Phil Steele’s encyclopedia is out

It’s almost as big as an old phone book (remember those?). It won’t win any awards for graphic design. It’s all about the content—352 pages of it. Of course, it’s Phil Steele’s 2018 College Football Preview. We won’t get through it all in one sitting, but here are some basics. Steele ranks Boise State No. 14 in the country. “This is (Bryan) Harsin’s best team yet, with 10 returning starters on defense and QB Brett Rypien,” writes Steele. “Boise is my clear-cut favorite to win the MW, and the Broncos are my top-rated Group of 5 team.” As such, Steele has the Broncos earning a New Year’s Six bowl berth after a Mountain West championship and projects them to face Texas in the Fiesta Bowl.

Steele is high on quarterback Brett Rypien. He ranks the Broncos’ QB unit No. 15 at that position and seems to think Rypien’s senior year will be a lot more like his freshman and sophomore seasons than his junior year. Steele also likes Brett’s heritage: “Rypien broke all of Kellen Moore’s Washington HS passing records.” (Um, except maybe Kellen’s 173 career touchdown passes). At any rate, Rypien could use the backing of an improved ground game. Steele reminds us that while Rypien was struggling last September, “Boise had just 468 rush yards through the first four games.” And Brett will need some tight end help. With Jake Roh and Alec Dhaenens gone, returning tight ends had just four catches last year.

The ramp-up lists continue at The latest: “The most exciting player for each Top 25 team.” Who is it for No. 21 Boise State? STUD end Curtis Weaver. It’s hard to argue that. “Leighton Vander Esch, the first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in April, generated all the headlines last season on a rugged Boise State defense,” writes Jake Trotter. “But Weaver was a massive part of the Broncos’ success as well. A freshman All-American in 2017, Weaver will look to lead the Mountain West in sacks again.” Weaver was hot right out of the gate for the Broncos last September, with a momentum-turning sack in Game 1 against Troy and the scoop-and-score in Game 2 at Washington State. And he sustained that success.

As an independent, BYU football can hold its Media Day anytime it wants. Last Friday was it for the Cougars this year, as they try to start the rebound from their first nine-loss season since 1955. Eagle High grad Tanner Mangum started for BYU until he was lost for the season in November with a ruptured Achilles tendon—which is kind of what that 4-9 campaign felt like. This year there’s a new offensive coordinator and new quarterbacks coach. “I understand I have to earn that right to be the starting quarterback,” Mangum said. On the surface, the Cougars appear to have a four-way QB battle going. But ironically, it’s former Boise State commit Zach Wilson, the true freshman, that is Mangum’s primary competition going into fall camp. And a lot of folks like Wilson’s chances.

Yes, does “Way Too Early Top 25” lists for college basketball, too. And Myron Medcalf slots Nevada at No. 6 going into the 2018-19 season. Medcalf rolls through some of the good things that have happened for the Wolf Pack since the end of last season, finishing with this: “The return of the Martin twins? The best news. They’re a pair of 6-foot-7 wings who chose to come back to pursue a national championship and become legends in Nevada basketball history.” Medcalf has bought in. “Nevada might be the most exciting team in America next season,” he writes. The Pack has solved its overboard scholarship situation. Josh Hall, who hit the game-winning bucket to cap the historic 22-point comeback against Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament, has announced he is transferring to Missouri State.

As you might guess, there’s been a lot written about Chandler Hutchison since he became Boise State’s first-ever first-round NBA Draft pick last Thursday. The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson talked to former Bronco assistant Phil Beckner, the guy credited with developing Hutchison the past two years, in an effort to find out what makes the new Chicago Bull tick. “Out of all the players I’ve worked with, he improved at a rate quicker than any of them,” said Beckner, who also set the table for Damian Lillard’s stardom in Portland while working at Weber State. “Chandler let me hold him accountable. He let me push him really, really hard,” Beckner said, pointing out that Hutchison saw that work first-hand with Lillard after practicing with the Blazers star the past two summers. “He stuck it out and found a way to have success.”

Hutchison’s first Chicago press conference was yesterday, and he sold himself to the Bulls media. “Versatility,’’ said the former Boise State star when asked what he plans to bring to the system. “I don’t do just one thing where you can just plug me into that spot and just know I’m going to be great at that one thing. I think I have a lot of different weapons and I’m useful in a lot of different situations. I see that being really valuable in the NBA.’’ Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg weighed in, touting Hutchison as a ball-handler who can rebound and play with pace. “The thing that impressed me most about his game was the ability to get the ball off the defensive glass and push it down the floor, and facilitate offense,’’ Hoiberg said of Hutchison. “He had more coast-to-coast plays that I think anybody else in this draft.’’

The Boise Hawks used a five-run third inning to complete a three-game sweep of the Eugene Emeralds last night, winning 7-2 at PK Park. Hawks starter Pearson McMahan threw five innings and allowed two hits and both Eugene runs, surviving five walks to pick up his first win. With the victory, Boise moves back over the .500 mark at 6-5. The Hawks return to Memorial Stadium tonight to begin a three-game series against the Hillsboro Hops.

Duane Underwood Jr. Is the latest former Boise Hawk to make the bigs. Underwood, called up from Triple-A Iowa by the Chicago Cubs, got the start last night against L.A. at Dodger Stadium. He went four innings and allowed just two hits and one run, on a solo homer by Enrique Hernandez, in a 2-1 Cubs loss. It’s been a long journey for the 23-year-old Underwood, a second-round draft pick of the Cubs in 2012. He went 3-4 with a 4.97 ERA in 14 appearances (10 starts) for Boise back in 2013. Underwood is the third ex-Hawk to make his debut this year, joining fellow Cub David Bote and rising Yankees star Gleyber Torres.

This Day In Sports…June 26, 2003, 15 years ago today:

Wesley Moodie, the first Boise State tennis player ever to reach the main draw of Wimbledon, wins his second round match in four sets over Frederic Niemeyer of Canada. The 24-year-old South African had beaten Switzerland’s Marc Rosset in the first round—Moodie would finally be ousted in the round of 32 by 13th-seeded Sebastian Grosjean of France in four sets. Moodie’s specialty was doubles, though, and he would win the 2005 Wimbledon men’s doubles championship with playing partner Stephen Huss of Australia.

(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.)