“Yes, buts” for the Broncos in Athlon

Next off the college football preview magazine rack today is Athlon Sports, which ranked Boise State first in the Mountain West and No. 34 overall. The Broncos are Athlon’s highest-ranked team out of the Group of 5, which kind of sounds similar to ESPN’s preseason magazine, right? Well, while trumpeting Boise State’s offensive big three of Brett Rypien, Jeremy McNichols and Thomas Sperbeck, Athlon says “junior tight end Jake Roh and senior wide receiver Chaz Anderson are the only other major contributors returning.”

Also, while pointing out that Rypien “was the only true freshman to average more than 300 passing yards per game” last year, Athlon says “he battled inconsistency, which contributed to a pair of home losses late in the season.” (Just mentioning those losses is salt in the wound for the Broncos.) And—while noting that Boise State “ended a disappointing 2015 on a historic high holding Northern Illinois to 33 yards” in the Poinsettia Bowl, Athlon says the Broncos’ ability to bounce back from a 9-4 season could hinge in part on “defensive line coach Steve Caldwell’s ability to turn an unproven bunch of linemen into a formidable presence.”

Athlon has a “Coaches on the Hot Seat” feature, and No. 5 is Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter. The synopsis tells the story: “DeRuyter went 20-6 overall and 15-2 in the Mountain West in his first two seasons, but the program has taken several steps back in the last two years. In 2015, the Bulldogs went 3-9, and all but one of the nine losses came by 14 points or more. DeRuyter fired offensive coordinator Dave Schramm and reassigned defensive coordinator Nick Toth.” Fresno State needs to start winning out of the gate this season, or empty seats in Bulldog Stadium will force their hand.

Roh has become the first Boise State player in three years to make the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award that goes to the nation’s top tight end. Roh, a junior, is one of four Mountain West tight ends named. He’s been a consistent target in his two seasons as a Bronco, making 35 catches for 408 yards as a freshman and adding 33 receptions for 357 yards as a sophomore with one touchdown grab each season. Roh was second-team All-Mountain West in 2015. The last Bronco on the Mackey Award watch list was Gabe Linehan in 2013. Idaho’s Buck Cowan, who had 48 catches for 624 yards and four TDs, is also included.

The blue turf and what is now the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl are part of Matt Ryan’s legacy at Boston College, which has announced it will retire the star quarterback’s jersey at its November 19 game against UConn. As a sophomore, Ryan threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns to lead BC to a 27-21 win over Boise State at the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl, ending the Broncos’ 31-game home winning streak. As a senior, Ryan led the Eagles as high as No. 2 in the AP Poll in 2007 and its first appearance in the ACC title game.

Two other quarterback notes, one pertaining to football—and the other to baseball. Jake Luton, who left the Idaho program after spring football, has opted for the junior college route at Ventura College. It’s a good place to get noticed. Luton had been the backup to Vandals starter Matt Linehan. And Tony Hilde, who 20 years ago was Boise State’s starting QB, has been named the new head baseball coach at Eagle High. Hilde replaces the recently-retired Frank Wright, the only coach the Mustangs have ever known.

College basketball’s July evaluation period opened yesterday, allowing Division I coaches to watch as many club games as they want over three weeks. While we take a post-4th of July breath, let’s think of those cold, crisp days of hoops season and do a way-too-early scope of the Mountain West, courtesy of the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Chris Murray, a good dissecter of conference hoops. A year ago Murray was a bit skeptical of his hometown Nevada Wolf Pack but he’s a believer now. Murray picks the Pack second next season behind San Diego State. Then he has New Mexico, defending Mountain West champion Fresno State and Colorado State before he gets to Boise State at No. 6. Suffice to say Murray sees a rebuilding year ahead for the Broncos.

“Boise State is one of only two teams in the MW to lose three double-digit scorers in the offseason (UNLV, which lost five, is the other),” writes Murray. “James Webb III, Anthony Drmic and Mikey Thompson were the main producers for the Broncos last season and they’re all gone. We’ll find out just how good of a coach Leon Rice is. Nick Duncan is one of the best shooters in the league, but Chandler Hutchison and Paris Austin need to take big steps forward as their roles expand in 2016-17. They’re both talented. They have to take over the team. This is a sizable rebuild but I don’t see the Broncos bottoming out. Boise State’s trio of Duncan, Hutchison and Austin is a good place to start and Rice’s program has proven it can develop talented players.”

The Boise Hawks continued their late-inning struggles last night in Spokane, watching what was once a 5-0 lead evaporate when the Indians’ Blaine Prescott anchored a five-run seventh with a grand slam that spelled doom in a 9-6 loss. Twenty games into the season, Boise is 6-14. One positive for the Hawks right now is rightfielder Willie Abreu, the sixth-round draft pick out of the University of Miami who made his pro debut last Saturday. Abreu went 0-for-4 in his first game, but he’s 8-for-17 since, including a single and a triple last night. Abreu has already hit two home runs and is batting .381.

Troy Merritt did not make the field at this week’s Scottish Open. But no harm, no foul. Merritt doesn’t have to worry about missing out on opportunities on the PGA Tour while he’s rolling the dice in Europe. Because of his victory last year at the Quicken Loans National, he has a tour exemption through the 2017 season. No word on whether there’s a possible route for Merritt to qualify for the British Open next week. Graham DeLaet and Tyler Aldridge are off this week, as the PGA Tour cancelled the Greenbreir Classic due to the devastating floods in West Virginia. It’s looking now like DeLaet is headed for Rio de Janeiro next month to represent Canada at the Olympics.

Tonight’s the night for Allie Ostrander. Boise State’s true freshman phenom runs in the first round of the 5,000-meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene as the only collegiate competitor in the field. What does Ostrander have to do to get to Rio? The field of 24 competitors will be split into two heats of 12. The top six fastest times from each heat along with the next four fastest times overall will advance to the final on Sunday. Ostrander has the 12th-fastest qualifying time in the field entering the week. Also tonight, Emmett’s Megan Rolland runs in the 3,000-meter steeplechase final, trying to punch a ticket to the Summer Games.

This Day In Sports…July 7, 2013:

Andy Murray becomes the first British player since 1936 to win the men’s title at Wimbledon, beating Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Murray’s win set off a raucous celebration inside and outside the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club as British fans marked the end of 77 years of frustration. The loss by Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked player, came three months to the day after he had led Serbia to a Davis Cup quarterfinals victory over the United States at Boise’s Taco Bell Arena.

(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.)