Whatever you label him, Gabe is back

This is Gabe Perez’s first week of full-participation practice for Boise State as he completes rehab on the shoulder injury that kept him out for the 2015 season and spring football this year. Perez in a helmet and pads is a welcome sight for the Broncos as they try to replace Kamalei Correa at what they call the “STUD” spot. Correa was a force for Boise State the past two seasons, evidenced by his selection in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. But he was better as a sophomore than he was as a junior. Part of the reason is Perez, who had a great year himself in 2014 and pushed Correa daily in practice. Perez recorded 29 tackles and 7.5 tackles-for-loss that season. He now returns and is currently listed as a co-starter with Jabril Frazier.

It was interesting Monday night at the Bronco Athletic Asociation Kickoff dinner when all the players were introduced, and those at the STUD position were included with the linebackers instead of the defensive line. That may have been done just to balance the roster as it was moved across the stage in waves—or, could it indicate a hybrid evolution of that position? A 3-4 defense here and there?

Speaking of linebackers in their purest form, there’s Leighton Vander Esch, who is poised to become a fan favorite this season. He’s a small-town guy from Riggins, formerly all-everything in all sports at Salmon River High School. Vander Esch came to Boise State as a walk-on two years ago, but it didn’t take long for him to show the grit that so many walk-on Idahoans display on their way to scholarships. Look at his redshirt freshman season. Vander Esch began as a special teams contributor. By the end of the year he was getting snaps on defense. He finished with 20 tackles, one for loss, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup—and he even rushed for 10 yards on a fake punt. Now he’s a 6-4, 236-pound sophomore with speed…and respect…and popularity.

Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com has talked to lots of people (many of them off the record) about Big 12 expansion. Dodd reports that “a source” at one of the schools invited to apply for membership says the conference “will make a ‘cut’ of the 18 candidates by the end of the month. That would be followed by a more detailed interview with the Big 12 at a neutral site.” If the cut includes 10 schools, Dodd has Boise State as one of them—barely. He places the Broncos at No. 10 with the comment, “A campus too far.” He puts Colorado State at No. 8 (“Won’t deliver Denver.”), and there’s no San Diego State mention. Dodd’s top three are BYU, Houston and Cincinnati, the ones who have been getting the buzz all the way along.

As you recall, the five established criteria items are: “Athletic success and competitiveness, fan base size, TV/broadcast following and access to media markets, academic standards/research and teaching, and reputation/integrity and shared values.” Is any campus too far for the Big 12? There’s nothing in there about geography, unless “access to media markets” counts. That’s obviously a strike against Boise State.

The word that ESPN has blocked the Boise State opener from being shown in Idaho anywhere but online on ESPN3 or on the WatchESPN app is discouraging. Not just because of the inconvenience for fans, but how it affects the big picture for future games. The network wants to establish ESPN3 and the app as primary sources for college football, but they aren’t. Kickoff times still haven’t been established for the Broncos’ games against Utah State and Colorado State on the blue turf. Here’s hoping one of them doesn’t end up on ESPN3 with an 8:15 start time. The trade-off for a late kickoff in that case would be minimal exposure nationally. Only relocated hardcore Boise State fans and families and friends of Bronco players will take the trouble to find it.

Boise State product Jordin Andrade, the first athlete from the country of Cape Verde to ever reach an Olympic semifinal, placed 16th overall last night in the 400-meter hurdles at the Rio Games. Andrade lagged early but ran strong down the stretch to finish sixth in his heat. His time of 49.32 seconds was three-hundredths of a second faster that his first-round mark. Andrade was runner-up in the event at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships, the best NCAA finish, indoors or outdoors, for a Bronco male athlete in a track event in school history. Also yesterday, former Idaho Vandal Angela Whyte, running for Canada, finished 30th overall in the 100-meter hurdles and did not advance.

Kurt Felix is the next Idaho tie in the starting blocks in Rio. The former Boise State standout begins competition in the decathlon today. Felix is in his second Olympics representing the island nation of Grenada after participating in the 2012 Summer Games. Felix was unable to finish and did not log a score in London, but he did take third in the long jump and fifth in the high jump. Earlier that year as a Bronco, he won the national title in the decathlon at the NCAA Outdoor Championships with a Mountain West record 8,062 points.

The Boise Hawks’ send-off for their 12-day, 11-game Western Idaho Fair road trip was a 7-6 loss to Tri-City last night at Memorial Stadium. The Hawks forged a 3-1 lead early but soon found themselves playing catch-up. Luis Castro’s sixth homer of the season, a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth, pulled Boise to within a run, but it ultimately could not offset a pair of three-RBI nights from the Dust Devils’ Chris Baker and Luis Asuncion. The Hawks will not be back at home until Monday, August 29. They play at first-place Eugene tonight.

Charlie Dodero is back aboard as an Idaho Steelheads defenseman. Dodero has agreed to terms with the club after splitting the 2015-16 season between the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch and the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The 6-2, 210-pounder played 77 games for the Steelies over parts of two seasons from 2013 to 2015, scoring seven goals and racking up 31 points to go along with 156 penalty minutes.

Eagle’s Graysen Huff and Josh Gliege both missed the cut yesterday in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Huff carded a three-over 73 in the second round and was four-over for the tournament; the cut was at two-over. Gliege improved with a one-over 71 and finished five-over. The top 64 advanced to today’s match play portion of the event.

This Day In Sports…August 17, 2002:

For a couple of New York Yankees, a milestone is reached and an amazing streak is snapped. In an 8-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field, Alfonso Soriano hit a home run to become the only second baseman in major league history to record 30 homers and 30 steals in a season. And, in his second plate appearance of the game, Bernie Williams grounded out after recording a base hit in each of his previous 11 at-bats, one short of the big league record..

(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.)