As far as standouts in Boise State’s spring game go, there are the obvious ones and the not-so-obvious ones. We said last week it’s been Ashton Jeanty’s spring to shine, and it sure was Jeanty’s spring game to shine. The sophomore running back toyed with the Broncos defense, going to the house on a 62-yard run the first time he touched the ball and scoring on a 20-yarder on the second. And that was it for his rushing stats. Jeanty also had a 75-yard TD reception. Not as obvious was Wisconsin transfer Titus Toler, who led the defense in tackles, including a sack and another tackle-for-loss. The senior safety put his hat in the ring for a starting job. If you were paying attention, this guy may have been more on the obvious side. Cornerback is a position of need, and Jaylen Clark registered three pass breakups on the day.
THE WIDE RECEIVERS ROOM DID NOT DISAPPOINT
There weren’t many doubts about Boise State’s wide receivers going into the game, and it was the same coming out. The group was solid Saturday. On the second possession of the day, the “receiver to watch,” Prince Strachan, pulled in a 41-yarder. Strachan had another 15-yard grab later on. Latrell Caples and Stefan Cobbs remain the leaders of the pack. Caples made a 38-yard circus catch and had a touchdown among his three receptions for 56 yards. Cobbs produced a steady four catches for 46 yards. Shea Whiting actually had the most grabs with five. Part of the reason for the showing: the backup quarterbacks did not disappoint, either. It was Maddux Madsen who connected with Strachan on the early deep ball. Madsen was 8-of-10 for 97 yards and a TD, and true freshman C.J. Tiller was 5-of-7 for 46 yards.
THE PROGRAM’S FOUNDATION
There was an outstanding turnout for the reunion of Boise State 1968-79 football teams last weekend, a major reach-out by the Broncos to keep the pioneers of their program engaged. These were the guys who built the fan base in the 1970s with four Big Sky championships, and they appreciated being back. The best conversation I had was with Jim McMillan, the quarterback who came out of Vallivue High to become an All-American in the early 70s—and become the first and only Bronco to have his number retired. McMillan is as humble as they come and is still slightly embarrassed about the jersey thing. He mentions Kellen Moore as one of the obvious reasons. Why isn’t No. 11 retired? McMillan is now retired and living in Caldwell, and he’s immensely proud of what the Boise State program has become.
BRONCOS STILL ON BAIR’S LIST
Burley High star Gatlin Bair is a national thing in recruiting. The Athletic’s Matt Olson did a full feature on him yesterday. Key takeaways: Bair is the fastest prospect in the country, he’s up to a No. 40 ranking nationally for 2024, and despite a flood of new interest, he’s sticking with the schools that have been with him from the start. NIL will play a part, but it’s not Bair’s priority. “The more the bigger schools come in, the more you just can’t get away from it,” Burley coach Cameron Andersen said. “Gatlin legitimately has Boise State as one of his top schools right now. The response from bigger schools is, ‘Well, he’s not going to Boise State because they’re not gonna be able to afford him.’” That might be true. On the other hand, it’s almost like Bair gets mad anytime people diss the Broncos’ chances. He was at the spring game last Saturday.
U-DUB WILL BE DAUNTING
Now that spring football is in the books, we can look ahead to the Broncos’ opener at Washington on Labor Day weekend. Their last game against the Huskies was no walk in the park—the 38-7 loss in the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl in Chris Petersen’s final game as head coach. How much tougher could this year’s matchup be? A lot tougher, at least on paper. Here’s what ESPN.com’s Bill Connelly has on his paper. The No. 2 quarterback going into the 2023 season? Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. Writes Connelly: “A promising career at Indiana seemed to have lost its promise. But Penix got healthy and moved to Washington to reunite with coach Kalen DeBoer, his 2019 offensive coordinator at IU. It was as if the two had never parted. Starting for a full season for the first time, Penix threw for 4,641 yards and 31 touchdowns.” Yup.
