Can the new Doug Martin run like the old one?

Doug Martin has gone before the microphones again, speaking to reporters at Tampa Bay’s OTAs yesterday for the first time since being suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The former Boise State star has actually been part of the team since completing a stint in rehab, and he’s happy he’s there. “I was there long enough,” Martin said of his rehab stay. “And I was there to the point I’m strong now, mentally strong and physically strong.” There’s an increasing belief that Martin can become a key part of the Buccaneers’ offense again, as reviews from coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht have been consistently positive.

While Martin professes to be a new man after this experience, the Bucs have hopes of getting the old one back—2012 and 2015 style. As he begins the season sitting out the final three games of his suspension, Tampa Bay doesn’t have a sure thing to replace him. Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers were role players last year, although Rodgers had more rushing yards than Martin (560 to 421). Bronco Nation would like to think Jeremy McNichols is a candidate. Martin’s a fan of McNichols. “We have a good relationship—same school—he has a similar running style,” said Martin. “I’ve seen him run. I’ve seen his film. He’s an awesome player; he’s going to work well for us.”

What’s a Memorial Day weekend without some more college football filler from ESPN.com? This week on the NCAA Football page, it’s “The best stadium trivia for each Top 25 team.” As long as Boise State’s in ESPN.com’s Top 25, we may as well ride that pony. Here’s the nugget for the No. 24 Broncos: “Since 1986, Boise State has played on blue turf that has made it one of the most easily identifiable playing surfaces in sports. What’s not as well known is that Boise State actually owns a trademark that requires anyone—high schools, other colleges, etc.—who wishes to install an artificial turf field in any color but green to first receive permission from Boise State.” That includes, by the way, Eastern Washington and its red turf, and the blue field at Barrow High School in Alaska, on the shores of the Arctic.

No. 25 is Washington State, and here’s a good “did you know” from Pullman, which the Broncos visit in Game 2 in September: “Martin Stadium, which is located in the center of campus, has the smallest capacity in the Pac-12 (32,952), but it’s also the conference’s only stadium with a larger capacity than the population of the city in which it’s located (32,650).” The Palouse will surely swell on Saturday, September 9.

Graham DeLaet balanced three bogeys with four birdies yesterday and shot a one-under 69 in the first round of the Dean & DeLuca Invitational at Colonial. DeLaet is tied for 26th and is in good position to make the cut—a step in the right direction for the former Boise State star. Locally, it’s good to see the Idaho Match Play Championship, an official IGA event at Caldwell’s TimberStone Golf Course, become a feature event on the state’s sports calendar. It harkens back to the good ol’ Broadmore Memorial Day Match Play Tournament that was a staple in the valley for so many years. Good luck to all.

It’s been five weeks since Colorado unceremoniously ushered the Idaho Steelheads out of the ECHL Playoffs, four games to one in the first round. So whatever became of the Eagles? Well, they dismissed the defending ECHL champion Allen Americans in six games—then cruised past the Toledo Walleye in the Western Conference Finals. Yes, the Colorado Eagles are in the Kelly Cup Finals against the South Carolina Stingrays. The series opens tonight in Loveland, CO.

Allison Jeffries was oh-so-close yesterday at the NCAA Division I West Preliminary Championships in Austin, TX, clearing a career-best 13 feet, 9¼ inches in the pole vault. But the Boise State senior and former Eagle Mustang lost a three-way jump-off for the 12th and final qualification spot at nationals. Also of note last night, the Broncos’ Sadi Henderson won her 800-meter heat with a 2:09.35 to easily advance to this evening’s quarterfinals. Allie Ostrander competes in the quarterfinals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase tonight.

Northwest Nazarene’s Payton Lewis won the national title in the pole vault yesterday at the NCAA Division II Championships in Bradenton, FL. Lewis cleared a school-record 17 feet, seven inches in becoming only the second Crusader to win a national track and field championship. The four-time All-American joins Ashley Puga, who won both the indoor and outdoor NCAA crowns in the 800-meters in 2009. Lewis, the Nampa Christian grad, went into nationals with the third-best height in the nation, having cleared 17 feet, 2.75 inches a month ago in the Border Clash at Dona Larsen Park. He seriously bested that mark—and all of his competition.

Some basketball bloodlines—and more importantly, tight family ties—are headed for the University of Idaho basketball program. Coach Don Verlin has signed Cassius Smits-Francisco, whose uncle and guardian is Rick Smits, the former Indiana Pacers standout. Smits-Francisco is a 6-9, 235-pound forward from Cave Creek, AZ, where he averaged seven points, five rebounds and 1.35 blocked shots during an injury-shortened senior season. “Cassius’ upside is huge and I can’t wait to have our staff start working with him,” said Verlin.

This Day In Sports…May 26, 1997, 20 years ago today:

The visiting Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-1, as Sammy Sosa and Tony Womack each hit rare inside-the-park homers in the sixth inning, less than five minutes apart. It was for first time that had happened in the same inning in almost 20 years, when the Rangers’ Toby Harrah and Bump Wills did it—on consecutive pitches!

(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.)