Last year, Boise State had defensive line coach Steve Caldwell for the Las Vegas Bowl. Word leaked out about two weeks later that he was headed for Arkansas, and it became official 10 days into January. Now the Broncos will have to shift on the fly with their D-line responsibilities, as numerous reports say Chad Kauha’aha’a has been hired by USC. Clay Helton is overhauling his staff after an eminently disappointing 5-7 season. Kauha’a’aha’s Boise State unit has been stellar this season considering he had to continuously scotch-tape things together. Despite injuries to David Moa, Sonatane Lui, Durrant Miles and Chase Hatada (am I missing anyone?), the Broncos are tied for sixth in the nation in sacks with 39.
Fortunately for the Broncos, they have a perfect interim solution on the staff right now to handle the First Responder Bowl on December 26. He hasn’t been assigned that task yet, but Spencer Danielson came up big in his first season as STUD ends coach after serving as a defensive graduate assistant last year. Danielson, just six years removed from his playing career at Azusa Pacific, has bonded with his players and seems to get the most out of them. In fact, each of the top two guys in his position group, Curtis Weaver and Jabril Frazier, earned first-team All-Mountain West honors. It doesn’t get any better than that. And a third, Sam Whitney, made one of the biggest plays in the win over Utah State 2½ weeks ago—the only sack of the game versus USU quarterback Jordan Love.
Linebacker Blake Whitlock went through Senior Night with Boise State, but he won’t be going to Dallas in a couple weeks. Whitlock is no longer a Bronco. B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press tweeted yesterday that he was told it was because of a violation of team rules, but hadn’t received confirmation from Boise State. Whitlock was a great story in 2016, when he joined the team as a walk-on and ended up with 36 tackles and two sacks. Then he missed last season with a shoulder injury. Whitlock made 11 tackles this season, two of them in the Mountain West championship game. He has already been removed from the official roster at BroncoSports.com. That further thins an already-thin position, as Desmond Williams left the squad last week.
Two Mountain West players have declared early for the NFL Draft so far, and one of them isn’t Boise State’s Alexander Mattison. Yet. The first to decide to forego his senior season was Utah State tight end Dax Raymond, who seems like a long shot. Raymond had 25 catches for 335 yards and a touchdown this season and was honorable mention All-Mountain West. Joining him over the weekend was Colorado State wide receiver Preston Williams, a first-team all-conference pick. Williams has an NFL skill set, and his numbers support that. He had 96 receptions for 1,345 yards and 14 TDs this year. Included in Williams’ nine grabs against Boise State in October was a nifty 47-yard touchdown catch.
POSITIVE ENERGY IN PROVO
Chantel Jennings of The Athletic penned a column on the positives for the BYU program as practices are underway for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Western Michigan. The Cougars started the season 2-1 with wins at Arizona and Wisconsin and a close loss to Cal, but “close loss” would become key words in their 2018 narrative. Four of BYU’s losses during this 6-6 season were by eight points or less, including the 21-16 defeat against Boise State on the blue turf in early November.
In the last three seasons combined, the Cougars have 11 one-possession losses, tied for fourth-most in the FBS over that span. “(Coach Kalani) Sitake has used those close losses as motivation for the group—they’ve come a long way from the 4-9 season a year ago, having made both large and small changes since then,” writes Jennings. Said Sitake, “They’re all important lessons for us to learn, and as harsh as they may be, you have to be looking at it so our guys learn.”
WILLIAMS MAY BE BACK – CHRISTON WON’T BE
After Boise State’s 82-62 win over Central Washington Saturday, coach Leon Rice was optimistic about having RJ Williams available for Wednesday night’s game against Alabama State. Williams injured an ankle down the stretch of Saturday’s win over Central Washington and did not return. He’s a pretty important player. Williams is the Broncos’ scoring leader at 16.4 points per game and is shooting 57 percent from the field. One guy Boise State definitely won’t have moving forward is guard Cam Christon, who has elected to transfer. Christon appeared in 14 game last season—he has not played in the regular season this fall.
NEVADA AND EVERYBODY ELSE
Nevada dropped one spot to No. 7 in both polls Monday after close calls in come-from-behind wins over Arizona State and Grand Canyon over the weekend. Nevertheless, an undefeated regular season remains a very real prospect for the Wolf Pack, which has games against South Dakota State, Akron and Utah before conference play begins. And the Mountain West isn’t looking like much of a challenge. New Mexico has struggled mightily, and San Diego State and Boise State have yet to find their rhythm. The two teams that look to be next-best right now are Fresno State and Utah State.
THRIVING AGAIN IN THE THROWING CIRCLE
Whatever happened to former Boise State tight end Jake Knight? He has returned to his athletic roots, competing in the shot put for Northwest Nazarene. Knight is the Men’s Field Athlete of the Week in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference after uncorking the fourth-longest throw in GNAC indoor history with a mark of 56-8.5 at the Jacksons Open in the Idaho Center. Knight’s throw shattered the school record by more than three feet and eclipsed the NCAA Division II qualifying mark. Knight, the Rocky Mountain grad, started his college career as a shot-putter at Auburn before switching to football with the Broncos. He made two catches for 56 yards in 2016, including a 46-yarder that set up the ultimate winning touchdown in a 28-27 win over BYU.
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December 11, 2013, five years ago today: Bryan Harsin becomes the first former Boise State player to be named head coach of the Broncos when he’s announced as Chris Petersen’s successor. Harsin, a Boise native and Capital High graduate, played at Boise State from 1996-99 and was an assistant coach for the Broncos from 2001-10, the last five as Petersen’s offensive coordinator. He then served as O-coordinator at Texas for two years before becoming head coach at Arkansas State in 2013. Harsin played or assisted under six Boise State coaches: Pokey Allen, Tom Mason, Houston Nutt, Dirk Koetter, Dan Hawkins and Petersen.
(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.)