The past two weeks we’ve gone from top 25’s to point spreads—and now to all-conference teams. Athlon Sports has released its preseason All-Mountain West team, and Boise State landed seven players on the first unit, three more than the next most-honored squad. Athlon expects Brett Rypien to return to first-team status at quarterback this year and also tabs offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland and running back Alexander Mattison on offense (although it calls Mattison “AP,” which I assume means “all-purpose”). Like Rypien, Athlon sees David Moa back on the first-team in 2018. Moa is joined on the defensive side by defensive end Curtis Weaver, cornerback Tyler Horton and safety Kekoa Nawahine. On special teams, Avery Williams gets the nod on punt returns.
Every school in the Mountain West is saying this guy or that guy should have been on Athlon’s list. Boise State certainly can’t feel slighted. But I see one player on the second team who I expect to crack the real all-conference team at the end of the season. Defensive end Jabril Frazier had his way with the offensive opposition in the Broncos’ spring game last month, picking up where he left off in December. He recovered Boise State’s most-televised forced fumble of the year, the one knocked loose by Leighton Vander Esch against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl. That led to the Broncos’ second touchdown of the day three plays later. Frazier recorded 17 of his 25 tackles in the second half of the season and seems poised for a big burst as a senior.
There’s a lot more Boise State stuff going on at the Dallas Cowboys OTAs beyond Leighton Vander Esch and Cedrick Wilson, of course. DeMarcus Lawrence is a center of attention after getting the Cowboys’ franchise tag back in early March. Some players dread that contractual tag, but Lawrence is embracing it, signing the deal hours after it was offered. And why not? He’d like a long-term contract, but if he and the Cowboys don’t work out a multi-year extension by July 16, Lawrence will be, uh, forced to play the 2018 season for $17.1 million—darn the luck. Then all he’d have to do is produce an All-Pro campaign, and then collect buckets of money on the open market. “I feel like they have given me the opportunity to really break the bank next year,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence is coming off a career year in 2017, his fourth in the NFL. He had a team-leading 14.5 sacks, more than double the second-best guy, David Irving, who had seven. Lawrence’s sack number was also tied for second in the NFL last season. What Dallas likes most is his 14.5 sacks led to 160 yards in losses for opponents. Lawrence also logged 52 quarterback pressures, more than the next two Cowboys combined—fellow former Bronco Tyrone Crawford with 26 and Maliek Collins with 25. Lawrence knows what a reprise of last season would mean for his financial well-being. “It’s not more pressure,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Every year you’ve got to go back to that transition of getting better every year.
Then there’s Kellen Moore, who’s getting on-field work in his new role as Dallas quarterbacks coach. Dak Prescott’s performance this season will fall squarely on the former Boise State great’s shoulders—and a lot of improvement is expected. It’s an interesting Bronco-Vandal dynamic in Big D. Moore is working alongside tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier, who was the 1993 Walter Payton Award winner for Idaho. Nussmeier had been the offensive coordinator at Florida the past three seasons. He bolted for the Cowboys in February, just days after agreeing to go to LSU as O-coordinator. In Dallas, Nussmeier has a fellow ex-Vandal quarterback as his immediate supervisor, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Nussmeier was the Rams QB coach in 2006-07 when Linehan was the head coach.
The Stanley Cup Final (I’ve always called it “Finals”) opens Monday night when the Washington Capitals face the (name your synonym for “amazing”) Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas. Not only has former Idaho Steelhead Jay Beagle made the championship round, scoring two goals with four assists for the Capitals in 18 playoff games, one-time Steelies goalie Maxime Lagace has, too. Lagace has been backing up Golden Knights stalwart Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes, seeing no postseason action yet. Lagace, a 6-2 Canadian rookie, appeared in 16 regular season games, 14 of them starts in relief of Fleury, going 6-7 with a 3.91 goals-against average.
Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich is back up with San Francisco, but this latest stay with the Giants may be tenuous. It’s been an uncomfortable season so far for Osich, who’s in his fourth year in the bigs. He began with a bloated 8.11 ERA in 11 April appearances before landing on the disabled list with a hip injury. When Osich came off the DL, he was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento. He was called back up Tuesday and threw the final two innings of an 11-2 rout at the hands of the Houston Astros that night, giving up two runs. Now his ERA is 8.25. It’s a tough deal for Osich, who had been solid for the Giants during spring training.
Other various and sundry notes: Clare O’Brien is the first Boise State athlete to qualify for nationals at the NCAA West Preliminary Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Sacramento. O’Brien finished ninth in the 10,000-meters last night. Bronco star Allie Ostrander hits the track for the first time tonight as the favorite in the quarterfinals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase. On the LPGA Tour, former Bishop Kelly golfer Maddie Sheils had an impressive Thursday. Sheils fired a three-under 69 in the first round of the LPGA Volvik Championship in Ann Arbor, MI, and is tied for 18th going into the second round. And at the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor, MI, Quail Hollow teaching pro Jim Empey carded a two-under 69 yesterday and is tied for 24th, three shots off the pace.
This Day In Sports…May 25, 1935:
Babe Ruth pops up on this feature often at this time of the year—and he does again today. Ruth, playing for the Boston Braves, hits three home runs in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. They were the last homers Ruth would ever hit—numbers 712, 713 and 714. The Babe retired from baseball a week later. Exactly 16 years later, Willie Mays made his major league debut for the New York Giants, going 0-for-5.
(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.)