George Holani is bigger and stronger this year. If he’s healthier, we could see a 2019 reprise—and then some. Let’s rewind to that true freshman season. Boise State saw something right out of the gate. While expected feature back Robert Mahone was rushing for 142 yards and two touchdowns, Holani was a mild surprise as the No. 2 back, debuting with 70 yards on the ground and 33 yards receiving in the win at Florida State. Then when Mahone was banged up and otherwise faded, Holani became the Broncos’ leading rusher. He saved Boise State’s 11-year 1,000-yard rusher streak by scratching out 35 yards in the Las Vegas Bowl, putting him at 1,014. It sounds weird to say a senior is poised to build on his true freshman season, but that’s what’s happening with Holani.
NAMES! WE WANT NAMES!
After the first scrimmage of Boise State fall camp Saturday, we got some names. Coach Andy Avalos spread a lot of them around, starting with the running backs. With Holani limited, Avalos rattled off Ashton Jeanty, Tyler Crowe and Elelyon Noa—even including Kaden Dudley in the group. “There were a couple players who were up in the 4.5, 5-yards average today,” Avalos said. A pair of other names mentioned—ones Bronco Nation likes to hear—were Borah High grads Austin Bolt and George Tarlas. Bolt is trying to make an impression in a crowded wide receivers room. Tarlas gives the Broncos high hopes for their pass rush this season after transferring from Weber State. Avalos said Tarlas has led the team in sacks during fall camp.
THE POSITIONAL CONVERSATION PIECE
We could talk all day about the wide receiver intrigue. At a Boise State football practice last week, one play really stood out to me: a nice 40-yard touchdown catch in drills by redshirt freshman receiver Eric McAlister, who was well-covered on the play. It just goes to show: that receivers room is deep, and we don’t know who all is going to emerge from it. McAlister, one of 13 Texans on the Broncos roster has the look at 6-3, 195 pounds. Let’s stop there for a moment. He’s also one of five wideouts on the roster who’s 6-2 or taller. We’ve heard a lot about Stephan Cobbs, Davis Koetter, Billy Bowens, Latrell Caples and Bolt—and for good reason. But don’t sleep on guys like McAlister. He hauled in 43 TD passes between his junior and senior seasons in high school.
How big can Bowens be for Boise State this year? The focus has been on Cobbs at wideout, but Bowens’ name is consistently mentioned alongside that of Cobbs, including Saturday after the scrimmage. Bowens has been somewhat of a mystery as he goes into his senior year. He finally logged his first career catch at Hawaii during the 2020 COVID season, going for six yards. owens started to emerge last year with 12 receptions for 140 yards. But that still doesn’t scream “difference-maker.” We don’t know what goes on in practice, though, and what kind of strides Bowens has made. He has good size at 6-1, 198 pounds. If he can explode—and Bolt can do the same—Hank Bachmeier will have a lot of tools in the box.
KHALIL BEING KHALIL
His performance wasn’t a surprise to Boise State fans, but rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir sure wowed ‘em in Buffalo last Saturday. Shakir had three catches for 46 yards in the first half against Indianapolis—then added back-to-back grabs covering 45 yards on the Bills’ first possession of the third quarter. He ended the day with five receptions on five targets for 92 yards. Statement made, I would venture to say. Ryan Talbot of the Syracuse Post-Standard writes, “Fifth round pick Khalil Shakir continues to look like an absolute steal for Buffalo. He was the talk of training camp for his route running, knowledge of the playbook and great hands. His strong play continued on Saturday. Despite having plenty of talent in front of him, Shakir could force his way onto the field sooner rather than later.”
RYPIEN REMAINS IN THIRD PLACE
NFL depth charts are never more fluid than they are in training camp. But the new Denver Broncos list still has former Boise State standout Brett Rypien at No. 3 as he battles Josh Johnson for the backup spot behind Russell Wilson. Rypien was just 8-for-18 for 113 yards against Dallas last Saturday, but he did connect on a beautiful 42-yard throw out of his own end zone. He was also victimized by a couple of drops. The problem is, Johnson was 16-for-23 for 172 yards and two touchdowns for the Broncos and has a leg up right now.
