Head games ahead of the draft?

Mike Florio of NBCSports.com has gone “counterpoint” on these so-called concerns over Jay Ajayi’s knee going into the NFL Draft next week. The original report talked about what may have come out of the NFL Combine medical re-check in Indianapolis. Never mind that it was almost two months after the fact—and that Ajayi didn’t even attend the medical re-check (nor was he asked to). “If those reports originate from team visits, keep in mind that very few teams engage in extensive medical examinations during those sessions,” Florio writes.

Florio reminds everyone that the former Boise State star’s ACL tear was nearly four years ago and points out that in 2014, Ajayi became the first player in FBS history to rush for more than 1,800 yards and to generate more than 500 receiving yards in one season. “That’s the most accurate rule of thumb about the pre-draft lying season,” writes Florio. “Teams that love a player will spread bad information about him so that he’ll fall to them. Teams that hate a player will pump him up, in the hopes that some sucker out there burns a pick on a player, pushing more viable candidates down the board.” Florio’s preachin’ to the choir here.

Here’s a tweet I’ve been waiting for from the Boise State recruiting Twitter feed: “Congrats to RS Frosh LB Leighton Vander Esch who was put on scholarship 2day by Coach Harsin.” In February of last year I wrote this about the walk-on from Salmon River High in Riggins: “Prediction: he’ll earn a scholarship before too terribly long.” Bingo. Vander Esch made some plays in the Blue & Orange Game two weeks ago—and all he did was make plays at Salmon River. He led the Savages to a 12-0 football season and a second straight 1A Division II state championship in 2013, scoring eight touchdowns in the title game. Just over three months later, Vander Esch put up a state tournament division-record 37 points in the championship game as Salmon River won the basketball crown. He’s a classic Bronco walk-on story.

Idaho coach Paul Petrino has been hammering home the positive this spring, and he’s anxious to share that with Vandal fans as the annual Silver & Gold Game unfolds tonight in the Kibbie Dome. “It’s been a really good spring,” Petrino said after UI’s third scrimmage Monday. “It’s been by far the best we’ve played since I’ve been here.” He echoed that yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. “We’re way better—we’re at a different level than we’ve been,” he said. Petrino zeroes in one primary goal for the 2015 season: bowl-eligibility. The Vandals have logged losing seasons in 14 of the past 15 years. The exception was in 2009, when they went 8-5, capped by a thrilling 43-42 win over Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl.

The College of Idaho is into the second half of its spring drills, with the Purple & Gold Game set for a week from tomorrow. Two-sport athletes are common at the NAIA level, and the Coyotes have five of them doubling between football and other sports. Four of them are also track and field athletes and are splitting time with football this spring. The fifth is backup quarterback Jake Hennessey, the Mountain Home product who’s also a key component of the Yotes baseball team. Hennessey has not strayed from the diamond this spring—he’s batting .277 as the Yotes head for Menlo College this weekend—but he’s set to rejoin the football squad this summer and give chase to starting quarterback Teejay Gordon. Also in the QB mix are J.J. Hyde, a transfer from Utah, and A.J. Martin, an Idaho Falls High graduate who redshirted last year.

Wade MacLeod has been money for the Idaho Steelheads all season long, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be in Games 4 and 5 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs opening-round series this weekend against Utah in CenturyLink Arena. MacLeod’s numbers back that up, as does his status as an All-ECHL forward. He was the second-leading scorer in the 28-team ECHL this season with 80 points (38 goals, 42 assists). MacLeod has stayed that course, scoring four goals in the first three games of the series against the Grizzlies, helping the Steelies to a two games-to-one lead. He says he’s had a feeling about this team since October. “Right after training camp we went on (an 11-3-1) start,” MacLeod said yesterday on the Bob & Chris Show. “I thought, ‘hey, we could win it all.’”

Troy Merritt wasn’t kidding when he said Monday on Idaho SportsTalk that “every week is a clean slate” on the PGA Tour. Unfortunately. Four days after finishing third at the RBC Heritage, the former Boise State star shot a one-under 71 and is tied for 75th, seven strokes off the lead after the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Merritt was in good shape until bogeys on Nos. 13 and 15.

Campus cruising: the Boise State men’s tennis team has suddenly caught fire. The Broncos’ roll continued in the first round of the Mountain West Championships in Albuquerque yesterday with a 4-0 blanking of Fresno State. Next up is host and top-seeded New Mexico in the quarterfinals. A victory over the Lobos would be something. In its second year of existence the Boise State women’s sand volleyball team has its first-ever home matches today, hosting Oregon and No. 10 Arizona (with the Ducks and Wildcats meeting in between). It’s not exactly going to be a beach day, unless you’re a fan of the Oregon Coast. In that case, advantage Ducks. And the BSU women’s softball team entertains Colorado State in a three-game series this weekend at Dona Larsen Park. The Broncos have lost 23 of their last 26 games dating back to the end of February.

Some items out of the Mountain West: Christian Wood is joining Rashad Vaughn in leaving UNLV early to enter the NBA Draft. At least Wood, the 6-11 forward, made it through his sophomore season. Many expect him to be a late first-rounder. Here’s hoping he plays harder than he did most of the time as a Rebel. Meanwhile, Winston Shepard has announced he is staying at San Diego State for his senior year. And Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes is poised to take the same job at Pitt, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Barnes has been at USU the past seven years and helped the Aggies’surging program make the transition to the Mountain West. He’s also been part of the NCAA men’s basketball committee, serving as its chairman this past season.

Tomorrow night at the Steuckle Sky Center, a concept in the works for more than two decades comes to fruition with the Idaho Youth Sports Commission Kickoff Dinner & Auction. According to the IYSC, Boise State team physician Dr. George Wade and Boise YMCA Executive Director Jim Everett began a movement more than 20 years ago to shift away from the win-at-all-cost mindset and closer to the significant other benefits sports participation offers. Finally in 2013, 13 well-known athletes, coaches, and educators came together to discuss the critical issues in modern youth sports culture. The result was the Idaho Youth Sports Commission, and tomorrow night is a big step in the process.

One of the issues is the specialization that immerses kids in one sport almost every week of the year. Keynote speaker Jake Plummer will address the need for variety—and for fun. Plummer talked in a Statesman story yesterday about the fun he had playing little league baseball on a team coached by Dale Harsin, Bryan’s dad. Winning the Little League majors championship was just a byproduct. Dale told me the team, which included Bryan, was beset by cliques at the beginning of that season. He sat the kids down and told them they weren’t going to have any kind of success until they started getting along, enjoying each other, and rooting on their teammates. Safe to say Bryan has carried that lesson with him.

This Day In Sports…April 24, 1967:

The Philadelphia 76ers defeat the San Francisco Warriors, 125-122, to win the NBA championship in six games. The Sixers went down as one of the greatest teams in NBA history, finishing the regular season at 68-13. They were led by Wilt Chamberlain, who had moved with the Warriors from Philly to San Francisco five years earlier. Chamberlain was not as loved by the Bay as in the City of Brotherly Love, and he was traded to the 76ers mid-season in 1965.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)