This wasn’t a big story last season, but maybe it should have been. The Boise State offensive line cut its sacks allowed by more than a third compared to the 2015 season—from 29 to 19. In fact, the Broncos had allowed at least 26 in each of the previous four years. Now, here’s reason to believe the Boise State offensive line will be better this year. With redshirt freshman Ezra Cleveland now inserted at left tackle after being named 2016 Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year, Archie Lewis is able to move to right tackle. At the guards are highly-touted sophomores John Molchon and Garrett Larson, and they flank preseason All-Mountain West center Mason Hampton. Plus, one of the Broncos’ most coveted recruits in the 2017 class, junior college transfer Isiah Moore, is backing up Cleveland and is ready to play.
One of the coolest trends in college football is surprising hard-working and high-performing walk-ons with scholarships. It happened again at Boise State yesterday. Avery Williams, a redshirt freshman SAM linebacker from Pasadena, was awarded a scholarship after practice while coach Bryan Harsin was addressing the full squad at DeChevrieux Field. The signs were there for Williams after he earned the Broncos’ Special Teams Scout Team Player of the Year honor. He was then named a captain for the Blue & Orange Game in April, and he made the only interception of the day in the spring contest. I want to see a photo of Boise State’s three SAM linebackers side-by-side. There’s Williams, a 5-9, 194-pounder, Desmond Williams at 5-11, 201 pounds, and starter Gabe Perez, who stands 6-4 and weighs 246.
Kellen Moore has already made it through twice as many Dallas training camp practices as he did a year ago, when a broken right fibula ended his season. Now Moore is healthy and is primed to play a lot in the Cowboys’ preseason games as the team tries to preserve starter Dak Prescott. It starts tonight with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, OH, against the Arizona Cardinals. “This year you appreciate it more,” Moore told the Dallas Morning News. “Last year it was kind of weird spending August on the couch watching ‘Fixer Upper’ all day.” The former Boise State great has played in a total of three NFL regular-season games in his career—all at the end of 2015—and 16 preseason contests.
Jay Ajayi has entered the NFL’s concussion protocol after suffering a head injury in practice on Monday. The Miami Herald says it’s categorized as a “mild” concussion that will keep Ajayi out for about a week. But just the fact that he has a concussion could severely limit how much the Dolphins use him in the preseason. They will err on the side of caution (as they should). This is not expected to affect Ajayi’s status as a starter. “Getting hurt doesn’t take away a lot of what we were going to do with him,” said Miami coach Adam Gase.
A father-son coaching relationship can bring out the microscopes. Dan Hawkins couldn’t seem to catch a break when his quarterback son Cody played for him at Colorado. Now there’s a new father-son union, as Bishop Kelly hoops star Max Rice has committed to play for his dad, Leon, at Boise State. I prefer to think about the late Steve Connor, who played for his dad Bus with the Broncos 40 years ago. Nobody had to wonder about that duo. Steve led Boise State to its first NCAA Tournament berth and is still the Broncos’ third-leading all-time scorer. Max Rice, by the way, will be classified as a walk-on at Boise State, as he’ll receive free tuition as the child of a university employee.
While the Boise Hawks wrap up the Northwest League All-Star break, let’s get an update on former Boise State linebacker Joe Martarano. We thought Martarano was finally seeing his baseball trajectory trending upward when he got his second call-up to long-season Class A with the South Bend Cubs three weeks ago. But the Midwest League has been a struggle for the Fruitland High grad. In 18 games, Martarano is just 9-for-59 and is batting .153 with three runs batted in. His stay in Eugene was a lot more successful—a .340 average over 15 games. Martarano’s season had been kick-started in a June series at Memorial Stadium against the Hawks, when he went 5-for-13 with four RBIs.
While golf’s elite compete at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational this week, the Treasure Valley locals on the PGA Tour are in Reno for the Barracuda Championship. After a few days of R&R at home in Meridian, Troy Merritt hopes to rejuvenate at Montreux Golf & Country Club. Merritt is 147th in FedExCup standings. If the regular season ended today, we’d be seeing him in the Albertsons Boise Open in September. Graham DeLaet and Tyler Aldridge tee it up today in Reno as well.
Ice would be nice right now. The Idaho Steelheads are always there to remind us of it. The Steelheads have added another key component of last season into the 2017-18 dressing room. Defenseman Joe Faust will return to Boise for his second season after scoring a career-high 41 points last season, 12th in the ECHL among blueliners. Faust’s 14 goals were the most by a defenseman in the club’s ECHL era. Training camp is a little over two months away.
Here’s hoping there’s enough room in the Steuckle Sky Center today for those attending the memorial service for the legendary Lyle Smith. There will be a lot of people there. The numbers he touched in his 70 years around the Boise Junior College/Boise State program are incalculable. Lyle never forgot a face or a name, and he greeted people as warmly this spring as he did when he first donned his blue fedora at BJC in 1947.
This Day In Sports…August 3, 1977:
The birthday of a quarterback who—love him or hate him—will probably go down as the greatest ever. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots is the only player in NFL history to win five Super Bowls—and the only one to appear in seven Super Bowls. Brady, a sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan in 2000, has never had a losing season as a starter. He’s currently fourth in NFL career passing yards and touchdown passes, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Tom Brady…40 years old today.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)