Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mountain West Marathon begins

Each summer since Boise State joined the Mountain West Conference, the media has feasted on stories about Coach Pete, conference changes and great QB's during the annual Media Days. Boise State first started coming to Las Vegas to preview the up coming season July of 2011. At that time, they were a 2 time Fiesta Bowl winning team and were loaded with stars and more BCS game hopes for the Mountain West. BYU, Utah and TCU had either left the conference or were planning too. Kellen Moore was on top of the world and Ryan Lindley of SDSU was expected to be a  NFL prospect. Coach Pete was busy explaining why he didn't think bigger was better and sincerely said he had no intentions of leaving Boise State. In the summer of 2012, Boise State was off to the Big East, TCU had left and the conference was reeling from a Conf USA merger that was cancelled and instead added San Jose State and Utah State. Kellen Moore was gone and the big QB on campus was Fresno State's Derek Carr. Coach Pete speculation had really quieted down and most thought he was rejuvenated by the Big East move and life after Kellen challenge. Last year, the Coach Pete is Beat drum was loud and the national media got the story that he could leave. Boise State was staying in the Mountain West but nobody knew when the merry go round of college football conference movement would stop. Derek Carr was obviously the best QB of the conference but San Jose's David Fales and Wyoming's Brett Smith were considered NFL guys.

Well, now what?   
The 2014 Media Days begin Tuesday and things have changed in the area of Coach Pete, conference speculation and great MWC QB's. 

Coach Pete: These questions will be answered by Bryan Harsin. Can the Assistant turn into the Professor? If we are thinking that Harsin can join Pete as one of the greats in college football , it is unlikely. Sporting News ranked the top College Football coaches and three of the Top 10 were hired to replace a legend at the same school they once served as an assistant. Saban, Spurrier, Meyer, Stoops and Kelly all have done it differently. As did Petersen, Shaw and Fisher. It's possible but not a slam dunk. 

Conference-a-palozza: The focus has turned to if the MWC can keep up with the Power 5. Looks like the big schools have shut the door to expansion and are preparing to hoard all the money. The talking points won't be about getting new schools to join or holding onto rising stars. Rather, who can afford stipends and who can't? Seems like a new reality is creeping in and the middle class is being pushed down to lower class.
QB's: The best player, Utah State's Chuckie Keeton has a major knee injury to over come and almost an entirely new offensive line. Colorado States Garret Grayson was a slow starter last season and only had 23 tds vs 11 interceptions. Nevada's Cody Fajardo, while a true dual threat QB, only has 39 TD passes in 3 years and has never started more then 8 games in a row due to injury. BUT, if Keeton/Fajardo puts it together they can dominate the MWC and be a 3-4th round NFL pick.
It's time to get these new questions answered. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Vandals go Quiet

When the U of I enters the Sun Belt for football and the Big
Sky Conference for everything else 7/1/14,  it will be very quietly. I don’t sense they
are proud of it. Kind of reminds me of that guy who finally has a date to the
prom but they are “just friends.” They have to take the bus to get there and
slip in the back door so they aren’t really seen. He tells himself that at
least he will have the memory of going and he will collect money from his
friends who said he could never get a date in the first place.
Yea, it’s a B rated movie.  
The players and potential recruits shouldn’t see much
difference. The Olympic sports teams will be trading in trips to Las Cruces (
fly to El Paso) , Bakersfield ( fly to LAX) , Orem ( fly to SLC), Phoenix,
Chicago, Kansas City, Seattle and Edinburg, Texas ( fly into McAllen) for some Big
Sky trips. Buses will be loaded to Bozeman, Missoula, Cheney, and probably Pocatello.
Heck they still get to fly to Portland, SLC, PHX, Denver and Sacramento. If you
are 18-22 years old that stuff matters. I call it a push. If you want to go to
U of I, the schedule won’t stop you in any sport. Football players will go
explore Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisiana.  Players who have more talent on average will
gravitate to schools up the food chain.
Everybody knows that.
And, everybody is okay with it publicly. The President, AD
and coaches all seem to think while it isn’t ideal, they need the money. It
sounds desperate. It doesn’t sound too prideful or mighty. But, it is reality.  
What should the fans think? I don’t believe they will ever
engage in football and the other sports will take years to re-create these so
called rivalries. Until winning big starts happening. But, in the meantime, they
will cheer against whatever team the U of I plays and that will be that.

