No surprise that the leading receiver in the Mountain West last season is a returnee on the watch list for this season’s Biletnikoff Award. That, of course, is Boise State’s Thomas Sperbeck, who tied the Bronco single-season record with 88 catches and smashed the season receiving yardage mark with 1,412. He also had the top single-game performance in the country last fall with 20 catches and 281 yards in the loss to New Mexico. Sperbeck was saddled with expectations going into last year with a Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP award on his shelf, and he followed through. The expectations are even higher this season for the senior from Carmichael, CA—with watch lists and a spot in SI.com’s top 100 players, etc. But there aren’t many guys as level-headed as Sperbeck. All will be well.
Here’s a watch list that’s as important as any. Boise State tight end Jake Roh is a nominee for the Allstate Good Works Team, which recognizes a select group of college football players “who have made a commitment to service and enriching the lives of others.” Roh has started 20 of his 27 career games for the Broncos and has 68 catches for 765 yards and three touchdowns. Off the field he has donated his time to the Treasure Valley community through volunteer efforts with Optimist Youth Football, St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital and the Boise Rescue Mission-City of Lights. Shane Williams-Rhodes was a nominee for the Good Works Team a year ago. This is the 25th year of the award.
The more you read about Tanner Mangum, the more you think he’ll be trotting out for the first snap when BYU visits Boise State on the blue turf in October. Dick Harmon of the Deseret News points out what a difference 12 months have made for the former Eagle High star. “This time a year ago, Tanner was just getting his stomach back to chowing down American food after spending two years (on an LDS mission) in Chile,” writes Harmon.” His body wasn’t ready for football. He had no idea he’d end up playing every game in BYU’s 2015 season. This time, he’s put on lean muscle. His weight is up and his body fat is down. He’s got definition in his body. His legs are trained, his reflexes tuned. He has a vision of what it takes after he helped save victories at Nebraska and with Boise State with spectacular highlight throws.”
Air Force is celebrating a service academy policy shift announced this week that it feels could be a game-changer in recruiting. Cadets at Air Force, Army and Navy will now be able to pursue professional sports immediately after graduation instead of waiting for two years. “It’s huge,” two Falcons football assistants told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “It immediately levels the playing field,” said another. Until now, a pro career was almost impossible for service academy athletes. You’ll recall Roger Staubach had to serve in the Navy for four years before he could start his career with the Dallas Cowboys. Navy’s Keenan Reynolds opened the door after he was drafted in the fifth round by Baltimore this spring. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus wanted Reynolds to have his NFL shot—and now many more will.
After riding the pine a lot the past week, James Webb III got back in the flow last night in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League. Webb had his best game yet, starting and playing 27 minutes and scoring 14 points in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 108-71 rout of the D-League Select team. He went 4-for-9 from the field and nailed three of his four attempts from beyond the arc. Webb also had six rebounds.
This has not been the best summer of Michael Zimmerman’s life. The Boise Hawks starter dropped to 0-6 on the season as Vancouver nicked him for five first-inning runs in an eventual 9-3 Canadians victory. Zimmerman’s ERA is now 7.88. The Hawks out-hit Vancouver 12-6 with five players logging multi-hit games, but they had just the three runs to show for it. On the heels of Monday night’s doubleheader sweep of Salem-Keizer, it was a disappointing start to Boise’s five-game series with the Canadians. The Hawks are now 9-17.
Boise High grad James Hoyt appeared in the Triple-A All-Star Game last night for the Pacific Coast League All-Stars. The Fresno Grizzlies closer allowed two hits while getting the final out in the eighth, with the International League going on to a 4-2 victory. Hoyt should be this close (visualize fingers a millimeter apart) to a call-up with the Houston Astros. The 6-6 righthander leads Triple-A in saves, converting 22 of 25 save opportunities, and he boasts an ERA of 1.87.
Now that his berth in the Summer Olympics is secured, Graham DeLaet can get the ramp-up going when he tees off in the Barbasol Championship today in Auburn, AL. It will be the former Boise State star’s first stroke-play tournament since late May when anxiety forced him to withdraw before the Memorial Tournament (he finished 29th last week at the Barracuda Championship on a points system). The spot on Team Canada should rejuvenate DeLaet. Troy Merritt’s European jaunt is over—no British Open—and he’s entered in the Barbasol, as is Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge.
The 30th Boise Twilight Criterium Saturday night will serve as an Olympic send-off for Kristin Armstrong. With the Rio Summer Games three weeks away, Armstrong has elected to utilize the Twilight Criterium as a tuneup. She decided not to race in the event four years ago but did compete in 2008 before leaving for The Beijing Olympics. Race director Mike Cooley noted on Sunday Sports Extra this week that this will probably be the last time Armstrong ever races locally. By the way, there was some uneasiness for Armstrong this week when U.S. time trials champ Carmen Small was granted an arbitration hearing by USA Cycling. Small believes she was unfairly left off the U.S. team in place of Armstrong. But an arbitrator ruled in favor of Boise’s two-time Olympic gold medalist yesterday.
It’s official now—Boise’s Heather Cox is working for NBC Sports. The network made the announcement yesterday. After 22 years at ESPN, Cox will debut as a full-time NBC reporter when she works volleyball at the Rio Olympics. She freelanced as a reporter for beach volleyball for NBC at the previous three Summer Olympics. Cox will also serve as sideline reporter for NFL Thursday Night Football and will work selected events on the Golf Channel. At ESPN she was the lead reporter on ABC’s college football, covering the primetime Saturday game and the last four national championship games. Cox was also prominent on ESPN’s NBA coverage.
This Day In Sports…July 14, 1996, 20 years ago today:
Former Boise State star Chris Childs signs a six-year, $24 million free agent contract with the New York Knicks. Childs had spent the previous two seasons with the New Jersey Nets—he averaged seven assists and almost 13 points a game for the Nets in 1995-96. That would end up being his best season in a nine-year NBA career, the longest by far by any former Bronco.
(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.)