The third prong in the backfield mix

As Boise State re-starts spring football today following spring break, let’s make one more stop in the running backs’ room. Coach Bryan Harsin is quick to throw Ryan Wolpin’s name in the mix in the backfield with that of Robert Mahone this spring while Alexander Mattison rehabs his shoulder. Wolpin has received occasional carries in the heat of the battle the past three years, but he’s mainly been seen as a clock-chewer at the end of games that have been decided. In those cases during Wolpin’s first season, though, we became accustomed to seeing him rip off serious chunks of yardage. And by all accounts, he’s having a solid spring.

When Wolpin rushed for 87 yards on 14 carries late in the Poinsettia Bowl rout of Northern Illinois in 2015, I thought he was primed to compete for backup time in 2016. But all of last season, Wolpin netted just 39 yards on 13 totes. Still, Harsin doesn’t want anyone to assume this spring is just about Mahone making his bid to be Mattison’s running mate. Wolpin is now a senior—he sat out the 2014 season after transferring from Northern Colorado, seeking a chance to play at the FBS level. He’s averaged more than five yards a carry and has 194 rushing yards over two seasons. Wolpin is still looking for his first touchdown.

Scott Huff would be starting Part II of spring football at Boise State if he was still with the Broncos. Instead, Huff kicks off spring ball with the Washington Huskies today as their new offensive line coach. The UW O-line is seen as a key reason the Huskies made it all the way to the CFP final four and the Peach Bowl last season. Huff enters an interesting situation at Washington, albeit a good one.

Writes the Seattle Times’ Adam Jude: “Just when the line found some stability, there was a sudden turn late last month when veteran coach Chris Strausser left to take a role as the assistant O-line coach with the Denver Broncos. The move was as curious as it was surprising. Strausser, a longtime Chris Petersen associate, has not spoken publicly about his departure. To replace Strausser, Petersen went back to Boise State to hire Scott Huff. ‘He’s a great guy,’ center Coleman Shelton said of Huff. “We knew any coach that Coach Pete was going to bring in would be a great hire. We’re excited to get working with him, and he seems fun and energetic and we’re getting ready for it.’” Sounds like Scooter being Scooter.

Idaho spring football started Friday in Moscow, and I concur with those who say the difference this year for the Vandals, coming off their 9-4 record and wild 61-50 win over Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, will be the “how do you like me now?” attitude they will take into their final season in the Sun Belt. Rather than have a 2018 return to the Big Sky and the FCS form a cloud over the program, there could be quite an edge to this squad in 2017. Idaho has some senior leaders who can make sure of it—guys like quarterback Matt Linehan, running back Aaron Duckworth, and offensive lineman Jordan Rose.

New England’s Shea McClellin is sure to be watching this week’s annual NFL spring meeting closely. One of the rule changes the competition committee could forward to owners to consider is a ban on defensive players leaping over the line of scrimmage on field goals and extra point attempts. The former Boise State star executed such a hurdle maneuver twice in highlight reel fashion last season, once to block a PAT against Baltimore in December, and again in a try that disrupted an Atlanta extra point in the Super Bowl. The latter was controversially penalized. The NFL Players Association has lobbied for the ban on vaulting over the line to block kicks, mainly over safety concerns. Defenders are currently allowed to do it as long as they don’t land on another player or use their hands or arms for leverage.

The Idaho Steelheads got back to their ol’ third period magic over the weekend to take the final two games of their series at Wheeling. The Steelheads broke open a tie game with three goals in the third period Saturday night, riding tallies by Jefferson Dahl, Brian Nugent and Anthony Luciani to a 4-1 victory. It was Luciani who scored on a third-period breakaway with 7½ minutes left Friday night to give the Steelies a 4-1 triumph. With six games left in the regular season, Idaho is two points away from clinching a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Steelheads also have 38 wins, as many as they had all of last season.

Graham DeLaet didn’t make the cut at the Puerto Rico Open over the weekend, but Tyler Aldridge did. The former Vallivue Falcon and one-time Boise State Bronco closed with a four-under 68 yesterday and finished in a tie for 37th, earning $12,900. It was only Aldridge’s third paycheck of the PGA Tour season dating back to last October and his first since the last tournament he played, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. Aldridge played on a PGA Tour card last season but lost his full-time status on the big circuit last fall.

It ended earlier than anyone expected, but Destiny Slocum’s first season of Division I women’s basketball was one to remember. Slocum and Maryland were ushered out of the Sweet 16 Saturday in a 77-63 upset loss to Oregon, a game that saw the two-time Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year out of Mountain View score nine points with three assists and five turnovers. That latter stat was an aberration. Slocum ends the campaign averaging 11.5 points and six assists while taking Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. She exceeded her scoring averaging in the NCAA Tournament, putting up 13.3 points per game.

Another two-time Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year, Kyle Dranginis, missed Gonzaga’s promised land by one year. Dranginis, the former Skyview standout, was a senior last season, and this year’s Zags are the ones who have made it to the Final Four for the first time in school history. The Bulldogs routed Xavier 83-59 Saturday, laying claim as Mark Few’s best Gonzaga team ever. Elsewhere in men’s hoops, the best-of-three CBI Finals begin tonight, with Wyoming traveling to Coastal Carolina. Game 2 will be in Laramie Wednesday night, with the Cowboys again hosting Game 3 Friday evening, if necessary.

This Day In Sports…March 27, 1917, 100 years ago today:

In just the third year the Stanley Cup was awarded to a professional team—it had been part of amateur hockey for the first 21 years of its existence—the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association fall to….the Seattle Metropolitans. Yes, Seattle of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association was among the first professional Stanley Cup champions. Wouldn’t Seattle like to have an NHL team in Key Arena today. Or in SoDo. Anywhere.

(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.)