SI.com has ranked the top 100 college football players for 2016, and Boise State wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck made the cut at No. 97. The capsule from Colin Becht: “The sky’s the limit for Sperbeck, who broke out with a huge 2015 campaign in which he caught 88 passes for 1,412 yards. But those numbers mask Sperbeck’s slow start to the season—he caught just five passes for 41 yards in the Broncos’ first two games—as Boise State’s passing game struggled under Ryan Finley. Once freshman Brett Rypien took over, Sperbeck’s numbers took off. As Rypien settles in for a full season with more experience, Sperbeck’s production should only increase.” Increase beyond 88 catches for 1,412 yards? Alrightee then.
The top-ranked Mountain West player is No. 87, San Diego State running back Donnell Pumphrey, who’s within reach of Marshall Faulk’s SDSU career rushing record. No. 29 is Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr., and No. 25 is Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis (who we saw post one of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl’s best-ever receiving days in 2014, with eight catches for 176 yards and three touchdowns). But that’s it for Group of 5 representatives on SI.com’s list. Four out of 100. At least in terms of perception, the gap between the Power 5 and Group of 5 is very real.
While I was looking over the “Kellen Moore does a Tony Romo impression” story late last week, I came across a ranking of the Dallas Cowboys’ 53-man roster by Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. He has Moore at No. 40 (No. 53 would have sounded fantastic a year ago). The other Boise State products on the squad: Demarcus Lawrence is No. 10, Tyrone Crawford No. 11, and Orlando Scandrick No. 15. Scandrick, the ninth-year pro, is the most intriguing piece of the BSU link right now for the Cowboys. “A torn ACL and MCL ended Scandrick’s season before it ever started last summer,” writes Machoda. “His absence was noticeable as the Cowboys cornerbacks were only able to record five interceptions. Scandrick has become one of the Cowboys’ top defenders, starting 29 games over the previous two seasons.”
Lawrence gets the lofty notice despite the fact he’ll be on the shelf the first four games of this season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. At ESPN.com, there’s a list of the “Most underrated players on all 32 NFL teams.” Lawrence certainly isn’t underrated in Dallas, but Vincent Verhei picks him off the Cowboys roster. “It’s a shame Lawrence will be suspended to start the season, because the former second-rounder took a noticeable step forward in his second season, leading the Cowboys with 7.5 sacks,” writes Verhei. “When he does come back, Lawrence will probably be one of the few reliable sources of pressure on the Dallas defense.”
One last Phil Steele observation from his massive college football preview magazine. Steele says Boise State has “one of the top linebacker units in the country,” No. 18 to be exact. Supporting material: Bronco linebacker Tanner Vallejo was named Friday to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list. That gives Vallejo a bit of momentum going into fall camp after he missed the Poinsettia Bowl rout of Northern Illinois due to a violation of team rules. Vallejo’s junior season was relatively tame after he had been named Defensive MVP of both the 2014 Mountain West championship game and the ensuing Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona. He did finish the 2015 regular season with a team-leading nine tackles in the victory at San Jose State.
Here’s what I’m thinking on Allie Ostrander. I’m thinking when the USA team marches onto the track at the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo on July 24, 2020, Ostrander will be present. The Boise State true freshman finished eighth last night in the 5,000-meters at the Olympic Trials in Eugene. The cards didn’t fall her way—Ostrander prefers a quick pace out of the gate, and that didn’t happen. “The slow start to the race kind of put a damper on my racing style,” she told KTVB at Hayward Field.
But consider the fact it was Ostrander’s first event in four months—and that she was the only collegiate runner in the field. And here she is, telling the Alaska Daily News, “I wasn’t wrapped in fear, or drowning in my expectations or anyone’s expectations.” Wow. How old is Ostrander? Well, she’s 19. She’ll be 23 when the Tokyo Games roll around, having just completed her senior year at Boise State in outdoor track and field (she redshirted the outdoor season this year). My guess is that expectations will be very, very high at that point.
James Webb III has signed his partially guaranteed two-year contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, but playing time has been scarce since the first two games of NBA Summer League play. The former Boise State star didn’t play in the final game at the Utah Summer League last Thursday. Webb played two scoreless minutes Saturday versus the Lakers—then last night against Chicago, he got in for just a minute and a half and was scoreless again.
Rainouts are extremely rare at Memorial Stadium, but it won’t surprise you that the Boise Hawks got one last night. I’ve never seen a Boise day quite like yesterday in the month of July. Up to that point, the weekend had been mixed for the Hawks. They salvaged the final game of their series in Spokane Friday night after four losses with a 3-1 win behind a masterful pitching performance by Erick Julio, who threw six scoreless innings of five-hit ball. Back in Boise Saturday night, the Hawks loaded the bases in the eighth and ninth innings but got only one run out of it and lost 4-2. The Hawks and Volcanoes will play a doubleheader tonight, two seven-inning games starting at 6 p.m.
Brian Scott’s near-term goal must be to finish a Sprint Cup Series race in one piece. The Boise High grad was involved in another crash Saturday night at the Quaker State 400 and did not finish, getting an official result of 33rd after starting in the No. 32 spot. According to NASCAR.com, “Scott set off the biggest wreck in the race when he got loose on Lap 93, saved the car but was hit from behind by Kyle Larson. Scott swooped wide but turned back to the middle of the track, right in front of Chris Buescher who T-boned him.” It was Scott’s third DNF due to crashes in the past four races.
This Day In Sports…July 11, 1996, 20 years ago today:
L.A. Lakers general manager Jerry West pulls the first of two coups that set the table for three straight NBA championships at the turn of the century. West traded Vlade Divac to Charlotte for the draft rights to a Philadelphia high school phenom named Kobe Bryant. The next week, West would sign Shaquille O’Neal as a free agent from the Orlando Magic, completing the genesis for the Lakers title teams in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Interestingly enough, West is now a key advisor for the Golden State Warriors.
(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.)