They weren’t sandbaggin’ after all

Most of us here believed it was just pre-draft posturing by some savvy organization. Most of us here believed it was just pre-draft posturing by some savvy organization, all this talk about concern over Jay Ajayi’s knee holding up in the NFL. After all, we saw him rush for 1,823 yards and 28 touchdowns last season with that knee totally exposed. His football pants almost looked like Bermuda shorts. But when team after team passed on him—when he was trumped by the likes of Miami’s Duke Johnson, Northern Iowa’s David Johnson and Florida’s Matt Jones in the third round, and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford in the fourth, and Minnesota’s David Cobb in the fifth, we knew that every team in the league had its doubts about Ajayi’s durability.

For the Jay-Train to fall to the fifth round and No. 149 overall to the Miami Dolphins was fairly shocking, but that’s the hand he’s been dealt. What was it exactly that teams found? And when? You had NFL Network’s Mike Mayock out there saying Ajayi’s knee was “bone-on-bone.” Of course, this will only serve to increase Ajayi’s resolve to make it in the NFL. The 2014 national scoring leader is going to be one motivated individual when he puts on the pads in Miami. With each round he dropped, though, it meant that the team choosing him would have less invested in him, making his margin for error in mini-camps and training camp that much smaller. But he’s a dang good football player.

We’ve learned over the years never to count out Matt Miller, so who’s to say he can’t figure out a way to stick with the Denver Broncos? The former Boise State wide receiver received a free agent deal from Denver after the draft and is tentatively ticketed for training camp. Miller is champing at the bit to get on the field for a real practice for the first time since last September. Quarterback Grant Hedrick will join Miller if he can make it through his free agent tryout at the Broncos’ minicamp. Two other Boise State products landed tryouts: linebacker Blake Renaud will give it a shot as a fullback with Minnesota, and kicker Dan Goodale will audition with Baltimore.

The first player taken from the Mountain West was who many draft experts expected it would be, offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State. Sambrailo won’t have to travel far—he went in the second round to Denver. CSU’s Garrett Grayson was the trendy choice to be included among the elite quarterbacks in this year’s draft, but he lasted until the third round, going to New Orleans. Grayson was still the third QB chosen. Also selected while Ajayi was enduring his agonizing wait Saturday was San Diego State offensive guard Terry Poole, picked in the fourth round by the Seahawks. Six other Mountain West players went after Ajayi, three of them from Fresno State (defensive lineman Tyeler Davidson, safety Derron Smith and offensive lineman Cody Wichman).

Five days before the Blue & Orange Game last month, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin suggested Troy Ware held the same status at wide receiver as the Broncos’ “big three,” Shane Williams-Rhodes, Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson. Then Ware suffered a serious knee injury in practice a couple days later, and it turns out that a torn ACL has ended Ware’s college career. With Ware gone, and with Rick Smith’s future in question due to injuries he suffered in an alleged incident with a teammate this winter, and with Tanner Shipley having medically retired, the Broncos’ challenge now is to identify a “next three” for 2015.

The College of Idaho appears to have some depth at quarterback as spring football goes in the books. At the Purple & Gold Game Saturday at Simplot Stadium, starter Teejay Gordon shared time with Tyler Cox and A.J. Martin. Cox, a redshirt freshman from Boise High, was 6-of-10 for 77 yards and led the Coyotes in rushing with 60 yards. Martin, another redshirt freshman from Idaho Falls High, was 5-of-9 for 82 yards. Gordon, who’s been dinged up this spring, was just 5-for-14 for 66 yards but did engineer a 50-yard scoring drive. All three QBs threw a touchdown pass.

Gary Stevens considered himself to be “flying under the radar a little bit” going into Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. But by the time bugle sounded, Stevens had received massive pre-race publicity, and Firing Line was considered a threat to topple the favorites, American Pharoah and Dortmund. Stevens and Firing Line did not disappoint, making a charge down the stretch after losing the lead to American Pharoah out of the final turn and finishing second in the 141st Run For The Roses. “I’m proud of the race he ran,” trainer Simon Callaghan said of Firing Line. “Our team had him spot on to run. We got a very good ride from Gary and in the end there were no excuses. We got beat by a very good horse.” Stevens was seeking his fourth Derby winner and first since Silver Charm in 1998.

It was a mixed-bag weekend for Boise NASCAR driver Brian Scott. In the Xfinity Series Saturday, Scott logged the fourth second-place finish of his career in the Winn Dixie 300. It was his sixth straight top 10 result on that circuit. Then in the Sprint Cup main event yesterday, Scott’s car blew an engine on the 18th lap of the Geico 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway, ending his day and taking out Michael Waltrip in the process. Waltrip was later able to return to the race. Scott, by the way, is now sixth in Xfinity Series points.

Elsewhere, the Boise State men’s golf team finished sixth yesterday at the Mountain West Championships in Tucson. The Broncos’ Ty Travis tied for 15th on the individual board, shooting one-over for the tournament. While most of her track and field teammates were prospering at the Border Clash at Dona Larsen Park, Boise State’s Emma Bates was breaking her own school 10,000-meters record again at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, CA. The College of Idaho baseball team saw its season come to an end at the NAIA West Grouping Championships in Portland yesterday. The Coyotes were eliminated in the semifinals by Concordia University, 7-1, and finish the campaign with a 33-26 record. And the NNU baseball squad qualified for this week’s GNAC Tournament via a weekend split with Western Oregon.

This Day In Sports…May 4, 2012:

The beginning of the end for the 50-year-old Western Athletic Conference as we knew it, as Utah State and San Jose State announce they’re departing for the Mountain West, and Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio confirm their move to Conference USA—all of it effective in 2013. That left two football-playing schools in the WAC, Idaho and New Mexico State. The Vandals athletic program faced some tough decisions. Idaho would remain in the WAC for non-football sports in 2013-14 but would play one season of independent football. In 2014, the Vandals would return to the Sun Belt in football and to the Big Sky in other sports.

(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.)