‘Twas six days before Christmas

Today is college football’s early signing day. Boise State has 14 known commitments heading into the early period, which goes through Friday. Will all the commits come aboard? Will some flip at the 11th hour? Recruiting is not an exact science. The signed letters of intent that come in today may yield some superstars and some flameouts. But there are three four-star prospects on the Broncos’ list: quarterback Hank Bachmeier, “athlete” Casey Kline, and tight end Austin Griffin, the No. 1 junior college tight end recruit in the country who came aboard two weeks ago. If they all sign, it’ll be the first time Boise State has had that many four-stars in one class.

The Broncos opened an early gift Tuesday night in the form of their 14th commit. Safety JL Skinner from Point Loma High in San Diego revealed his decision to go with Boise State over Cal and Louisville. Skinner is said to have George Iloka-type skills. He certainly has George Iloka-type size at 6-3, 190 pounds. Skinner made his announcement live on KUSI-TV with family and friends in the studio. The host quizzed him on Boise. Skinner correctly answered that the average high in August is 90 and the average low in December is 24. (Close enough, anyway). And that Idaho’s state fruit is the huckleberry.

Boise State released its depth chart for the First Responder Bowl Tuesday. You can never put too much stock into that, but it was going to be interesting to see what coaches would do at the linebacker spot with Desmond Williams leaving the program and Blake Whitlock kicked off the team. Williams spent much of his time at nickel but was capable of playing ‘backer, while Whitlock was a key backup in the wake of the season-ending injury to Riley Whimpey. The starters at the two traditional spots remain Zeke Noa and Tyson Maeva. The backups there are now Bruno DeRose, Benton Wickersham and Tony Lashley. Former Bishop Kelly standout Will Heffner moves into the No. 2 nickel spot behind Kekaula Kaniho. Depth has served the Broncos well this season, and they’re counting on it to get them through.

Bob Behler pointed this out Tuesday on Idaho SportsTalk. Boston College tight ends have a combined 65 catches this season. Six different players have been in that parade, led by All-ACC Tommy Sweeney’s 32 receptions. The Eagles’ leading wide receiver, Kobay White, has only 33 grabs. That is foreign to Boise State these days. Bronco tight ends have combined for 33 catches this season, led by Chase Blakley with 17. And remember that 10 of the tight end grabs came in one game, at Oklahoma State. It’s not too late for this group to be an impactful part of the game plan as the trip to Dallas approaches. I was one of those who predicted a big year from John Bates. He’s had some big grabs, but there have been only 10 receptions by Bates all season.

WESTERN MICHIGAN’S WILD RIDE

So what’s been up with Western Michigan since its appearance in the 2014 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl? The “other” Broncos have had quite a ride. Their first appearance on the blue turf marked a major step forward. It was coach P.J. Fleck’s second season, and he had led WMU into a bowl a year after going 1-11. Fleck kept “rowing the boat” (his mantra), and in 2015 the Broncos won the first bowl game in their history. Then Western Michigan was undefeated in the regular season two years ago before falling 24-16 to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. That propelled Fleck to Minnesota, and WMU was left out of the postseason last year despite a 6-6 record. So Friday’s date with BYU on the blue turf is a welcome one.

FAMILIARITY FOR THE BRONCO-COUGAR FUTURE

Many of the BYU Cougars that Boise State fans see on the field in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will be familiar for three more years to come. That’s because BYU has played 26 freshmen this season, including 17 true freshmen, according to the Deseret News. Fourteen freshmen have started games, five of them true freshmen, one of whom is quarterback Zach Wilson. It was on early signing day a year ago that Wilson inked his letter with BYU, one week after decomitting from Boise State (but that’s another story). Wilson leads the team in passing with 1,261 yards and eight touchdowns, and freshman running back Lopini Katoa is BYU’s top rusher with 423 yards and eight TDs. Those are two guys who should be prominent in the Bronco-Cougar rivalry through the 2021 season.

‘TANK’ IS AT THE TOP OF HIS CRAFT

Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has been named to his second Pro Bowl, this time as an NFC starter. Lawrence is the only former Boise State star voted in, although injuries and the Super Bowl could open the door for another. Leighton Vander Esch, anyone? Lawrence’s season isn’t pacing like last year’s, when he tied for second in the NFL in sacks with 14.5. He still has 8.5 sacks this season, though, tied for 19th in the league.

THIS IS NOT LAST YEAR’S LOYOLA MARYMOUNT

You may recall that last month, while we all waited for the Boise State-New Mexico football telecast on CBS Sports Network, we saw the end of Loyola Marymount’s 65-52 hoops win over Georgetown in the Jamaica Classic. That should have been eye-opening enough. But the Lions have also posted a 61-50 victory at UNLV and come into tonight’s game against the Broncos with a 10-1 record, their best 11-game start ever. Boise State beat LMU by 20 points last year and has won five in a row in the series. No matter. The Broncos have faded in the second half of each of their true road games, frittering away halftme leads at Grand Canyon and Oregon.

The Boise State women, with their Husky Classic trophy in the case now, host Southern Utah tonight in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos would do well not to look past SUU. The Thunderbirds are 3-5 but do have a win over BYU. In Caldwell Tuesday night, the College of Idaho men Eastern Oregon bounced back from their first Cascade Conference loss of the season with a 78-61 win over Eastern Oregon. Keun Palu-Thompson poured in a career-high 26 points for the Yotes while their defense dominated.

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December 19, 2015: Kellen Moore becomes the first former Boise State quarterback ever to take a snap in a regular-season NFL game. Moore, the winningest QB in college football history, had waited almost four seasons for his chance before Dallas inserted him in the second quarter of a 19-16 loss to the New York Jets. He threw his first NFL touchdown pass to Dez Bryant and went 15-of -25 for 158 yards. Moore also tossed three interceptions, but one of them was on a Hail Mary at the end of the game. He was in his first season as a backup with the Cowboys after serving as the No. 3 quarterback with the Detroit Lions for three years.

(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.)