If Taylen Green is just a sophomore and we’re already calling Boise State Green’s team, where does that leave fellow sophomore Ashton Jeanty? It’s not even Jeanty’s backfield, as George Holani goes into his senior year. But Jeanty is the focus of the running backs room during spring football as Holani paces himself after shoulder surgery. According to coach Andy Avalos, Jeanty broke at least three long runs in last Saturday’s closed scrimmage, and he’ll go public this Saturday in the spring game. He capped an 821-yard true freshman season with 178 yards in the Broncos’ win over North Texas in the Frisco Bowl. The 178 is Jeanty’s career-high, and it’s cloaked in irony. Holani’s career-high also came during his true freshman year—178 yards at Utah State in 2019. He averaged 11.1 yards per carry that night.
WILL TIGHT ENDS TURN THE CORNER?
Boise State held its second super-secret scrimmage of the spring last Saturday, and it was on coach Andy Avalos to relay highlights to reporters afterward. Avalos said Green “continues to grow each and every day.” He talked about Green leading the offense on a crisp two-minute drill drive at the end of the first half, and he “connected with (tight end) Matt Lauter in the end zone for a pretty nice catch there.” Which brings up the tight ends and how they might be used this year. Offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan has hinted it’ll be like the Coach Hawk and Coach Pete days. Motion and shifts and mismatches. Tight ends coach Nate Potter all but confirmed that after the scrimmage. “They’re going to be in the backfield; they’re going to be split out on the perimeter and be in-line guys,” said Potter.
THE MIDDLE OF THE ‘D’
The recurring storyline of Boise State spring football is filling the massive gaps left by graduation—and a couple transfer portal defections—on defense. The first progress report comes Saturday on the blue turf. We’re lookin’ at you, linebackers. Zeke Noa is out of eligibility. That’s a bad thing. D.J. Schramm is missing spring ball due to offseason surgery. That’s also a bad thing, unless you consider the opportunity it provides Andrew Simpson and Dishawn Misa. Simpson and Misa are both running with the No. 1 defense right now. Simpson got his feet wet last season with 29 tackles and three sacks—he became more of a factor as the season progressed. Misa, who came out of Tacoma as a four-star recruit, is the intriguing one at 6-3, 230 pounds. He appeared in only four games in 2022 to retain his redshirt year. Misa was the No. 3 overall prospect in Washington in 2021.
THE BRONCOS’ NEXT TRY DOWN LOW
I believe Tyson Degenhart is on vacation with his family right now. He’s having a much better time now that he knows Boise State will have a center next season. Kansas transfer Cam Martin committed to the Broncos Tuesday. Martin is 6-10, 225 pounds, and the obvious hope is that he can plug the middle defensively so Degenhart doesn’t have to as much. The former Division II All-American is in his seventh season due to COVID, a redshirt year and an applied-for medical redshirt, with the latter two coming in the past two seasons with the Jayhawks. Martin separated his shoulder in a scrimmage last fall and missed most of the season—he played in just four games and scored seven points with two rebounds in 10 minutes. So the story is still to be written. Martin’s brother, Alex, a 6-6 wing, will walk on at Boise State. The guys have never played on the same team together, as they’re five years apart in age.
NGANGA WILL TAKE ROOT SOMEWHERE
It’ll probably be a while before we know whose idea this was, but Sada NgaNga’s entry into the transfer portal is a done deal, two weeks after he told reporters he’d be coming back to Boise State next season. His future will be interesting. It just goes to show that recruiting is not an exact science. NgaNga is 6-10 and is listed as a guard. He played for the Angola national team last summer. He was recruited by a who’s who of Power 5 schools before an ACL injury his senior year in high school, and a lot of them stuck around after. There was a lot of anticipation when he made his debut last November against South Dakota State, but his game never took root with the Broncos. NgaNga played in 17 games this season—and none following the day after Valentine’s Day. The hope here is that he can find a place to reach his vast potential.
