Phil Steele goes into excruciating detail on everything he does. Phil Steele goes into excruciating detail on everything he does, and that includes his Mountain West preseason all-conference teams. Steele goes four teams deep (uh, three would be fine). The only two Boise State players on Steele’s first-team offense are from the position group that may define the Broncos this year: left tackle Rees Odhiambo and center Marcus Henry. In fact, all five Bronco offensive line starters appear somewhere—Travis Averill is second-team, Steve Baggett third-team, and Mario Yakoo fourth. You won’t see a skill position player until the third team, where wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, tight end Jake Roh and running back Kelsey Young sit. Steele is rolling the dice on Young. The Stanford transfer just joined the team yesterday for summer conditioning.
Boise State is better represented on defense, with four first-teamers. That falls in line with those generally considered to be stars on this team. Defensive end Kamalei Correa, linebacker Tanner Vallejo, safety Darian Thompson and cornerback Donte Deayon are all on Steele’s No. 1 unit. Correa led the Mountain West with 12 sacks last season and had the big finish against Arizona, Vallejo was the Defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, and Thompson (eight) and Deayon (seven) were one-two in the Mountain West in interceptions last season. There are no Broncos on Steele’s second team, while defensive tackle Duece Mataele and linebacker Ben Weaver are third-teamers. Mataele is another roll of the dice by Steele. Fans have waited more than two years to see Mataele on the field.
It’s interesting to see Steele’s choices at the quarterback spot. His first-teamer is Max Wittek, the former USC QB who transferred to Hawaii. On the second team is Joe Gray of San Jose State. What a difference two years makes. Back then you had Fresno State’s David Carr, SJSU’s David Fales, Nevada’s Cody Fajardo, Wyoming’s Brett Smith and Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton. The MW was considered a quarterbacks’ league. Keeton is still around, but he’s No. 3 on Steele’s list after two injury-interrupted seasons. Keeton’s teammates, linebackers Nick Vigil and Kyler Fackrell, are notables on the first-team defense.
While we have time, here are a couple more observations from Boise State coach Bryan Harsin going into summer conditioning via his KTIK interview. On the subject of quarterbacks, Harsin is far from ready to name a starter, regardless of Ryan Finley’s status for the Washington game. He noted that Tommy Stuart “had the best spring since he’s been here” and that “Ryp (Brett Rypien) was coming on in the spring game.” It would seem that Alex Ogle is one level behind right now. “We’ve talked about his physical tools,” said Harsin of Ogle. “He just has to dive in to what we’re doing on offense.”
Harsin wants to get back to the committee approach at running back, like when D.J. Harper, Doug Martin and Jeremy Avery ruled the roost. Each was capable of—and did—put up a 100-yard game when called upon to carry the game plan. Harsin likes Boise State’s chances of achieving that, especially with Kelsey Young added to the cupboard. “Kelsey’s a guy that’s played,” Harsin said of Young’s days at Stanford. “He’s played at a high level.” Harsin pointed out Cory Young’s strong spring, and he said Jeremy McNichols will be more running back than hybrid wide receiver this year. The wild card in the committee concept will be what the Broncos can get out of backups Devan Demas and Jack Fields. “We don’t know what that formula is yet, but we know we’ve got guys that can be successful,” said Harsin.
Alex Guerrero’s seventh annual Gridiron Dreams Football Academy hits the valley this week, with spots still left in the popular camp. Guerrero has built quite a program over the years, drawing on former Boise State teammates and friends for players-only instruction. Those scheduled to appear this year include Kyle Wilson of the Saints, Tyrone Crawford of the Cowboys, Matt Paradis of the Broncos, and Austin Pettis and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe of the Chargers. Also lined up are familiar old names like Ian Johnson and Drisan James. And those are just the guys Guerrero listed off the top of head yesterday on Idaho SportsTalk. Day 1 for the 12-18 age group will be held Friday at Capital High, and Day 2 will move to the blue turf for the first time on Saturday.
Basque Soccer Friendly organizers have settled on Saturday, July 18, for the match between Athletic Bilbao and Club Tijuana. The countdown clock on the BSF website has already been accelerated by 11 days. The event had to be moved after a strong regular season finish by Bilbao got the team into the qualifying round for the Europa League tournament on July 30. Me? I’m glad it’s on a Saturday now instead of a Wednesday. The game will no longer happen during Jaialdi, but what a great table-setter for Boise’s big Basque festival.
When we talk about the Chicago Cubs these days, it usually has something to do with former Boise Hawk Kris Bryant. But today it’s all about the one-time Treasure Valley Community College Chukar, Jason Hammel. The 32-year-old righthander notched a career-high 11 strikeouts last night, upping his season record to 4-2 in a 5-1 win at Miami. Hammel, who came into the season with a career ERA of 4.60, is at 2.82 this year after scattering four hits and allowing one run over 6 2/3 innings. Suffice to say he’s happy to be a Cub again. Hammel was part of the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija from Chicago to Oakland on 4th of July weekend last summer. Hammel’s stay with the A’s was quite sour—he went 2-6 in 12 starts.
This Day In Sports…June 2, 1925, 90 years ago today:
Yankee first baseman Wally Pipp has a headache. Lou Gehrig, a 21-year-old phenom, gets the nod to replace Pipp in the starting lineup and helps the Yanks beat the Washington Senators, 8-5. Gehrig, of course, would not miss another game until 1939—playing in 2,130 consecutive contests, an iron man streak that would stand until it was eclipsed by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995.
(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.)