The insignificance of “recruiting stars”

It was a little more than 2½ years ago that Dylan Sumner-Gardner, a Texas A&M commit, flipped to follow Aggies defensive coordinator Marcel Yates to Boise State. Sumner-Gardner was a four-star recruit out of Mesquite, TX, and he was good. The stars don’t matter if you’re not on the field, though. DSG missed the last nine games of the 2015 season through no fault of his own—a broken ankle knocked him out at Virginia. But he would have missed the Poinsettia Bowl regardless, as he was barred from traveling with the team for disciplinary reasons. Many wondered if that would carry over to this season Well, Sumner-Gardner has been suspended for the first four games of the year, but this time it’s for “failing to meet NCAA football academic eligibility requirements.” When it comes to recruiting stars, less can be more.

Harsin professes to be excited about the guys he expects to step up in Sumner-Gardner’s absence. We may have an entirely different perspective after Saturday morning’s opener at Louisiana-Lafayette, but Harsin will sing the praises of Cameron Hartsfield to whomever will listen. “Cam has, and it’s really been since last spring, one of our most improved.” The 5-10, 196-pound junior is listed as the starter at strong safety Saturday. Hartsfield has 12 tackles and a pass breakup in his career—he’s backed up by Kam Miles. On the other side, there’s an “or” between returning starter Chanceller James and Evan Tyler at free safety. That’s quite a climb for Tyler, the rangy 6-2, 185-pound redshirt freshman. “Give him another year to grow into that body,” said Harsin.

Considering the massive freshman class Boise State brought in this year, I think everybody’s anxious to see which ones make an impact. If it doesn’t happen Saturday versus the Ragin’ Cajuns, that doesn’t mean it won’t. “Whether that’s right away, or into the second and third week, that remains to be seen,” said Harsin of significant playing time for true frosh. The only true freshman on the new depth chart is Sonatane Lui at defensive tackle. There are only two running backs listed, Jeremy McNichols and Devan Demas. It’s been expected that one of the Broncos’ true freshmen backs will play, and indications are it will be Alexander Mattison. But again, maybe not Saturday.

Of all the “ors” on the Boise State depth chart, the most important one is at left tackle, the spot that protects Brett Rypien’s blindside. That’s where Archie Lewis and Will Adams, the graduate transfer from Auburn, have been battling. “Both guys can play,” said Harsin. It’s not a position that lends itself to a rotation, though. Harsin says the staff will settle on one of the players today and then focus the game plan on him.

Is it Louisiana or Louisiana-Lafayette? The university wants to be known as “Louisiana.” First of all, it sounds better. Certainly more prestigious. Well, at ESPN, Sports Illustrated and USA Today—even the Sun Belt website—it’s Louisiana-Lafayette (or some variation thereof, like UL Lafayette). It’s hard to find anything anywhere that doesn’t include the “Lafayette.” I imagine Louisiana-Monroe is up there saying, “What about us?” So, I’m calling the team what I’ve always called it (and what most people do): Louisiana-Lafayette.

Idaho opens against Montana State tomorrow night in the Kibbie Dome. It’s the first meeting between the two schools since 2000, when John Welsh threw six touchdown passes in a 56-7 UI victory (those were the days). If you tune in on KTVB, you’ll probably notice “99” decals on the Vandals’ helmets. Those are in honor of the late Jace Malek, and they’ll be worn all season. Malek signed his National Letter of Intent with Idaho last year the day after he was diagnosed with cancer. Idaho honored the letter and made Malek a student assistant coach last fall. He passed away in February of this year.

Kellen Moore has been placed on injured reserve by the Dallas Cowboys, meaning he won’t play during the 2016 season. The Cowboys didn’t have a lot of options with Moore, since his broken right fibula was not going to heal by midseason. The former Boise State star never had a chance this year—he was injured four days into training camp. (And now Tony Romo’s out.) Meanwhile, the remaining 2016 undrafted free agents among former Broncos in the NFL survived the first round of training camp cuts. Kelsey Young was waived by Washington Monday, but Donte Deayon is still with the New York Giants, Tyler Gray is in Miami, and Marcus Henry stays in New Orleans.

Hopefully the Boise Hawks haven’t checked out, because they still have six more games to play this season. The Hawks weren’t very engaged last night, as they were annihilated 17-1 by Everett at Memorial Stadium. The AquaSox launched their 20-hit attack with four runs in the first inning. To add insult to injury, Everett popped a six-run ninth on the Hawks as an exclamation point. Three different AquaSox players collected four hits apiece, and none of the five Boise pitchers to appear in the game allowed fewer than two runs. The Hawks try to right the ship against Everett tonight in the third game of the series.

Former Boise Hawk Josh Donaldson is making noise again in the American League Most Valuable Player race. Donaldson homered for the fourth time in two days Monday night as Toronto won 5-1 in Baltimore. He was finally cooled last night, when he went 1-for-4 in a 5-3 loss to the Orioles. Donaldson is batting .294 with 34 home runs and 92 runs batted in, numbers that put him squarely in the MVP conversation. When he won the AL award last year, he totaled 41 homers and 123 RBIs while hitting .297.

Idaho Steelheads coach Neil Graham is stockpiling defensemen five weeks ahead of training camp. The Steelies have added a fifth one now, Kyle Bigos, who spent last season in the United Kingdom’s Elite Ice Hockey League. The 6-4 Bigos has played 161 professional games in the ECHL, AHL, and the UK circuit. Bigos is not from some remote village in Canada or some small town in the upper Midwest. He hails from Upland, CA.

Boise State’s Allie Ostrander is a true sophomore—and she goes into the 2016 as the No. 1 women’s collegiate cross country runner in the country in a ranking by FloTrack. Ostrander, the runnerup at last year’s NCAA Championships, is joined in the top 10 by fellow Bronco sophomore Brenna Peloquin, who is No. 6. This is also as high as the Boise State cross country teams have ever been in the preseason coaches’ poll. The Bronco women go into the fall at No. 6, while the men are No. 16

This Day In Sports…August 31, 1996, 20 years ago today:

Boise State and Idaho make their debuts in Division I-A football. The Broncos fell at home to Central Michigan, 42-21, while coach Pokey Allen was away in Vancouver, BC, undergoing alternative cancer treatment. The Vandals led Wyoming into the fourth quarter before falling 40-38 at Laramie. UCLA transfer Ryan Fien broke Ken Hobart’s Idaho single-game passing record in his debut with 543 yards.

(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.)