Not too hard to zero in on Bronco D-line

“We have a lot of question marks, but…,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin at Mountain West Media Days. You can guess the question—and the answer. “I’d say the D-line, because of the depth,” Harsin said. That’s ground zero in reloading the Bronco defense as all camp begins Thursday. Boise State lost Tyler Horn, Kamalei Correa, Armand Nance, Justin Taimatuia, Deuce Mataele, Robert Ash and Rondell McNair off last year’s D-line. Plus Dereck Boles due to his dismissal from the team. Suddenly, defensive end Sam McCaskill becomes the graybeard of this group.

The catch is that this unit had a solid spring. Linebacker Ben Weaver took notice. “Not surprised at all,” said Weaver. “Coach (Steve) Caldwell is a great D-line coach, and all the new guys are extremely coachable.” Weaver and his cohorts give Harsin some peace of mind on the defensive line. “Behind them you have a great group of linebackers that can figure it out,” said Harsin. The new guys on the depth chart, including last season’s redshirts, are end Sam Whitney and tackles Daniel Auelua and Sonatone Lui. The most unfamiliar name on the defensive line—maybe the entire two-deep—is Lui. He’s listed as the backup at nose tackle behind David Moa. Lui is a 6-1, 285-pound returned LDS missionary who enrolled at Boise State for spring semester. And a good spring it was. Lui could be a find.

Radio station 103.7 The Game down in Cajun Country first floated it—then confirmed it. Boise State’s season opener September 3 at Louisiana-Lafayette will kick off at 10 a.m. Mountain time (11 a.m. Central—hopefully there’s a TV reason for that). This is not a time to which the Broncos have become accustomed. In fact, it matches their two earliest starts ever. Boise State’s 38-21 win at UConn two years ago kicked off at 10 a.m. (noon Eastern). That tied the “Breakfast With The Broncos” game at San Jose State in 2004 that also began at 10 a.m. (incredibly, it was 9 a.m. Pacific).

The “physically unable to perform list” has affected a couple of the state’s NFL ties. Jay Ajayi started Miami’s training camp with the running back slot all to himself, as newly-signed Arian Foster landed on the “pup” list. It’s game-on now for the former Boise State star, though, as the Dolphins activated Foster Sunday and saw him dazzle in his first practice. And now comes word that Ajayi missed drills yesterday with a bone bruise on his knee. Fortunately it’s his left knee—not the one that scared NFL clubs last year and dropped Ajayi to the fifth round in the draft.

Meanwhile, Dallas expected former Idaho defensive end Benson Mayowa to be ready for training camp after arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-June. But Mayowa got the “pup” designation over the weekend. It’s another challenge for the Cowboys, who will be without suspended former Bronco Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory for the first four games of the season (maybe longer for Gregory).

The 27th annual Albertsons Boise Open will be unlike any the tournament has seen. The event held its Media Day yesterday, reminding us all how its world has changed. Instead of being a mid-summer stop on the PGA Tour’s “Triple-A” circuit as it has been the last three years, the Albertsons Boise Open becomes the second leg of the Web.com Tour Finals September 15-18 at Hillcrest Country Club. Therefore, its not just hype to say this will be the tournament’s strongest field ever. Players will be jockeying for 50 PGA Tour cards to be handed out after the Web.com Championship the first weekend in October, and they’ll be fighting for a record $1 million purse in Boise. (And hey, it’s a Boise State bye week.)

The top 75 players from the Web.com Tour will join PGA Tour golfers ranked Nos. 126-200 in the FedExCup standings (the Web.com’s top 25 will have already secured cards). If the season ended today, the PGA Tour group would include names like Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Davis Love III, Stewart Cink, Justin Leonard, Stuart Appleby, Hunter Mahan and Ian Poulter. Guests at Media Day were Richy Werenski and (by phone) defending Albertsons Boise Open champion Martin Piller. Werenski is No. 3 currently on the Web.com money list and is all but assured a card. He’ll be in the field at Hillcrest, a course he likes. “It’s going to play a little firmer, a little faster (than in the summer),” said Werenski.

Piller, who set an Albertsons Boise Open record at 28-under par last year, is on the PGA Tour now, but his FedExCup ranking may see him back in Boise. He’ll be playing the Travelers Championship beginning this Thursday, and he’d love a top 5 result this week or next. That would get him into the top 125 and allow him to take a break in two weeks. Why is that a big deal? Piller’s wife, Gerina, is an accomplished performer on the LPGA Tour and will be representing the U.S. at the Rio Olympics. Women’s golf will tee off Wednesday, August 17.

Time out from the Boise Hawks season for tonight’s second annual Northwest League-Pioneer League All-Star Game in Ogden. The NWL should be favored—after all, it’s one level up from the rookie league Pioneer. The NWL won the inaugural event last year, 6-5 in 10 innings. Four Hawks will suit up for the event: infielders Jacob Bosiokovic and Garrett Hampson and pitchers Julian Fernandez and Javier Medina. Bosiokovic is the Northwest League’s second-leading hitter with a .336 average, and Fernandez is tops in the circuit in saves with eight.

The MLB trade deadline hit yesterday, and there was a rush of activity on the final day. Former Hawk Rich Hill was dealt from Oakland to the L.A. Dodgers with Josh Reddick. The 36-year-old lefthander is 9-3 on the season with a 2.25 ERA in 14 starts. Hill’s on the 15-day disabled list because of a blister, but he’s eligible to be activated on Saturday, which happens to be the next time the Dodgers need a starter. This is a key pickup for L.A. The Dodgers have been struggling to find five starters all year and currently have only two active members of their rotation with ERAs under 4.00. Ace Clayton Kershaw is out with a herniated disc in his lower back, and there’s still no timetable for his return. Hill, by the way, will be a free agent after this season.

KTVB.com Mountain West Factoid of the Day: The league is always under the microscope in matchups against Power 5 conference teams, even moreso this season after last year’s struggles. The MW has 17 such games scheduled this season. Last year the conference did not fare well at all, going 3-21. Boise State had two of the wins, beating Washington and Virginia. And we thought the results weren’t very favorable in 2015, when the Mountain West was just 5-18 versus the Power 5. The first matchup this year will also be college’s football’s first game of the season when Hawaii plays Cal in Sydney, Australia, on August 27.

This Day In Sports…August 2, 1979:

Thurman Munson, at that time the heart and soul of the New York Yankees, dies in a private plane crash at the age of 32. Munson was the Yankees’ catcher and captain when they won the World Series in 1977 and 1978. The Yanks would not win another until 1996. Munson hit .292 in his career and is still the only Yankee to win both the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards. Club owner George Steinbrenner immediately retired Munson’s No. 15 upon his death.

(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.)