THE DRAFT WILL SOON BE ON THE CLOCK
The NFL Draft begins two weeks from Thursday night. Conventional wisdom says it’ll be two weeks from Friday night that Boise State safety JL Skinner will hear his name called (as in, second or third round). Beyond Skinner, John Ojukwu and Scott Matlock look like the Broncos with the best chance to sneak into the late rounds. Ojukwu seeks to become the seventh straight Boise State multi-year starter at left tackle to drafted. It won’t necessarily be due his strength, but his footwork and smarts. Ojukwu would be in tall company. Daryn Colledge started the run in 2006. Ryan Clady, the first Bronco to be taken in the first round, followed in 2008. Then there was Nate Potter in 2012, Charles Leno Jr. in 2014, Rees Odhiambo in 2016 and Ezra Cleveland in 2020. (Potter hailed from Boise, just like Ojukwu, y’know.)
SDSU A PAC-12 SHOE-IN?
Here’s a prevailing question around the Mountain West. Is San Diego State to the Pac-12 a no-brainer after the Aztecs’ run to the national championship game? Writes Stewart Mandel of the Athletic: “You would think so, but I wouldn’t assume anything when it comes to the Pac-12’s presidents. San Diego State checks all the boxes athletically—since 2009-10, the Aztecs have the highest combined winning percentage in the country in football and men’s basketball, just above Ohio State. But Pac-12 presidents care as much or more about academics and cultural fit, and their opinion of San Diego State as a university is unknown. Another expansion storyline: Everyone assumes the conference would expand by an even number, but is that necessary given the Pac-12 no longer has divisions?” Mandel thinks the league could add SDSU by itself.
FEEL FREE TO BE OPTIMISTIC
Food for thought in the aftermath of the NCAA Tournament. USA Today’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 has—are you ready—Boise State at No. 24. The capsule, posted before Kansas transfer center-forward Cam Martin committed last week, reads: “The Broncos badly need depth to take the next step as a program after back-to-back exits in the opening round of the tournament. Coach Leon Rice also needs to find a big man to take pressure off forward Tyson Degenhart on the defensive end. Boise State will bring back guard Max Rice and is just another complementary piece or two away from having the roster needed to nail down a tournament win.” Coming in at No. 25: San Diego State. To be fair, the Broncos are bubbling under on most of these way-too-early lists, but this USA Today one is worth a shout.
WE’RE PAYING ATTENTION TO HOCKEY TONIGHT
The Idaho Steelheads have three regular season games left, all on the road at Rapid City, beginning this evening. That’s three chances to break the all-time ECHL record for victories and points in a single season. The Steelheads got their record-tying 56th win last Saturday when they completed another series sweep, this one against the Utah Grizzlies in Idaho Central Arena. They have 115 points in the standings—the current record is an amazing 56-10-3. The Steelies announced their team awards for the season over the weekend, including the Cal Ingraham Leading Scorer Award, Ryan Dmowski, the Defenseman of the Year, Matt Register, and Most Valuable Player, Jordan Kawaguchi.
CAREER MILESTONE FOR MERRITT
Troy Merritt has always been a glass half-full guy. Despite his struggles this year (eight straight missed cuts), Merritt is celebrating the fact that his start in the RBC Heritage on Thursday will be the 300th of his career on the PGA Tour. That’s staying power for a guy who first earned his Tour card in 2010. Merritt has two PGA Tour wins, 23 top 10 finishes and almost $13.5 million in earnings. It’s a good time to remind you of Merritt’s career at Boise State. He capped it with a monster senior year in 2008. Including his WAC championship, Merritt won seven tournaments that season, the most in Division I.
This Day In Sports…brought to you by POOL SCOUTS…perfect pools, scout’s honor!
April 12, 2015: Jordan Spieth, just 21 years old, does what Tiger Woods did when he was Spieth’s age. He finishes 18-under-par at the Masters, tying Woods’ tournament record, to win by four strokes over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. Not only that, Spieth became the first golfer since Raymond Floyd in 1976 to lead the Masters wire-to-wire, helped by a record 28 birdies. After the victory, his first in a major, Spieth was universally hailed as golf’s next great hope. But he’s won only two majors since, the last in 2017 at the Open Championship.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)