A new ball game for the Broncos’ young guys

True freshmen have been in the conversation all summer at Boise State, and why not? They’re now able to play four games in their first year of eligibility without losing redshirt status, and that had the young guys very engaged during fall camp. It increases the workload of coach Bryan Harsin’s staff in terms of personnel decisions as the Troy game approaches a week from tomorrow. “Are these guys going to play?” Harsin wondered aloud yesterday. “How much are they going to play? How are we going to utilize the redshirt rule?” You probably don’t have to wonder if wide receiver Khalil Shakir is going to be limited to four games this fall. “He’s made plays in practice,” said Harsin. “He’s been very competitive. He’s shown all the qualities of a guy who knows what to do.”

Tomorrow’s Fall Fan Fest at Albertsons Stadium is described as “open practice on The Blue.” You won’t see wide receiver Octavius Evans nor defensive tackle David Moa taking reps, as both are nicked up. Their status for the Troy game is undetermined. Their presence in Alabama would make a difference. Boise State’s depth is already of utmost importance, right? We do know that linebacker Zeke Noa will miss at least the opener after undergoing an undisclosed surgery yesterday. There’s no timeline on his return. It’s a tough deal for the two-time CIF San Diego Section Defensive Player of the Year. Noa, a 5-11, 243-pounder, was a strong candidate to play as a true freshman last year but missed the entire season due to a knee injury suffered in fall camp.

Followup on KTVB.com’s “Best Broncos Team of All-Time” brackets: well, I guess that’s why they took a vote. There was an upset in the first round as the 2004 team, seeded seventh with its undefeated regular season and four-point loss to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl, was beaten by the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl champions, the 10 seed. The Final Four are the 2006 Fiesta Bowl champs, the 2008 team that logged an undefeated regular season, the 2009 Fiesta Bowl champs and the 2010 team that, uh, should have gone to the Rose Bowl. The closest vote in the Elite Eight was 2008 over the 2014 Fiesta Bowl champions. Voting for the Final Four will continue until 7 p.m. tonight—then the championship round runs through the weekend, with Jay Tust announcing the G.O.A.T. on KTVB’s Sunday News At Ten.

Colorado State will have its coach for tomorrow’s opener against Hawaii, although he won’t be roaming the sideline. Mike Bobo is out of the hospital and will coach from the booth due to his limited mobility. Bobo’s return is important, as he is the Rams’ play-caller. As the Mountain West begins its 20th season, it is duly noted that CSU is not only playing in the earliest game in conference history, it also was part of the first-ever conference contest in the Mountain West, on September 16, 1999, at BYU. Wyoming and new quarterback Tyler Vander Waal also open the season tomorrow night at New Mexico State. How much momentum do the Aggies have after their first bowl appearance in 57 years? NMSU is jazzed about its rare national TV opportunity and is selling tickets for as low as $3 to try to attract fans (so it looks good).

The popcorn pops tomorrow night for College of Idaho, which opens the season at rival Eastern Oregon about 2½ hours up I-84. It’s only the fourth night game since the Coyotes revived their football program in 2014. On paper, this is a great way for quarterback Darius-James Peterson to begin his junior year. In four career games against EOU, Peterson has rushed for 374 yards and six touchdowns. The Yotes and Mountaineers have played a home-and-home series each of the past four seasons, splitting the eight games. The last meeting saw C of I win 38-20 in LaGrande, launching a three-game winning streak to end the 2017 season. The last time the Yotes won four in a row, by the way, was in 1969.

If you’re going to catch Doug Martin at all in the preseason, it’ll probably have to be tonight as Oakland hosts Green Bay. And that’s good news, because the former Boise State star and new Raider is what you might call a semi-starter, and starters usually play about a half in the third preseason game of August. Oakland coach Jon Gruden likes what he has seen from Martin. “He’s showed us a lot,” Gruden said Wednesday via the Fresno Bee. “We think he’s a really good back. Doug has done a heck of a job for us. Hopefully we can utilize his strengths this season.” Outside of one rushing attempt two weeks ago, this will be the first playing time Martin’s had on the natural turf of the Oakland Coliseum since his 251-yard, four-touchdown game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012.

Prospects for the Chicago Bears are hardly Super Bowl-level this season, but they do have a foundation at left tackle in the form of former Boise State star Charles Leno Jr. “Traditional thinking among scouts and personnel executives is that 10-year starters at left tackle need to be drafted in the first round,” writes Jeff Joniak of Bears flagship station WBBM. “Leno Jr. is an exception to the rule. He’s nearly halfway home, entering his fifth season after being selected in the seventh round at No. 246 overall in the 2014 draft.” Matt Nagy is in his first year as coach in Chicago and is trying to build the offensive line around Leno. “Charles is very underrated,” Nagy said. “He physical yet smart. For us to have him as our left tackle is invaluable.” Leno was appreciative. “I would rather be underrated than overrated,” he said.

Yesterday was Jerry Kramer Day in the state of Idaho, celebrating the former Idaho Vandal and Green Bay Packer great’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame three weeks ago. Kramer was the guest of honor at a University of Idaho event last night at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. He was on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday and talked about “You can, if you will,” the theme of his speech in Canton. “It means your destiny, your future, your life is determined by your attitude,” Kramer said. There you go.

Two other notes to wrap up Friday: Troy Merritt struggled in his return to the PGA Tour yesterday, carding a four-over 75 in the first round of the Northern Trust. Merritt had rested his ailing left arm last week after undergoing emergency blood clot surgery two weeks ago. And the Boise Hawks opened a five-game series in smoky British Columbia last night, edging the Vancouver Canadians 3-2. All three Hawks runs came in the fourth inning on a home run by Daniel Jipping, his ninth of the season.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

August 24, 2012: The latest chapter of an unsettling eight-month period for Boise State athletics, as the Big West Conference invites the Broncos to join in non-football sports effective July 1, 2013. BSU had been searching for a home for those teams since it was announced football would head to the Big East in 2013 the previous December. The Broncos had to pony up—with travel subsidies of approximately $750,000 per year and a special entry fee of $2.5 million. But BSU received financial help from the Big East. A little more than four months later it was all for naught, as Boise State struck a deal to remain in the Mountain West.

(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.)