THE STATE OF IDAHO’S BLUE-CHIPPER
This may be the most stacked season ever for college football Division I talent in the state of Idaho. And Skyline wide receiver Kenyon Sadiq is at the top of the heap. On Monday, Sadiq surprised his top three schools, Michigan, Washington and Iowa State, by not going with any of them. Instead, he opted for Oregon. Sadiq was recruited to Eugene by former Boise State wide receivers coach Junior Adams, although it sounds like the Ducks are looking at him as a tight end. For the record, Sadiq did have an offer from Boise State, but somebody at that level is going to be tough to land. Kind of like Gooding’s Colton Loveland choosing Michigan last winter. But there’s plenty of in-state prospects who would fit the Broncos in this particular high school senior class. It’s going to be interesting.
HIS PERSONALITY PRECEDES HIM
Boise State’s new men’s basketball commitment, Andrew Meadow, is already a thing. First, the 6-7 forward from West Ranch High in Stevenson Ranch, CA, also had offers from Colorado, Oregon State, North Carolina State and Utah, among others. There’s a YouTube video out there that has almost five minutes of highlights from Meadow, an amazing sight in long hair and goggles. Hope he keeps that look as a Bronco. Some say he has that Hansen Brothers look from “Slapshot.” There’s another video of Meadow hitting a game-winning three-pointer in an elite tournament last month with LeBron James celebrating on the sideline. Meadow was playing on a team sponsored by James, Strive For Greatness, with LeBron’s son, Bronny.
IT’S SERIOUS GOLF AT HILLCREST
The 33rd Albertsons Boise Open tees off tomorrow, with PGA Tour cards aplenty at stake. Twenty-five Tour cards for next season were decided last weekend at the end of the Korn Ferry Tour regular season. The next 25 cards, The Finals 25, will be determined after three Korn Ferry Finals events beginning this week at Hillcrest Country Club. There are more than 125 players scrapping for those last 25 tickets—Nos. 26-75 from the Korn Ferry and Nos. 126-200 from the PGA Tour. Everyone begins at zero tomorrow, and this separate points list will accumulate over the final three starts. Among the familiar names in the field are Aaron Baddeley, Jonas Blixt, Camilo Villegas and Nampa native Robert Garrigus.
MERRITT KEEPS THE PLAYOFFS IN PERSPECTIVE
Troy Merritt doesn’t usually post about his performances on social media. But he did after a very unfortunate back nine to finish the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs last Sunday. The former Boise State star went from contention for a title at the St. Jude Championship to a tie for 28th (although he did pocket $107,250). Said Merritt on Twiiter: “A lot of good ball striking this week. Not going to focus on the 2 shots that cost us 5 strokes today. Didn’t putt very well on the weekend after making everything the first 2 days. Main goal was to get to next week, we did that, and now we can focus on playing next week.” That means the second playoff tournament, the BMW Championship, teeing off tomorrow morning in Wilmington, DE.
WESTERN IDAHO FAIR ROAD TRIP TIME
The Boise Hawks will be gone until August 29, as the Western Idaho Fair does its annual takeover of the Memorial Stadium parking lot. The 11-game road trip began last night in Kalispell, MT. It produced a rare bright spot: a 5-3 win over the Glacier Range Riders that snapped a seven-game losing streak. It’s been one of those seasons. In a game that was just too Pioneer League-esque last Thursday, Missoula scored 14 runs in the bottom of the first inning, batting around twice. Then the Paddleheads added five more in the second and led 19-0. The Hawks promptly put up 10 runs in the top of the third. Missoula’s three touchdowns topped Boise’s TD and a field goal in a 21-10 final.
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August 17, 2002, 20 years ago today: For a couple of New York Yankees, a milestone is reached and an amazing streak is snapped. In an 8-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field, Alfonso Soriano hit a home run to become the only second baseman in major league history to record 30 homers and 30 steals in a season. And, in his second plate appearance of the game, Bernie Williams grounded out after recording a base hit in each of his previous 11 at-bats, one short of the big league record.
(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.)