It’s too early to draw conclusions, but true freshman running back George Holani worked out with the veterans at the first practice of Boise State fall camp Friday. Coach Bryan Harsin said that Holani had “earned” that spot with the work he had put in since first arriving on campus earlier this summer. That’s to take nothing away from returnees Andrew Van Buren and Robert Mahone and redshirt freshman Danny Smith, but it sure gives Holani a head start in the quest for playing time this season. He was one of the features of a 2019 Bronco recruiting class that considered to be the best in school history. But if there’s going to be a committee in the backfield, how big can it possibly be?
The other highly-touted true freshman back in the class, Declo’s Keegan Duncan, has been practicing with the newcomers. Duncan looks the part out there at 6-2, 216 pounds. And his resume is stellar: the top recruit out of Idaho this year and the No. 13 athlete in the country according to 247 Sports. Duncan scored 93 touchdowns between his junior and senior years and was a two-time state 2A Player of the Year. The key there, though, is “2A”. There’s going to be an adjustment to FBS football for Duncan, from the speed of the game and the size of the foes to the playbook learning curve. But my guess is that it won’t take that long—and that there’s a place in the committee for him.
WELCOME SIGHTS IN SHIRTS AND SHORTS
For Boise State, health matters. It certainly did last season. Think about all the players the Broncos were missing last year, and it kind of slaps you upside the head. Suddenly, they’re back on the field for fall camp. Not all of them are full-go, but close enough. What would it have been like with a season’s worth of David Moa and Octavius Evans? And more than a month’s worth of DeAndre Pierce? What if the Broncos had Riley Whimpey and Khalil Shakir down the stretch—and a 100-percent John Hightower? Now, Moa and Pierce bring invaluable leadership, Shakir and Hightower bring acrobatics and speed, and Evans brings the No. 1 jersey and all the unfulfilled expectations that came with it a year ago. Despite the high-profile losses to graduation after last season, this is an experienced group.
BRUNO AND BENTON
Bruno DeRose and Benton Wickersham have had parallel paths at Boise State. They were walk-ONs who played alongside each other on special teams in 2017—then had fans thumbing through their programs that season when both got some snaps on defense. They continued to be important but unsung role players last year. Then Wickersham was awarded a scholarship in January, and DeRose followed suit last Thursday when his scholly was announced in the team’s fall camp orientation meeting. Going into the 2019 season, they’re bonafide junior middle linebackers for the Broncos.
READY IN 26 DAYS?
Florida State has also ushered in fall camp, and at least one player is laying down the gauntlet for August 31 in Jacksonville. Beat writer Brendan Sonnane of Noles247 tweeted Friday, “WR Warren Thompson just yelled ‘Boise ain’t ready’ after a nice route/catch in 1 on 1s.” Who is Thompson to utter such an inflammatory statement? Well, he’s bold, to be sure. Thompson is a redshirt freshman who played in the maximum four games allowed last fall to retain his year of eligibility. He didn’t record any stats. However, he is a 6-3, 201 pounder who was a consensus four-star signee in FSU’s 2018 recruiting class. I suppose the Broncos should know his name.
RYPIEN MAKES SOMETHING OF HIS REPS
No indication yet on how many snaps Brett Rypien will get in Denver’s next preseason game, but he should have plenty of family-and-friends support in the stands. The Broncos play Seattle at CenturyLink Field Thursday night, so you can expect a No. 4 caravan heading west on I-90 from Spokane. Reviews of Rypien’s preseason debut have been mixed, but he does have a game-winning touchdown pass to his credit (with help from wide receiver Juwann Winfree) in the 14-10 victory over Atlanta in the Hall of Fame Game, and he had Denver’s top passer rating at 94.2 after going 5-of-10 for 41 yards. The former Boise State star was better than second-round draft pick Drew Lock, anyway.
WINN JUST CAN’T WIN
After all that waiting, work and patience, former Boise State star Billy Winn is faced with missing another NFL season. Winn left Denver’s game against Atlanta last Thursday with what was reported to be a torn triceps and has now been placed on injured reserve. Winn was injured in the Broncos’ preseason opener in 2017 and missed all of that season as well. Winn didn’t play last year; then he was re-signed by Denver in the offseason. The 6-4, 300-pounder hasn’t played a regular-season game since 2016 and is now 30 years old—this is a tough one. Winn was a sixth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2012.
SWEPT BEFORE THE BREAK
The Boise Hawks began the second half of the Northwest League season reasonably well—until they spent the weekend in Eugene. Boise is now 6-7 after being swept by the Emeralds in a three-game series that saw its bats go cold, with the Ems outscoring the Hawks 15-1. Now there’s a break for the 2019 Northwest League/Pioneer League All-Star Game Tuesday night at Memorial Stadium. There’ll be five Hawks suiting up for the NWL: first baseman Michael Togliatti, second baseman Bladimir Restituyo, outfielder Joe Aielts, and pitchers Reagan Todd and Jacob Wallace. An All-Star Block Party kicks off festivities this evening at 6:00 on the Grove Plaza.
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August 5, 2001: Trailing 12-0 in the third inning and 14-2 in the seventh, the Cleveland Indians stage a stupendous rally and beat the Seattle Mariners, 15-14, in 11 innings at Jacobs Field. The Indians joined the 1911 Chicago White Sox and the 1925 Philadelphia Athletics as the only teams in big league history to overcome 12-run deficits. It was an aberration for the M’s, as they won an American League record 116 games that season.
(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.)