An Orderly Process Under Center

Boise State’s quarterback sweepstakes is going according to plan by all accounts, especially that of coach Bryan Harsin. And the plan is in tune with previous years—to wait until well into fall camp to name a starter.Maybe some smoke will have cleared by the time the Blue & Orange Game is complete, but nothing will be official until August. Former QB Grant Hedrick has been through this drill and understands it. Hedrick said on Idaho SportsTalk earlier this year he’s excited to see who his successor will be. “I can see any one of those guys being the starting quarterback in the fall,” he said of the competition between sophomore Ryan Finley, junior Tommy Stuart, redshirt freshman Alex Ogle, and true freshman Brett Rypien. “I’m just kind of glad I can watch this (competition) from their perspective instead of being in the middle of it,” said Hedrick.

This process tells Rypien that he still has plenty of time to develop his mechanics and his knowledge of the playbook. Player-run practices will be huge for Rypien this summer—then the proof will be in the pudding in August. Let’s say Finley wins the competition, and it’s determined Rypien is second. Boise State could do with Rypien what it did with Joe Southwick when the latter was a true freshman in 2009. He was going to be the first guy in if Kellen Moore had been injured that season, and Southwick prepared for every game and traveled on every road trip as if he was the No. 2 quarterback. Of course, the Broncos never had to use Southwick that season, allowing him to complete a redshirt year. They could work things the same way with Rypien.

Spring football is underway at Washington, and there are key areas of focus beyond the much-discussed quarterback competition. Chris Petersen is looking at a wholesale rebuild in both trenches. The Huskies lose six of their starting front seven, including All-Americans Shaq Thompson, Hau’oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton. The UW offensive line has to replace four starters. That’s in contrast to its Opening Night opponent on the blue turf. Boise State is almost overstocked on the defensive front and returns all five starters on the O-line.

Kyle Wilson is getting a fresh start in the NFL this year. The former Boise State star has departed the New York Jets after five seasons and has signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints. Wilson was the Jets’ first-round draft pick in 2010 but has been much-criticized for not reaching first-round stardom. Take this par-for-the-course headline from the New York Post: “Least favorite Jet Kyle Wilson is Rob Ryan’s problem now.” Ryan is the Saints’ defensive coordinator and the twin brother of former Jets coach Rex Ryan. Wilson has only three career interceptions, but that doesn’t change the impact he had on the Boise State program in his three seasons from 2006-09. He’s the only player to start in two of the Broncos’ Fiesta Bowl wins.

The presumed favorite to replace Stew Morrill at Utah State was never offered the job, and Morrill’s 14-year assistant and current associate head coach Tim Duryea is the new man to lead the Aggies. Tommy Connor, the Borah High grad and right-hand man under Larry Krystkowiak at Utah, was the consensus front-runner in media reports but remains with the Utes. Duryea got a lot of credit for a young, overachieving USU team that finished 18-13 overall and in fifth place in the Mountain West in a campaign that included a buzzer-beating win over Boise State in Taco Bell Arena, the Broncos’ only home loss of the season. The Aggies return all five starters next season.

What a way to dust off the skates. In his first game in more than two months, Idaho Steelheads goalie Olivier Roy threw a shutout at the Alaska Aces in a 5-0 blanking last night in CenturyLink Arena. And it’s not like Roy was facing a team that was mailing it in, as the Aces are desperately fighting to hold off Utah for the fourth and final playoff spot in the ECHL’s Pacific Division. Roy stopped all 21 shots he faced in recording his 23rd win and fourth shutout of the season. On the offensive end newness prevailed, as defensive Zach Kamrass scored his first two professional goals. The Steelies roughed up Alaska goalie Troy Redmann, who had gone 5-0 in the month of March, forcing him to be pulled midway through the second period. The Steelheads are, in effect, now one win away from the division title.

Maybe the Shell Houston Open that tees off today is just the tonic for Graham DeLaet, who has missed his last three cuts on the PGA Tour. This week marks the fifth anniversary of DeLaet’s first top 10 finish, a tie for third in the 2010 Houston Open that earned him $336,400. Fellow former Bronco Troy Merritt is also in the field. Merritt muddled through at the Valero Texas Open last week. He finished 14-over but did make the cut, tying for 71st on the heels of his sixth-place finish at the Valspar Championship.

The Idaho Stampede played about as well as can be hoped on the road last night before falling to the Texas Legends, 123-120. The Stampede had a three-point lead with a minute to go before watching Texas score the final six points of the game. Three Stamps topped 20 points on the night—Jared Cunningham scored 23, Jerrelle Benimon 22 and Brandon Fields 21. Nevertheless, the Stampede’s record now reads 8-40.

As the Stampede’s final season as a locally-owned entity comes to a close this week, I was struck by a story in last week’s Sports Illustrated that makes you realize you never know who you’re really watching sometimes. Australian Patty Mills, now the main man off the bench for the San Antonio Spurs, made his pro debut with the Stampede five years ago while on assignment during his rookie year in Portland. It was New Year’s Day, and Mills poured in 38 points while dishing out 12 assists. Then his put-back with 1.2 seconds remaining gave the Stampede a one-point win two days later. Mills was recalled by the Blazers later that night.

At the age of 15, Mills enrolled in the Australian Institute of Sport, the same place that produced Boise State’s Anthony Drmic, Igor Hadziomerovic and Nick Duncan, among others. At 18, Mills became the youngest player ever to attend the training camp of the Boomers, Australia’s national team. He parlayed that into a sterling two-year stay at Saint Mary’s before being taken by the Blazers with the 55th pick of the 2009 NBA Draft. Now Mills is the first Indigenous Australian to win an NBA title, and he’s proud of that. “But he’s just as proud if not more so to be able to do it for (all) indigenous people,” said Spurs teammate and fellow Aussie Aron Baynes in the compelling SI story by Alexander Wolff.

Wolff’s piece details how Mills, who carries the blood of both of Australia’s indigenous peoples–part Aboriginal, part Melanisian—has used his story and his status as an NBA champion to become a role model for “First Australians,” becoming a bridge-builder to battle racism in his country. Mills is deeply tied to that cause through his father, Benny, and his mother, Yvonne. “For an American counterpart, you’d need to find the son of a father who marched in Selma and a mother whose Cherokee family walked the Trail of Tears,” writes Wolff. Indigenous Australians weren’t granted full citizenship until 1967. Mills’ mother in particular was subject to injustices in the preceding decades. “He’s beloved on this team for his enthusiasm, his kindness, his understated gravitas,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in the story. “As long as I’m here, he’s going to be here.”

This Day In Sports…April 2, 1983:

Three weeks after leading Virginia during through the first-ever NCAA Tournament bracket in Boise, 7-4 center Ralph Sampson wins the Adolph Rupp Award as college basketball’s Player Of The Year. Sampson was the first one to win the honor three years in a row. Later that spring he would be the first pick in the NBA Draft, going to the Houston Rockets. The Cavaliers, by the way, made it into the Elite Eight that year before falling by a point to eventual national champion North Carolina State.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)