On the Monday of Game Week, most college football teams release their depth charts, and Boise State’s contains only one revelation. Riley Whimpey has earned the Broncos’ starting nod at Leighton Vander Esch’s old linebacker spot. At 6-1, 218 pounds, Whimpey doesn’t have Vander Esch’s size (who does at that position?), but by all counts he has the current Dallas Cowboy’s instincts. “After that first scrimmage, he really turned it on,” said coach Bryan Harsin of Whimpey. Idaho graduate transfer Tony Lashley gets an “OR” with Bruno DeRose behind Whimpey. Linebacker Blake Whitlock isn’t even on the two-deep. “Wait ‘til we get into (this) game week,” cautioned Harsin about putting too much stock into that. Likewise, true freshman Khalil Shakir isn’t listed on the depth chart. Yet.
Troy’s depth chart is out as well, and the Trojans are going with Kaleb Barker at quarterback as Brandon Silvers’ heir-apparent, at least out of the gate. Troy coach Neal Brown said Boise State will also see Sawyer Smith this Saturday, though. Can Barker throw? Harsin thinks so. He was 8-of-13 last year for 143 yards and a touchdown as Silvers’ backup. Can Barker run? Harsin knows so. Barker rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 attempts last season. Do the math. That’s 8.6 yards per carry. “He changes the game from what they had,” said Harsin. Hopefully the Bronco defense remembers all the fine points of dealing with Montell Cozart in practice last year.
Brown was a guest on the Jim Rome Show last week and Rome asked him about opening against Boise State. Brown called the Broncos the pre-eminent Group of 5 program—and felt that if the Trojans can beat ‘em, Troy will move right onto the national radar. He pointed out that his Trojans had a shot on the blue turf last year, driving to take the lead late in the third quarter. That is true. And that’s also why the effort displayed by Boise State’s Desmond Williams produced one of the defensive plays of the year. Troy wide receiver Deondre Douglas was about to score a touchdown when Williams knifed in and knocked the ball out of his hands at the one-yard line. The ball bounced inside the pylon, into the end zone, and out of bounds for a touchback. A monster change of possession and momentum.
There wasn’t a lot to pull from Boise State’s open practice Saturday. One of the most noticeable things (outside of Haden Hoggarth’s surprise scholarship) iinvolved someone who didn’t even play. Octavius Evans was suited up, but his jersey numeral didn’t match the roster handout. Instead of No. 82, Evans was wearing No. 1 after having it bestowed upon him before the Fan Fest. “We put it in his locker—we didn’t say anything,” said coach Bryan Harsin. “He didn’t know he was getting ‘1’ until that day.”
The sophomore wide receiver must like pressure, taking on a Cedrick Wilson look just eight months after the latter was MVP of the Las Vegas Bowl. But the Broncos don’t hand No. 1 out to just anybody. So Evans is going from “the next Thomas Sperbeck” to “the next Cedrick Wilson.” Big shoes any way you tie ‘em. “He’ll own it,” Harsin said. “He has a lot of respect for what that means.” Evans had 15 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman in 2017. Wilson made 83 grabs last season and Sperbeck 80 the year before. Now, will Evans be healthy enough to play this Saturday?
Tanner Mangum is going have a chance to get his mojo back, as he has been named BYU’s starting quarterback for the Cougars’ opener Saturday night at Arizona. The Eagle High grad was in a heated battle in fall camp with one-time Boise State commit Zach Wilson, a true frsshman. In fact, this has been going on for six months. It was a close competition, but coach Kalani Sitake is going with experience. Mangum has been the fall guy for BYU’s 4-9 season in 2017, just a couple years after throwing game-winning Hail Marys against Nebraska and Boise State to begin his career as a true freshman. He professes to be quicker now, trimming down to 205 pounds on his 6-3 frame.
Wrapping up some NFL notables from Preseason Week 3: Darian Thompson and his hamstring were out again for the New York Giants, but Donte Deayon was able to resume his quest for a spot on the roster this season. Deayon logged four tackles in the Giants’ 22-16 win over the Jets last Friday night. GiantsWire at USAToday.com speculates that Thompson is headed for injured reserve—or an outright release.
Doug Martin finally got a cameo in Oakland Friday and had six carries for 24 yards in the Raiders’ 13-6 win over Green Bay. And Jeremy McNichols led San Francisco in receiving with four catches Saturday night, but they covered only 16 yards. McNichols also had two carries for five yards in the 49ers’ 23-17 loss at Indianapolis. He’s having a tough time making enough of an impression on the Niners’ brass to stick on the 53-man roster.
The Boise Hawks ended their 11-game Western Idaho Fair road trip last night with the pitching staff’s best performance of the season in a 2-0 win at Vancouver. Five Hawks hurlers combined on a four-hitter, led by starter Alec Byrd, who went five innings. Byrd evened his season record at 3-3 and lowered his ERA to 3.00. One of the Hawks’ two runs was provided by Daniel Jipping, who clubbed his 10th home run of the summer. Jipping has now hit 21 homers in his two seasons in Boise. The Hawks have today off before returning to Memorial Stadium tomorrow night to open their final six-game homestand of the year.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by MAZ-TECH AUTOMOTIVE…your car says, “Take me to Maz-Tech!”
August 28, 1943: Lou Piniella is born. Piniella managed five big league teams and guided one of them, the Seattle Mariners, to one of the most magical seasons in major league history in 2001, with 116 victories. He also managed the Cubs, Devil Rays, Yankees and Reds, winning the 1990 World Series with Cincinnati. Before becoming a skipper, Piniella hit .291 in a playing career that covered 16 full seasons, the last 11 with the Yankees. He had a .319 average in four World Series with the Yanks. Lou Piniella…75 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.)