In a perfect world, Boise State would like two waves of three at wide receiver. The first group would be the starters, presumed to be Thomas Sperbeck, Chaz Anderson and junior college transfer Cedrick Wilson. The second group would be, well, whomever. It’s been a long time since the Broncos had two waves. But there may be one shaping up now. A.J. Richardson and Sean Modster have been identified as guys who can fill that role, thanks to various accomplishments over the past 10 or so months. Akilian Butler was tabbed as such at the beginning of last season but had only two catches last fall. Well, coach Bryan Harsin has some welcome news: his pick for most improved player after fall camp, which officially concluded with a scrimmage last Friday, was Butler.
“He’s just had a really good camp,” said Harsin of Butler. “The extra work he put in during the summer (is) really showing up.” Butler’s biggest moment as a Bronco so far came not on a passing play, but a running play. He scored his lone collegiate touchdown on a 10-yard reverse in the 55-0 win over Hawaii on the blue turf last October. Butler, one of the fastest players on the Boise State roster, has also been getting a serious look as a punt returner.
Perhaps because of the backlash over Boise State’s game at Louisiana-Lafayette being shown online only in the Boise market, BSU Vice President for University Advancement Laura Simic has written an e-mail to fans with tips on how to view the game. In the letter, Simic explains ESPN’s rights to the game through the Sun Belt and notes that “ESPN sublicensed the game to the American Sports Network. While the game will be available on ASN in to-be-determined parts of the country, it is our understanding that because ASN does not have an affiliate in Idaho, the Boise State-Louisiana game will only be available on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.” At least KBOI-TV tried. It still sounds like ESPN wants this to be a game that helps establish ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app as mainstream vehicles to view games.
Idaho has pulled off a coup for its fans in Southwest Idaho, Eastern Oregon and the Magic Valley. The Vandals’ opener a week from Thursday night will be shown live on KTVB. Not 24/7, but the Mothership (as well as KTFT in Twin Falls). Idaho hosts future Big Sky opponent Montana State, which has multiple Boise State ties, starting with new head coach and former Bronco assistant Jeff Choate. Included on Choate’s staff are ex-Boise State free safety Gerald Alexander, wide receiver Matt Miller and linebacker Byron Hout.
Darian Thompson is on a fast-track to pregame introductions for the New York Giants when they open the season against the Dallas Cowboys on September 11. That’s assuming the former Boise State star is healthy, as he bruised his shoulder in the Giants’ 21-0 loss at Buffalo Saturday night. Thompson is expected to be okay—the team will pace him the remainder of the preseason. The play that caused the injury was destined to result in an interception for the Mountain West’s career leader in picks. But Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie jumped in front of Thompson and broke up the pass (and, to a certain extent, DT’s shoulder).
Thompson has basically cemented his spot in the lineup alongside strong safety Landon Collins, though, provided the shoulder bruise is just a nick. Observers say he’s directing traffic in the Giants secondary like a veteran. That’s been the story throughout rookie camp, OTAs and now training camp. Thompson is getting high marks for his ability as a sure-tackler and his knack for keeping stride with wide receivers—and jumping routes when he sees the opportunity. “(Thompson) stepped in, he knows football, he gets the football,” new NYG coach Ben McAdoo said in TodaysPigskin.com. “He can communicate the game, and it doesn’t seem too big for him. He allows those around him to play fast.”
Kellen Moore has no control over what happens with Dak Prescott in Dallas. The injured former Boise State great, in his role as the “primary consultant” in the Cowboys quarterback room, has to be happy for Prescott, even if it affects Moore’s future with the team. As a fourth-round draft pick last spring, Prescott was seen by some as a project. But he’s been stellar in the Cowboys’ first two preseason games, and Moore no doubt has helped. Prescott quarterbacked the Dallas offense for six drives in Friday night’s 41-14 rout of Miami, and the Cowboys scored 34 points. He was 12-of-15 for 199 yards and two touchdowns and added two rushing TDs. Dallas owner Jerry Jones had indicated he was not going to sign another QB to replace Moore as the No. 2 guy behind Tony Romo. Now it’s clear he doesn’t have to.
The College of Idaho has a reference point now as it prepares for the season opener September 3 versus Montana Western. The Cougars held their Purple and Gold Scrimmage at Simplot Stadium Sunday evening to cap the first week of fall camp, and pass defense will be a focus in the next week and a half. Six C of I quarterbacks combined to pass for 334 yards and three touchdowns during the session, with Tyler Cox and Darius James-Peterson each making his case to start at quarterback. Cox, the Boise High product, went 8-of-9 for 121 yards and two long touchdown passes. Peterson, the Bay Area true freshman, was 8-for-11 for 106 yards and a 41-yard touchdown strike.
A wrap on the Rio Olympics, which went much better that I ever thought it would: the Kristin Armstrong story, of course, was exponentially bigger than anything else involving an Idaho tie. The Boise cyclist got some video time in NBC’s final montage Sunday night after a third straight gold medal in the time trial. Sports Illustrated’s Rio Preview three weeks ago went through every event and predicted gold, silver and bronze. Armstrong wasn’t listed at all, with this justification in the footnote: “The U.S.’s Kristin Armstrong, two-time champ, will turn 43 in Rio.” Doesn’t that say it all? The next-best Rio performance came from former Boise State star Kurt Felix, who finished ninth while representing Grenada in the decathlon.
It was not in the cards for the Boise Hawks last night as they sought a three-game winning streak in Vancouver. By the time the second inning rolled around, the Hawks were already on their third pitcher with the game tied 3-3. Mike Bunal stemmed the tide with four scoreless innings, but the gates opened again in the sixth and seventh when the Canadians scored three times off Alec Kenilvort. The turning point came when Vancouver’s Christian Williams hit a deep fly ball to the short porch in the left, chasing Steven Linkous to the track. Linkous appeared to haul it in shy of the wall, but the ball bounced out of his glove and over the fence for a home run. Canadians 7, Hawks 6.
Boise State’s 2016-17 women’s basketball schedule is out, including 17 home games. The marquee games are in Mountain West play—there are no Power 5 opponents coming to Taco Bell Arena this season. The feature non-conference game is a road tussle against Washington State and former Bronco coach June Daugherty on Saturday, December 3. The Cougars won 57-52 in Boise last December.
This Day In Sports…August 23, 1999:
The South-Central Boise All-Stars begin play at the Little League World Series in Williamsport with a 4-0 loss to Tom’s River, NJ. The Boise kids would go 1-2 in pool play, falling to Phenix City, AL, 12-0 before finishing on a high note with a 2-0 victory over Brownsburg, IN. Much of the South-Central team would form the nucleus of Borah High’s state championship team in 2005. The roster included Stephen Fife, who went on to the University of Utah and made the big leagues in 2012 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
(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.)