One coach’s blueprint for Bronco DBs

The name Ashley Ambrose should carry a little more weight now in the Boise State defensive backs room—and on the recruiting trial. Ambrose, the Broncos’ cornerbacks coach, already had a pedigree as a 13-year NFL veteran. That definitely gets players’ attention. Now, he’s on the National Football Foundation’s 2018 ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame. Ambrose is one of 98 players and 31 coaches from the non-FBS ranks to be nominated. Obviously it’s tough to make it with those numbers, but it’s an honor to be chosen for the ballot. Ambrose was a first-team All-America defensive back at FCS Mississippi Valley State in 1991.

Credibility matters to young players. Ambrose has it. Remember that he amassed 42 interceptions during his NFL career, including three pick-sixes. That’s the irony going into Boise State’s 2017 season. With Ambrose right now, it’s “do as I did.” The Broncos collected just seven interceptions as a team last season, the fewest in school history. That was priority No. 1 for Ambrose’s group in spring football.

Jake Plummer is also on the ballot for the second straight year as a nod to his career at Arizona State. The Capital High grad, who happens to be in Boise now for a skills camp tomorrow at Bishop Kelly, is among 75 players and six coaches from the FBS to be nominated. Plummer quarterbacked the Sun Devils to the 1997 Rose Bowl—and within a whisker of an undefeated season. He was a first-team All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year. Plummer, of course, went on to a 10-year NFL run with the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos. He retired at the tender age of 32. It’s already been 10 years since Plummer walked away from the game.

Idaho State has two alums on the ballot, wide receiver Ed “The Flea” Bell and punter Case deBruijn. Bell was a first-team All-American in 1969, when he made 96 catches for 1,522 yards and 20 touchdowns (the latter two remain ISU single-season records). Those would be monster numbers today—back then they were unthinkable. Bell is still the Bengals’ career leader in touchdown receptions with 30. He went on to catch passes from Joe Namath as a New York Jet. deBruijn was a first-team All-American in 1981, Idaho State’s Division I-AA national championship season, when he averaged 45.9 yards per punt. That’s still the third-best all-time mark in the FCS.

I was also interested to see Dave Dickenson on the ballot. As a quarterback at Montana, Dickenson was a big thorn in Boise State’s side—except when the Broncos got to him in a big way in a 38-14 win on the blue turf in 1994. The Grizzlies were No. 1 in Division I-AA at the time; that game helped propel Boise State into a run to the national championship game. Dickenson won the Walter Payton Award a year later, when it was the Griz that marched to the national title game (and won it). He was a three-time Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year who went on to a long career in the CFL. Dickenson is currently head coach of the Calgary Stampeders.

There’s about to be another blue carpet in college football, as Luther College in Iowa has received permission from Boise State to install blue turf on its football field. Luther will be the first NCAA Division III school to play on blue, with the surface expected to be installed in the school’s Carlson Stadium this summer. Boise State currently has the trademark and licensing rights to non-green turf fields—the university didn’t charge Luther anything for making the move. My favorite blue field outside Boise is one I mentioned last Friday, at Barrow High School in Alaska, right on the shores of the icy Arctic.

The angle on Sam McCaskill in Eugene is “home town boy,” as he hails from Sheldon High School in that city. The Eugene Register-Guard’s Steve Mims ran a profile on McCaskill this week, talking about the former Boise State star’s shot with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent. “McCaskill said his transition from college to pro football reminds him of the move from Sheldon to Boise State, which did not offer him a scholarship until the final weekend before signing day,” writes Mims. “The Vikings first contacted McCaskill a few days before the draft to say he was on their board.”

Did you know that McCaskill always fancied himself as a linebacker in high school? He lobbied endlessly for a move to LB at Sheldon. McCaskill’s glad coaches were adamant that he stay at defensive end. “The thing that gets me most excited is I don’t feel like I’ve reached my full potential yet,” McCaskill told Mims. “That’s a big part of the reason why I want to be on an NFL roster. It’s not for the money or anything like that, I want to see the best version of a football player that I can be.”

Graham DeLaet turned in an uneven first round to open the Memorial Tournament yesterday in Muirfield Village, OH. DeLaet recorded two bogeys on the front nine and two on the back. Coupled with three birdies, the former Boise State star shot a one-over 73 and is tied for 48th. DeLaet is eight shots off the lead. He’ll be more concerned today with making the cut. Bishop Kelly grad Madeleine Sheils tees off today in the Shoprite LPGA Classic, her fourth LPGA event in this, her rookie year. Last week Sheils earned her first-ever paycheck on the big tour, taking home $2,721 with a 65th-place finish at the LPGA Volvik Championship.

This Day In Sports…June 2, 1925:

New York Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp has a headache. Lou Gehrig, a 21-year-old phenom, got the nod to replace Pipp in the starting lineup and helped the Yanks beat the Washington Senators, 8-5. Gehrig, of course, would not miss another game until 1939—playing in 2,130 consecutive contests, an iron man streak that would stand until it was eclipsed by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995.

(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.)