Bryan Harsin seems really entrenched at Boise State and in the city of Boise. After all, he grew up here, starred at Capital High, played college ball for the Broncos and is going into his fifth season as coach of his alma mater. But one more 10-win season may up the ante on the attention he gets from Power 5 schools. Should Harsin ever finally be lured away, it’s becoming apparent that there might not be a need to break up the coaching tree that has grown at Boise State the last 20 years. Veteran college football writer Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports has named Bronco defensive coordinator Andy Avalos the nation’s top Group of 5 assistant coach. Now it’s a matter of hanging onto Avalos.
Since we last saw him in pads, rumbling 92 yards with a pick-six in the 2004 Liberty Bowl, Avalos has honed his coaching skills. He began as an assistant at his high school alma mater in Corona, CA, before getting a shot as a graduate assistant at Colorado under former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins in 2006. Then came stops at Nebraska-Kearney and Sacramento State, but his star has primarily risen at his college alma mater since being hired as defensive line coach by Chris Petersen in 2012. Avalos is going into his seventh season on the Bronco staff and third as Bronco D-coordinator. His future is intriguing.
Thamel, by the way, also listed 20 Power 5 assistants primed for head coaching gigs, and two are former Boise State staffers. Jimmy Lake, the co-defensive coordinator at Washington with Boise State alum Pete Kwiatkowski, will call the Huskies’ defense for the first time this season. Thamel calls it “the last box to check on a dynamic résumé that spans through three NFL stints, Boise State and now Washington. He has the recruiting chops, presence and personality to crush a job interview. A big season for the Huskies could quicken his ascent.” Thamel also points to one-time Bronco offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz, now at North Carolina State. “(Drinkwitz) got some Sun Belt looks last year, but his most realistic outlook is moving up within the Group of Five,” writes Thamel.
Boise State, as you know, was not part of Sports Illustrated’s Preseason Top 25 this year. But hey, the Broncos are in ESPN The Magazine’s College Football Issue. The Broncos are No. 19, with Alexander Mattison tabbed as the player to “keep an eye on,” and the September 15 Oklahoma State game the one for which you should “mark your calendar.” For every Top 25 team, ESPN has a “Sabanmetrics” note. For Boise State: “Receivers coach Eric Kiesau was an offensive analyst at Alabama in 2015, working closely with Lane Kiffin and helping the Tide install the no-huddle offense.” Whatever happened to that? ESPN calls Boise State “this year’s UCF,” adding that “the Broncos have a shot at a New Year’s Six berth—and a make-believe national title.” One that they would never claim.
I don’t know what kind of stamp of approval this is in the eyes of the Dallas Cowboys. But estranged wide receiver Dez Bryant watched his former team’s preseason opener at San Francisco on TV last Thursday and tweeted, “55 athletic. Very smart patient instinctive player. Cowboys defense look strong.” Well, “55” is former Boise State star Leighton Vander Esch, of course. For his part, Vander Esch professed to be very comfortable in his first taste of NFL action. “To be honest, not very much,” he said when asked if noticed a difference in the speed of the game compared to college. “There’s a couple times when it comes up on you quick, but for the most part, the speed wasn’t very much of a difference.”
One former Bronco running back in the NFL doesn’t have to wonder where he’ll be come Labor Day weekend. Two others do. Jay Ajayi had four courtesy carries for 20 yards in Philadelphia’s preseason opener. His long run was 22 yards, so the other three attempts weren’t pretty—but Ajayi’s place with the Eagles is secure. Doug Martin received only one carry for three yards in his Oakland debut against Detroit. Speculation is that Martin’s status as the Raiders’ No. 2 running back behind Marshawn Lynch is solid, but undrafted rookie Chris Warren III was impressive with 86 yards on 13 totes. And Jeremy McNichols just seems to be stuck down the depth chart with the 49ers. He had three carries for 15 yards and a touchdown versus Dallas, but it all came in the fourth quarter against other camp bodies.
A lot has changed for Idaho football going into the 2018 season, but one thing hasn’t: those marathon scrimmages. The Vandals got in 157 plays in the first scrimmage of fall camp in the Kibble Dome Saturday, and quarterback Mason Petrino was in on most of them. Sophomore Colton Richardson has been out with an injured ankle, so Petrino played all but two series. According to the Spokesman-Review, players to watch for Idaho include sophomore Charles Akanno, a 6-1, 245-pound linebacker who dominated for the defense in Saturday’s session, and Cutrell Haywood, a redshirt freshman wide receiver who scored four touchdowns in five catches on the day.
Spokane broke open a scoreless pitchers’ duel last night at Memorial Stadium with a run in the top of the sixth inning, but the Boise Hawks scored four in the sixth and three in the eighth to win going away, 7-1. Willie McIver cemented it for the Hawks with a three-run homer in the eighth. In the majors last night, David Bote produced the biggest single moment by a former Boise Hawk this season. Bote, who’s been filling in at third base for the Chicago Cubs in place of injured ex-Hawk Kris Bryant, blasted a pinch-hit walk-off grand slam at Wrigley Field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, rallying the Cubs from a 3-0 deficit for a stunning 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals. Bote is hitting .329 with three homers and 18 RBIs as a rookie. He played the entire 2013 season with the Hawks.
This Day In Sports…August 13, 2008, 10 years ago today:
Kristin Armstrong becomes Boise’s first-ever Olympic gold medalist and only the second American ever to take a gold in women’s cycling when she wins the time trial in Beijing by 24 seconds over Britain’s Emma Pooley. Armstrong had been a promising triathlete before osteoarthritis forced her to give up running in 2001. She switched to cycling, first trying the hometown HP Women’s Challenge in 2002, finishing seventh. Armstrong had won the world championship in the time trial in 2006. She won the world title again in 2009—then retired—then began an amazing comeback that produced two more Olympic golds.
(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.)