Difference-making position group

Not that these guys are flying under the radar, but their resurgence was huge for the Broncos last year. Not that this position group is flying under the radar at Boise State, but its resurgence was huge for the Broncos last year. No telling where the tight ends might go this year. After a forgettable 2013, with just 20 catches for 201 yards and zero touchdowns, the tight ends combined for 47 grabs for 540 yards and four TD’s last year. Jake Roh, of course, had the bulk of that production. He had a tremendous freshman season with 35 receptions for 408 yards and two scores. Holden Huff contributed 10 catches, and Fruitland’s Alec Dhaenens had the most amazing stat line of the year: two catches, four yards, two touchdowns. Interestingly enough, that was it for the tight ends, though. No one else had a reception (four tight ends had catches in 2013).

Former Bishop Kelly Knight Jake Hardee didn’t have a reception last season after five grabs for 73 yards in 2013. Hardee looks to get back on the board this year. Connor Peters, the only guy departing from this group, was catchless last year as well. Now, watch for the redshirt freshmen, Chase Blakley out of Coeur d’Alene, and David Lucero. Each player had two receptions in the Blue & Orange Game in April, including a 20-yarder by Lucero. They’re similar in stature—Blakley is 6-4, 235 pounds, and Lucero is 6-5, 230. True freshman Matt Pistone would probably be in the mix if the tight end group wasn’t so deep.

When looking up a couple things on Jeb Putzier for my Sunday Sports Extra trivia question (he’s Boise State’s career leader among tight ends with 128 receptions, 2,050 yards and 19 touchdowns), I came across a disturbing month-old story from KUSA-TV in Denver about Putzier’s post-NFL life. All many of us knew was that the Eagle High grad was hosting a sports-talk show on Denver’s KOA Radio, and we’ve seen him do some studio analysis on ROOT Sports during Mountain West telecasts. But life has been tough for Putzier since his football career ended in 2010 as he’s dealt with what he says were 1,000 concussions over the years. “My old teammates when they get asked that question will say two or three,” Putzier said in the KUSA interview. “I explain to them every time you saw stars or were lightheaded from a hit, that’s a concussion. And everyone says, ‘Well that’s every day at work.”‘

Putzier says he has to immediately lay down for several hours after his radio show due to chronic fatigue, and he once had a suicidal episode that landed him in the hospital. A brain imaging company in Littleton, CO, has been treating Putzier, and he says his condition has greatly improved, but it’s still a struggle. He also says if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t play football. Putzier took some shots at the NFL in the story over its lack of action on the concussion issue and the preponderance of cortisone shots. FYI, he never once mentioned his Boise State playing days.

Former Boise State star Jay Ajayi is missing Miami Dolphins practice time due to a hamstring injury, according to Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post. This is bad timing for the Jay-Train, who’s been under scrutiny for troubles with pass protection during training camp. The Dolphins’ preseason debut is Thursday night at Chicago, and Ajayi needs all the audition time he can get right now. Writes Abramson, “Other backup tailbacks such as LaMichael James and Damien Williams have made more plays, and this injury isn’t helping the rookie.” Another former Bronco on the Miami roster, cornerback Jamar Taylor, is getting an unexpected challenge from journeyman corner Brice McCain.

The Idaho Potato Commission has re-upped as title sponsor of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, agreeing to a two-year extension of its partnership with the game through 2018. The commission has had its world-famous product featured in the bowl’s name since 2011. It’s a great moniker—there’s never a question anymore as to what it is and where it is. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl’s 19th edition kick off Tuesday, December 22, at 1:30 p.m. Wish there was a long-range weather forecast for the longest-running cold-weather bowl game in the world. It needs a break after a frigid rain all but cleared the stands last year for Air Force’s victory over Western Michigan.

Nick Symmonds is not backing down. The Bishop Kelly grad and five-time national 800-meters champion was on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday and was as cantankerous as ever over USA Track & Field’s demand that he sign a contract agreeing to wear only Nike gear at “official team events” during the World Championships in Beijing. Symmonds refused to sign the document because of USATF’s failure to define “official team events” and has been removed from Team USA. “I’m devastated, to be honest,” he said on IST. “I’ve spent the last two years of my life training for this event.” Symmonds isn’t devastated enough to not take a stand, though. He points out that he’s 31 now, and he’s concerned about the rights of the next generation of athletes. “As an Eagle Scout from Troop 94 in Boise, Idaho, we were raised to leave a campsite better than when you found it.”

Graham DeLaet doesn’t take this lightly. It’s a major. The former Boise State star has had to withdraw from this week’s PGA Championship due to the thumb injury that forced him out of another tournament that’s important to him, the RBC Canadian Open last month. “So disappointed that I can’t tee it up at the PGA,” tweeted DeLaet yesterday. “Need some time for my body to heal. I plan on being back and ready for a playoff run.” The Weyburn, Sask., native had told Canadian reporters last Thursday that his thumb was at “90 percent.” DeLaet’s former Bronco teammate, Troy Merritt is set for his first major, though. He tees of at 12:20 p.m. our time Thursday at Whistling Straits in Kohler, WI.

The Boise Hawks’ season-high losing streak has reached six games with last night’s 9-0 loss to Eugene at Memorial Stadium. The defeat equaled the Hawks’ worst loss of the season, another 9-0 rout at the hands of Spokane last month. Emeralds shortstop Andrew Ely, the Eagle High grad, has had an impact in his homecoming as Eugene has captured the first two games of this three-game series. The Cubs’ 32nd-round 2014 draft pick out of Washington has gone 3-for-8 with three RBIs and has scored four runs. Ely, who bats third in the Ems’ order, has been all over the place in just over a year as a pro—from rookie league to both levels of long-season Class A to Triple-A and now to the Northwest League.

The Hard Luck Former Boise Hawk of the Year has to be New York Mets reliever Jerry Blevins. The 31-year-old leftie joined the Mets in late March in a trade with Washington and threw five perfect innings over his first seven appearances. But Blevins fractured a bone in his left forearm on a comebacker on April 19 and has been sidelined ever since. He was making progress toward a return to the Mets roster. Then this: he re-fractured the arm a week ago when he slipped while stepping off a curb. Surgery is scheduled for this week.

KTVB.com Mountain West Nugget of the Day: The toughest thing about the 2015 schedule for Boise State is that the Broncos don’t play Nevada (not to mention Fresno State) this year—and next. In the past 44 years, the Wolf Pack and Boise State have played each other every season except four. The Broncos and the Pack skipped 1978, the year before Nevada joined the Big Sky; 1992, the year the Wolf Pack joined the Big West; 1995, the year before Boise State joined the Big West; and 2000, the year Nevada joined the WAC. Now, the quirks of divisional scheduling interrupt one of the Mountain West’s best rivalries.

This Day In Sports…August 11, 1961:

Future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn wins the 300th game of his big league career. No telling how many victories Spahn would have amassed had he not missed three complete seasons when he took part in World War II, earning himself a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. His final total was 363, still baseball’s record for left-handers. Spahn won 20 or more games 12 times, including in 1963, when he went 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA at the age of 42.

(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.)