Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: Taylen’s Tale of the Tape

While we have a moment, let’s go over Taylen Green’s season box score—as in, where do his 586 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns last year stack up among quarterbacks in Boise State history? I can’t believe I haven’t done that yet. Turns out Green was six yards short of Grant Hedrick’s 592 yards in 2014, the most ever by a Boise State QB. Green’s TDs were three short of Jared Zabransky’s quarterback record 13 scores in 2004. In fact, Zabransky is No. 2 on the list as well, with 11 touchdowns in 2005. So who’s third behind Hedrick and Green in single-season yards by a Broncos QB? You have to go all the way back to 1979, when Joe Aliotti rushed for 440 yards. What sets Green apart from all these guys is that he was a redshirt freshman.


Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic has a list of “2023 NFL best UDFA fits: One undrafted prospect to watch on each roster.” And for the Tennessee Titans, he goes with John Ojukwu of Boise State. Writes Baumgarner: “Ojukwu has a great frame (6-4, 309 pounds; 34-inch arms, 38 5/8-inch wingspan) with room to keep going. He was a five-year starter at Boise State (51 combined starts at left and right tackle), though he could — and probably should — be a guard in the NFL. If his power holds up in the trenches against NFL defensive linemen, he could surprise Tennessee.” Like so many other Broncos, Ojukwu has the football smarts and is a great locker room guy. It’s nice to know that those in the know think he has a shot.

A tweet over the weekend by former Boise State cornerback Tyreque Jones indicates he’s been invited to the Seattle Seahawks rookie camp this week. It’s a tryout—the goal is an invitation to training camp this summer. The highlight of Jones’ Broncos career was his 100-yard pick-six at UCF in the 2021 season opener. Former Boise State and Arizona State safety DeAndre Pierce will get the same opportunity with the Las Vegas Raiders. Pierce’s dad, Antonio, is linebackers coach for the Raiders. No nepotism here—DeAndre has worked hard for this.


Burley High phenom Gatlin Bair, the highest-rated football recruit in Idaho history, probably isn’t going to be signing with Boise State. But Bronco Nation will always be able to appreciate the fact that Bair had Boise State in his final top 5, joining Michigan, Nebraska, TCU and Oregon, and passionately defended that fact when experts questioned it. There might be a top 6 now, as Bair revealed Sunday that he has a new offer from Alabama. That came on the heels of another stunning performance in track. Last week, Bair smoked an elite field in a couple of events at the BYU Invitational in Provo, clocking a 10.25 in the 100-meters and 20.47 in the 200 while winning by Secretariat-like margins in video that went viral. Bair ran a 10.18 100 last month at a meet in Texas—the fastest time ever by an Idaho high schooler.


It was in mid-March that the Denver Broncos notified Brett Rypien that they will not be making him a qualifying offer for 2024, and after four years with the team, he was a free agent. The former Boise State standout found a landing spot late last week, as he was signed to a one-year deal with the L.A. Rams. There would seem to be an opportunity there as a No. 2 QB, as veteran Matthew Stafford missed eight games last season—the final six due to a spinal cord contusion. Stafford is 35 years old now. But Rypien will be competing for the backup spot against Stetson Bennett, the Rams’ fourth-round draft pick who led Georgia to the last two national championships. Rypien appeared in four games for Denver last year in place of the injured Russell Wilson, throwing for 778 yards and four touchdowns against eight interceptions.


From the “let’s see what happens” department, Fresno State has unveiled a $250 million plan to upgrade its athletic facilities, including crumbling Bulldog Stadium. They’re calling the project “Elevate,” and it’s clearly on the fast-track as the university tries to stay in the public conversation about Big 12 expansion. (As an aside, I’d characterize Boise State as being in the “private conversation,” and that’s the best place for the Broncos to be.) At any rate, the Bulldogs’ plan will start with suites on the east side of their stadium this summer. Then revenue from the suites will be used for work on the problematic north end zone. The interesting thing: it looks like they’re counting on another try at a Fresno County tax measure that failed last November. Fresno State is trying to create some momentum. Will it work?


Remember the Idaho Steelheads’ start to the Kelly Cup Playoffs? Five full periods without a goal? That’s pretty much behind them as they return to Boise tonight for Game 2 of the Mountain Division Finals against Allen. Last Friday night in Game 1 (the night before the tragic shooting in Allen put the series on hold), the Steelheads fell behind 1-0, but it wasn’t as worrisome against the Americans as it was against the Utah Grizzlies two weeks ago. Nor was Allen’s 2-1 lead in the second period. Five different Steelies scored as they held off the Americans for a 5-4 victory. That makes Idaho 9-0 this season against Allen (I know Steelheads fans are knocking on wood). It’s going to be a wild time in Idaho Central Arena—four games in five nights (the fourth one Sunday, if necessary). Playoff hockey, baby.


Boise State men’s basketball appears to have cured what ailed its roster, as depth now seeps from all pores. Now we’ll see what the Broncos do on the court late this fall, and opportunity knocks. They’ll be playing in the ESPN Invitational in Orlando in November. Already in the field are Texas A&M (which Boise State beat last season), Penn State, Virginia Tech, Iowa State, Butler and VCU. And Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports that Florida Atlantic is finalizing an agreement to be the eighth and final team in the tournament. The Owls, of course, were knocked out in the Final Four last month by San Diego State. FAU returns the majority of the team that finished 35-4. Methinks there are Quad 1 chances here. That’s what got the Broncos an at-large berth in this year’s NCAA Tournament.


Every week is a clean slate for Troy Merritt. His next rebound try is in the AT&T Byron Nelson, teeing off Thursday at TPC Craig Ranch in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Merritt hasn’t been able to buy a break lately. Last week he missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship when he lost three strokes on his final two holes in the second round. Merritt double-bogeyed the par three 17th and bogeyed the 18th. With the exception of team play at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Merritt hasn’t made a cut since January at the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Boise State softball will bask in the bright lights at San Diego State as the Broncos open the Mountain West Tournament Thursday against the winner of today’s San Jose State-Fresno State game. Boise State, the MW regular season champion, is the No. 1 seed and has earned the right to host the tourney at Dona Larsen Park next year. That’s where the bright lights come in. The Broncos can only host if they have lights, and coach Justin Shults has not-so-gently nudged athletic director Jeremiah Dickey to get that done. As he has in so many other cases, I’m thinking Dickey figures it out. (The Broncos may not actually play under the lights—their tournament opener Thursday is at 4 p.m. Pacific.)


First, legendary tennis player Luke Shields was named to the Boise State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2020. And COVID twice postponed the induction ceremony. Then Shields was named head men’s tennis coach of his alma mater last year. Then the induction finally happened last November. Then Shields led the Broncos to the Mountain West championship 12 days ago in his first season at the helm. Then yesterday, he was named Mountain West Coach of the Year after leading Boise State to its best season in eight years. Shields won the award twice at Fresno State—in 2017 and 2019—before the Bulldogs dropped the program. What a blessing that was for the Broncos.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by POOL SCOUTS…perfect pools, scout’s honor!

May 10, 2018, five years ago today: The end of one of the most remarkable coaching legacies in college tennis, as Greg Patton steps down after 22 seasons spanning more than 25 years as Boise State men’s tennis coach. There are two sides to the General. One is his record: 807 victories, 14 conference championships, 16 NCAA Tournament berths, 10 conference coach of the year awards, and an NCAA Coach of the Year honor in 1997, when the Broncos were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation. The other side is his spirit: Patton’s endlessly positive vibe saturated this city (and still does).

(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.)

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