He did more than anyone expected during the 2017 football season. So Boise State’s Pro Day was just another day at the office for Ryan Wolpin. The 5-7, 184-pound running back produced 19 reps in the bench press and ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, perhaps doing enough to get a look as an undrafted free-gent special teams guy in the NFL. The CFL was there, too, and former Bronco Winston Venable, who covered Pro Day for BroncoSports.com, likes that idea. “I think he fits the mold of a CFL football player,” Venable said on Idaho SportsTalk. Venable himself was a UFA and played in both the NFL and CFL. Wolpin’s career could hardly have ended on a higher note. In the Las Vegas Bowl, he ran for 71 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-ending clincher in the 38-28 win over Oregon.
Leighton Vander Esch, as we’ve mentioned, could have easily skipped Pro Day. But the now-former Boise State star didn’t lose any ground in the eyes of NFL personnel. Vander Esch was stellar in drills. Check out the video—he sure looks different than he did in his Salmon River High basketball uniform while leading the Savages to the state 1A championship in 2014. His former Bronco teammates working out yesterday were thankful he was there, as he was as responsible as anyone for 25 NFL teams showing up. Vander Esch reiterated yesterday on IST that there’s “no doubt in my mind” that he’s a first-round draft pick.
It was a good day for Cedrick Wilson. The All-Mountain West wide receiver stepped up in position drills yesterday the same way he did in live action the past two years. How much weight will NFL personnel people give to the way Wilson plays the game live? Take the Las Vegas Bowl, when Wilson caught 10 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. These weren’t little out-routes. We’re talkin’ 22 yards per catch, with many of the grabs coming with a defender draped all over him. Another first-team All-Mountain West guy, Jake Roh, was back on a significant stage for the first time since November. Roh said he’s almost all the way back from the leg injury that kept him out of the final three games of the season.
The Mountain West season officially ends without Gonzaga, which confirmed yesterday it is staying put in the West Coast Conference. MW commissioner Craig Thompson is taking some heat for unnecessarily whetting fans’ appetites with his revelation of the league’s discussions with the Zags. As John Blanchette of the Spokane Spokesman-Review writes, “If you’re going to talk about the big fish on the line, you’d better get him in the boat.” The Mountain West does, however, finish 2017-18 with a Top 25 team, as Nevada was ranked 20th in the last Coaches Poll of the season. That news came alongside word that twins Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline have declared for the NBA Draft without hiring agents. While causing uneasiness among Wolf Pack fans, odds are that they return to Reno for their senior seasons. It could be an invaluable Chandler Hutchison-type experience for the trio.
Fallout from the ugly five-year-old sexual assault cases against former Idaho wide receiver Jahrie Level continues. Yesterday UI placed Athletic Director Rob Spear on administrative leave for 60 days while investigators and university leadership “work to better understand process failures in reporting sexual assault complaints in 2012 and 2013, what has been done since then, and what should be done in the future.” Planned improvements include hiring additional help to address the workload in the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Investigations. “We have a responsibility to provide our students, and our student-athletes, with the best college experience and the most support possible,” said Idaho president Chuck Staben. “We are committed to meeting these expectations.”
Spear has been AD at Idaho for 14 years and is under contract through 2020. He has been at the helm through some trying times. The peak was an invitation to the WAC just after he arrived. The valleys have included the collapse of WAC football in 2012, forcing the Vandals to go independent in football for a year, and the wrenching decision to leave FBS football and rejoin the Big Sky effective July 1 after the Sun Belt declined to renew its football-only agreement with Idaho. Spear, if he survives this, will not be allowed back on the Moscow campus until early June.
The Kelly Cup Playoffs can change things, but the Idaho Steelheads sure look to be peaking at the right time. Going into the final week of the regular season starting tonight at Tulsa, the Steelheads have won seven games in a row, their longest streak in three years. The Steelies have outscored opponents 25-5 during the run. The Steelheads will be without captain and leading scorer Jefferson Dahl, who has been signed to a professional tryout agreement with the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters, an affiliate of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s the first AHL call-up of Dahl’s career. But the Steelies do have the newly-named ECHL Goaltender of the Month, Tomas Sholl, who has earned four shutouts in his last seven starts and has won eight games in a row.
Whatever happened to James Webb III this season? The former Boise State star spent nine games with the Brooklyn Nets in late January and early February, averaging 1.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Since President’s Day, Webb has been back in the G-League with Long Island, where he averaged 14.9 points and 6.6 boards in his final 14 games. The season ended 10 days ago with Long Island missing the G-League Playoffs. By the way, the team formerly known as the Idaho Stampede endured a second straight woeful season since leaving Boise (more on that below). The Salt Lake City Stars were 16-34—dead last in the Western Conference.
This Day In Sports…April 4, 2016:
The Utah Jazz announce a move of the Idaho Stampede to Salt Lake City just over a year after buying the D-League franchise from its Boise ownership group. The team was renamed the Salt Lake City Stars. That ended a 19-year run that included 18 seasons on the court for the Stampede. The Stamps spent eight years in the old Continental Basketball Association, most of them in Nampa’s Idaho Center, and 10 in the NBA’s Triple-A circuit, playing home games in CenturyLink Arena in Downtown Boise. The Stampede captured one D-League championship in their history, in 2007-08.
(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.)