THE PEAK OF THE MOUNTAIN WEST
I’m making the case for San Diego State’s appearance in the national championship game Monday night representing the greatest sports moment in the 24-year history of the Mountain West Conference. Some will stick with Utah’s 31-17 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl following the 2008 season. But that was one game, albeit a BCS bowl game, in Nick Saban’s second year as Crimson Tide head coach. It wasn’t the BCS Championship Game. The Utes didn’t have to go through a two-week meatgrinder to get that far like the Aztecs did. A Mountain West team hadn’t so much as made the Elite Eight before this year. And the Final Four win over Florida Atlantic produced one of those iconic March Madness moments that will be shown for years to come: Lamont Butler’s buzzer-beating jumper. My vote goes to SDSU.
NIL MONEY: DIFFERENTIATOR OR SPOILER?
After the UConn win over San Diego State in the title game, I’d like to advance this thought. The fear that NIL money will widen the gap between power conferences and the smaller ones and make it impossible to compete moving forward may be unfounded. Maybe it’s actually leveling the playing field. The big-money NIL deals (not the modest Boise State kind) can tend to destroy culture, chemistry and commitment at the big schools. Just look at the Final Four this year. Where the heck was everybody? And when the College Football Playoff expands to 12 teams, let’s see how the Group of 5 representative does. Remember when Alabama’s Nick Saban accused Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher of buying his recruiting class last year? How did the Aggies do last season? That’s right, 5-7. Jury’s still out on the effects of NIL.
SCHEEL IS A STUPENDOUS STEELIE
If one save could determine ECHL Goaltender of the Week honors, then we saw it a week ago when the Idaho Steelheads’ Adam Scheel made a stand-on-his-head stop with two seconds left in the second period of a 6-0 shutout. Idaho Central Arena came unglued. Scheel has indeed won the weekly award for the third time this season for a Steelheads team that has clinched home-ice advantage throughout the Kelly Cup Playoffs. He went 2-1 with two shutouts, a 0.67 goals-against average and a save percentage of .977 in three appearances against Kansas City last week. With six games left in the regular season, the Steelies need four victories to break the ECHL single-season record. They host the Utah Grizzlies tonight and Friday.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS IN CALDWELL
That the 2022 football season didn’t end the way College of Idaho wanted it to goes without saying. The Coyotes were rolling at 6-0 until a defeat at Montana Western in late October. Then a home loss to Carroll College in the season finale knocked the Yotes out of the NAIA Playoffs despite a tie for the Cascade Conference championship. It’s against that backdrop that C of I began spring football Monday on campus. It’s a hungry bunch of Yotes, including returning quarterback Andy Peters, who’s looking to improve on a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 11 to 10 last year. The Boise State transfer out of Timberline High did post a good pass efficiency rating of 134.7 for the season.
BRONCOS WHO MADE THIS THING HAPPEN
Back to Boise State’s spring game, the Varsity B Club is hosting a reunion of players from the 1968-79 teams this weekend. That’s important, because these are the guys who laid the foundation for the Broncos. They never had a losing season. Included on the who’s-who guest list are Jim McMillan, the only Bronco to have his number retired, and fellow early 70s quarterback Ron Autele. Also: Rolly Woolsey, the first Boise State player to appear in a Super Bowl, Broncos career rushing leader Cedric Minter, longtime Seattle Seahawk David Hughes, Larry Polowski, Al Davis, one of the program’s first All-Americans, and coach Jim Criner, who led Boise State to the Division I-AA national championship. Be sure to give this group more than a golf clap when they’re introduced on the blue turf. Props to Daryn Colledge, who put a ton of work into this.
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April 5, 2010: At the time, many felt Butler was one runnerup that would not be forgotten. History will be the judge of that, but in one of the most riveting championship games in NCAA Tournament history, Butler falls to perennial power Duke, 61-59, in Indianapolis. The game had the feel of “Hoosiers”—the classic movie was largely shot in the Bulldogs’ gym almost 25 years earlier. But Butler was no Hickory High, having spent the entire season in the rankings. Still, the Bulldogs were popular underdogs as a No. 5 seed against one of the most storied programs in college basketball. And incredibly, Butler made it back to the title game the following year.
(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.)