t going to begrudge his teammate, Williams, being named preseason All-Mountain West at cornerback. But Walker has been known to wear his emotions on his sleeve, and you’d expect him to feed off this. He’s already on two watch lists.
CAMPING FOR DOLLARS
As of this moment, NFL training camps are still set to open in the next week, and all five Boise State newcomers this year are under contract. Ezra Cleveland, a second-round pick for Minnesota, was the last to come board, signing a four-year $5.5 million deal with the Vikings. Fifth-round picks John Hightower of Philadelphia and Curtis Weaver of Miami inked four-year, $3.6 million contracts. And undrafted free agents David Moa with the Vikings and John Molchon with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are both aboard at $2.3 million for four years.
VANDER ESCH EXPECTATIONS
Sandy Vander Esch of Riggins, Idaho, shared this on Facebook, and why not? Pro Football Focus has been ranking the position groups in the NFL, and it tabs the Dallas linebacking corps as the second-best in the NFL. PFF expects Vander Esch to return to form alongside Jaylon Smith after a neck injury limited him to nine games and 510 snaps last season. PFF gave the former Boise State star a 58.5 grade last year after an 84.4 in 2018 that was fifth-best in the NFL. Vander Esch professes to be fully recovered. “I’m good. I’m solid. I’m ready to go and healthy as ever,” he said in mid-May.
DELAET’S DELAY DRAGS ON
Graham DeLaet had mentioned on Idaho SportsTalk earlier this month that the 3M Championship outside Minneapolis this week would mark his return to the PGA Tour. However, DeLaet is not in the field today. On Twitter last Thursday, someone asked him, “When will we see you at PGA events again?” DeLaet’s one-word answer: “September.” He had been optimistic on IST. “The only issue that I’m really having is being on my feet 5-6 hours at a time,” DeLaet said. “It makes the back nine a little difficult.” But, he added, “No pain, though. My body’s reacting to it pretty well, all in all.” DeLaet is playing this season on a major medical exemption stemming from the ongoing back problems that kept him out of action for two years.He last played at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January.
MERRITT ON THE REBOUND IN FAMILIAR TERRITORY
This is a big week for Troy Merritt, as he returns to his old stomping grounds in Minnesota. Merritt played high school golf in the Minneapolis suburb of Spring Lake Park, then played at Winona State for two years before transferring to Boise State. Maybe friendly confines will help him get back on track. After back-to-back top 25 finishes, Merritt shot 75-77 in the first two rounds of The Memorial at Muirfield Village last week and missed the cut. Each day he was four-over for the final four holes of the day. That was on the same course that produced a tie for 22nd the previous week in the Workday Charity Open. Now Merritt tests the layout at TPC Twin Cities.
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July 23, 1969: On baseball’s 100th anniversary, the All-Star Game is played in the nation’s capital—and the National League brings the fireworks at RFK Stadium in Washington. The Giants’ Willie McCovey, in the midst of an MVP season, launched two home runs and Reds catcher Johnny Bench added another as the Nationals pummeled seven American League pitchers, 9-3. It was the seventh straight All-Star win for the National League.
(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.)