Forgotten Broncos provide massive depth

Fall camp is here, and all of Boise State’s injured players have been cleared. In at least two cases, they are not on the Broncos’ initial two-deep, but they could probably start for most teams in the Mountain West. Remember that Sam Whitney began last season on top of the depth chart at STUD end, ahead of Jabril Frazier and Curtis Weaver. Whitney started five of Boise State’s first seven games but was lost for the season in late October with a torn tendon in his knee. Whitney is back and should prove to be a valuable change of pace. Safety Evan Tyler was second-team a year ago right now but tore his ACL in fall camp and missed the entire campaign. The 6-2, 195-pound junior started the first three games in 2016 before his season likewise ended with a knee injury. Tyler should be able to work his way back into the rotation.

Other guys out with injuries at the end of last season who are now good to go include tailback Alexander Mattison, defensive ends Durrant Miles and Chase Hatada, wide receiver Akilian Butler and tight end Chase Blakley. Coach Bryan Harsin indicated yesterday that his staff won’t hold Mattison back as he returns from the lower leg injury suffered in the Mountain West championship game. This will be a key camp for Butler as he tries to finally find some space in the wide receivers room.

Harsin announced yesterday that Makena Simis has joined the Boise State staff as an offensive quality control coach after completing his playing career at Montana. Simis will be a great fit. He brings an even-keeled personality inherited from his dad, Todd, the head coach at Capital High. Simis also brings a team-first selflessness. He began his days as a Grizzly at quarterback but was moved to wide receiver as a junior and played sparingly. When Simis was a senior last November, injuries had depleted the quarterback spot and he was asked to move back for a game against Northern Arizona. He only threw for 44 yards, but he rushed for 101 in a 17-15 victory.

And just like that, the first Coaches Poll of the 2018 season is out—the preseason version. Boise State checks in at No. 22, with this narrative from USA Today’s Erick Smith: “The Broncos are blessed with senior QB Brett Rypien, a deep backfield, options at wide receiver and depth on both lines. They’ll make another run at the Group of Five berth in one of the major bowls.” Truthfully, the “deep backfield” is to be determined, as are those wide receivers. No doubt about the D-line, though. The Broncos are the highest-ranked Group of Five team in the Top 25, but UCF is on their collective tail at No. 23 (and not happy about it). Did you notice? There’s an early measuring stick here. The Knights open at Connecticut August 30. UConn meets Boise State on the blue turf the following week.

Then there’s the week after that—September 15 at Oklahoma State, which has been absent from most of the magazine and website top 25 lists. OSU is No. 25 in the Coaches Poll, though. Writes Smith: “The Cowboys mostly lived on the arm of QB Mason Rudolph last year, but with his departure RB Justice Hill should carry the load of the offense. Most of the key contributors return on defense. DL Jordan Brailford has the potential to break out after six sacks last year.” Beyond that, Troy, San Diego State and Fresno State—in that order—are all part of the “others receiving votes” category.

Around the horn with other fall camps: College of Idaho’s first practice is Sunday after the Coyotes were predicted to finish third in the Frontier Conference in the preseason coaches’ poll this week. That’s the highest pick for the Yotes since football was reinstated in 2014. “It’s either respect or a set-up—maybe that’s the cynicism in me,” said C of I coach Mike Moroski. The University of Idaho hits the field tomorrow night. Vandal standouts Kaden Elliss and Noah Johnson were named to the STATS FCS Preseason All-America team this week. Johnson was selected to the second team on the offensive line, while Elliss was a third-teamer at linebacker.

Kamalei Correa is entering his third NFL season, and it’s definitely go-time for the former Boise State star. Correa has struggled through his first two years as a Baltimore Raven, but last night he went off in the Hall of Fame Game, a 17-16 win over the Chicago Bears. He logged six tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a 19-yard interception. “It was great to see him break out,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “This young man’s been killin’ himself—work ethic, attention to detail, very determined. To see it pay off like that—the coach loves to see that.” Correa is on the Baltimore roster bubble, but he has moved back to outside linebacker, where he is most comfortable. Last night’s performance was a huge step forward.

Finally, Jerry Kramer’s NFL legacy is about more than the famous Ice Bowl block on New Year’s Eve 50 years ago. The former Idaho Vandal great officially gets his spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame tomorrow. And what’s the block without another story from Kramer? In an ABC News piece, he said he “sheepishly” suggested to Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi that they call “31 wedge,” the play that sprung Bart Starr into the end zone to beat the Dallas Cowboys. That led to the Packers’ second straight Super Bowl title. Now, a different type of ring awaits Kramer. Meanwhile, Kramer’s take on Terrell Owens’ refusal to appear at the ceremony in Canton is surprising—but then again, it’s not. “If anyone knows how Terrell feels, it’s me,” said Kramer yesterday on the DA Show on CBS Sports Radio and KTIK.

The Boise Hawks are trying to get things straightened out. They had lost seven of their previous eight games before picking up a 4-2 win at Everett last night. The Hawks got a solid start from Justin Valdespina, who went five innings and scattered three hits, giving up just an unearned run to stem the tide. Valdespina improved to 2-1 on the season and lowered his ERA to 1.80. The Hawks hope they’re out of the woods. They ran into a similar quagmire about this time last year, dropping 10 in a row in late July.

This Day In Sports…August 3, 2011:

The name “Humanitarian” disappears from Boise’s bowl game for good, as the organization announces a six-year deal with the Idaho Potato Commission to rename the game the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The game was known as the Humanitarian Bowl for 11 of its 14 previous seasons, the only exception being the MPC Computers Bowl moniker from 2004-06. Despite Boise State’s move to the Mountain West that year, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl would remain affiliated with the WAC for two more seasons.

(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.)