The first players you’ll see September 4

The first place good recruiting usually manifests itself is on special teams. The first place good recruiting usually manifests itself is on special teams, and Boise State coach Bryan Harsin is excited about the personnel he has available for those units this year. “Bottom line—we’re starting the game on special teams,” said Harsin. “That’s where the first impression will be.” The lasting impression from the 2014 season was not overwhelming. The Broncos ranked 32nd nationally in punt returns—that’s okay. But they were 114th in kickoff returns. It’s not just on the return guys, it’s on the unit as a whole. And there are hungry individuals awaiting atonement this year. Boise State was also 54th in the country on kickoff return defense and 92nd in punt return defense.

Boise State’s redshirt freshmen, many of whom were late commits after Harsin took over in December, 2013, will figure prominently on special teams. The coach has a natural affinity for these guys, coming in as they did during the uneasy two months after the departure of Chris Petersen. Harsin will have a solid sampling of redshirt frosh to utilize on the cover, return and kick-scoring units. Here are 10 examples: tight ends Chase Blakley and David Lucero, defensive ends Jabril Frazier, Kaleb Hill and David Moa, wide receiver Sean Modster, safety Skyler Seybold, running back Cory Young, and linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Joe Provenzano. Guys who will happily cut their teeth as special-teamers.

The other aspect of special teams, of course, is the kicking itself. Sean Wale is entrenched as Boise State’s punter, coming off a school postseason record 49.5 yards per boot in the Fiesta Bowl. Tyler Rausa is poised to become the new place kicker. I’ve mentioned this before, but Rausa is a good athlete. In the last Bronco Football Summer Classic softball game two summers ago, he made a handful of phenomenal plays at shortstop, displaying an accurate, rifle-like arm. Rausa’s a junior—unfortunately he’s unlikely to have any eligibility left if and when Boise State gets that new baseball program going.

We talked to new Boise State commit Nick Crabtree on Idaho SportsTalk Friday. The first thing that jumps out at you about the tight end from Huntington Beach, CA, is his size. Already 6-6, 250 pounds at a skill position going into his senior year in high school, how much bigger can he get? “This is where I’d like to stay,” said Crabtree, adding that he’s done growing upward. He does say 260 pounds is possible if he adds muscle mass, which is plausible once Bronco strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman gets him going. As for his recruitment, Crabtree said he was on the phone with Boise State coaches Friday morning and received his scholarship offer. He accepted before he hung up. Crabtree said he also had offers from Fresno State, Nevada and San Jose State.

Boise State may be a double-digit favorite over Washington, but Huskies coach Chris Petersen has been in this situation before. In his Bronco days, he’d pull some rabbits out of his hat. If he’s to do that in his blue turf homecoming September 4, it may be in the form of Budda Baker, UW’s star sophomore safety. Petersen’s staff is not shy about using its treasure trove of talent at Washington on both sides of the ball—witness linebacker and eventual NFL first-round draft pick Shaq Thompson last year (463 yards rushing, 7½ yards per carry and two touchdowns). Now the Huskies are experimenting with Baker. “There’s not many guys that I’ve been around that really approach the game like he does,” said Petersen in the Seattle Times. “And so that being said, are there some things he can do on the other side of the ball? There probably are.”

Idaho’s first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday wasn’t about stats for coach Paul Petrino. It was about mindset. “I told the guys when we finished that we’re a lot tougher football team right now,” Petrino said. “That’s how you win games in the fourth quarter – being tough. That’s what we’re becoming.” With a 102-play session, there were plenty of stats to go around. Quarterbacks Matt Linehan and Jake Luton combined for 395 yards and six touchdowns, but they threw three interceptions and completed only 55 percent of their passes. David Ungerer was the go-to guy among receivers with 12 catches for 104 yards, while Quinton Bradley and Tueni Lupeamanu contributed two sacks apiece on defense.

The spotlight game involving former Boise State players in the NFL over the weekend was Tampa Bay at Minnesota. Doug Martin was under the microscope as he approaches his fourth season with the Buccaneers—and his first under new Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, the one-time Bronco coach. Martin had five carries for 19 yards, telling us virtually nothing about what his season might be like. On the other side, Blake Renaud logged some serious time at fullback again for the Vikings, who won 26-16. Former Idaho standout Quayshawne Buckley, who led the Vandals in sacks last year, had one tackle for Tampa Bay.

Troy Merritt’s first career major took him over $2 million in season earnings yesterday. The former Boise State star needed only $402 to get there, but he wouldn’t have made even that much had he not made the cut Friday in the PGA Championship. Merritt showed some gumption, following two poor rounds with two solids ones at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, WI. The capper was a three-under 69 in the final round that lifted him into a tie for 54th and won him $22,500. It would have been more were it not for a bogey on No. 18.

Kevin Padlo is on a roll, and it carried the Boise Hawks to a 6-4 victory at Tri-City last night. The 19-year-old third baseman went 2-for-4 with an RBI double, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. Padlo has batted .425 during this stretch with three home runs, including a three-run shot Saturday night. He has all the tools. Padlo has 41 RBIs and an amazing 29 stolen bases this season, and he’s 6-2, 200 pounds. Now Eugene comes right back to town again. For Boisean and Emeralds manager Gary Van Tol and his family, it will be like he never left. The Ems just swept the Hawks in three-game series that ended last Tuesday.

It would have been a great story if Eagle’s West Valley Alł-Stars had made the Little League World Series. But it wasn’t to be, as Portland blew by them 15-3 Saturday in San Bernardino. It was Friday’s elimination game that would have been talked about all the way to Williamsport, PA. West Valley had an 8-6 lead with one out to go in the sixth and final inning. After two errors on one play allowed a run to score, the game ended when Vancouver’s coach was called for interference for physically nudging his runner standing on third base to break for home for a run that would have tied the game. West Valley coach Tony Hilde, the former Boise State quarterback, and his stunned players celebrated mightily.

Less than four weeks after taking over Albertsons Stadium’s temporarily green turf in the Basque Soccer Friendly, Athletic Bilbao pulled off a pretty significant upset back home. Athletic stunned FC Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup Friday, handing the European power its worst loss in more than a decade. Bilbao star Aritz Aduriz, who scored three minutes into the match in Boise against Club Tijuana, put up a hat trick in just 15½ minutes’ time versus Barcelona. The two teams face off again tonight in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

This Day In Sports…August 17, 1995, 20 years ago today:

Bobby Dye, the most successful basketball coach in Boise State history, suddenly resigns three months before his 13th season was to begin. Dye and the BSU administration had been wrangling over the length of his contract, and the veteran coach elected to step down after three Big Sky championships and subsequent NCAA Tournament appearances. Dye had an overall record of 213-133 at BSU, with four 20-win seasons. He was replaced that day by top assistant Rod Jensen.

(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.)