Oh well.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

America is red white and BLUE

The last few days in the national sports scene have been a Paul J buffet of options. World Cup soccer, NBA finals, NHL Stanley Cup finals and our countries golf championship the US Open.

Great weekend to honor the US Flag  and all the great athletes who dominate the world right?


In soccer, the USA soccer coach said publicly it wasn't realistic to think we have a shot of winning the World Cup. Wonder what he says behind closed doors? Whle Klinsmann is a German citizen, he said in 2013 he was going to get around to the paperwork of becoming a US citizen and vote in a presidential election.


Doesn't matter, bottom line is the US is not a soccer power. We can't even hire a good American coach and we don't have one single player in the TOP 50 in the world. But, we do dominate in basketball right?


The best team in the NBA Finals has been the San Antonio Spurs. While I think their top player has been Kawhi Leonard, an American, he couldn't do it without the United Nations around him. The Spurs are made up of an Italian (Belinelli), two Frenchman (Parker/Diaw), Argentenian (Ginobili), Australian (Mills) and a Brazilian (Splitter).

America's Best Team has been imported.

The US Open ,as of Sunday am, had been dominated by a German (Kaymer) who threatened to run away with the tourney. I don't know what we expected anyway, the USA has only won 3 of the last 10 US Opens.

At least we have the Stanley Cup Champ LA Kings! Ironically, in a sport dominated by Canadiens, the Kings roster didnt feature alot of Americans just good ones. The Kings roster is 83% non-American but featured an American captain (Brown), hero(Martinez) and goalie (Quick). We are on a roll!

What is our problem? I blame the buffet. The buffet of options for a kid in the USA. You can do whatever you want here and apparently whenever you want to. And, our kids would rather sit down and do it  in front of a computer.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

On the Surfaces

Rather then dumb down Idaho Sports Talk, I will dumb down this blog. At least you only have to consider one persons opinion on the obvious. And it will only take a minute not an hour. The debate is: which sport offers the toughest playing surface?

Basketball and hockey have consistent surfaces arena to arena. Both are indoors and the dimensions are standard. I rarely hear of complaints about the courts or ice and the only variable is the atmosphere of the place.

Football has standard dimensions that do not change but can either be grass or turf and play day or night. The weather plays a part as well in football with sun, rain, snow,wind and humidity all playing factors in outcomes. Football rarely cancels a game due to weather and  can be treacherous. The Ice Bowl between Green Bay and Dallas in 1967 was -48 wind chill.  We have all seen 100 degree games with 80% humidity in the south.

Baseball leaves the dimensions of stadiums up to the locals. Very tough. Higher fences, further fences, and closer fences all make baseball very unique.  As long as the distance from home base to the nearest fence is 250 feet they are OK unless it is the foul lines and that has to be 320 feet or more. 400 feet to center is about average as well.

I declare baseball the winner of the four major sports. But, other sports offer variety as well.

Tennis has common dimensions but very different surfaces in clay, grass and hard court. At the first spit of rain though, tennis is cancelled. Soccer has standard dimensions like football but I don't recall much soccer in the snow. Horse tracks all vary in length with the Preakness being the shortest followed by the Derby and the longest and most difficult the Belmont. While the horses will run in mud they don't in any cold weather but the surfaces do vary from grass, dirt and artificial.

Golf may be craziest of all. yes its played on grass and the bunkers have sand but that's about it. Length of holes, fairway width and greens slope ratings make it a roller coaster ride for golfers around the PGA tour. if that were not enough, the rules allow for the movement of the holes from day to day during tournament play. Length of grass in rough areas, tee box placement and watering all make the course more difficult.

Golf is the winner here and overall. It is usually the Golfers vs the Course. Where else does that happen?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

UI Football: Eating out of Bowls

The fact that the NCAA penalized the University of Idaho for not enough of their football team staying academically eligible or in school over a four year period of time leaves blood on allot of hands. And, since the school knew they would be getting into a blood bath on the field anyway, I think they didn't care.

What's the difference?

They would rather take the image hit of academic sanctions then the image hit of a losing football program.

Idaho got both.

A post season playing ban and some practice time was taken away. From a team who CBS  said was the 4th worst in the country last year?  What difference does it make if you averaged a little more then 3 wins a year the last 5 anyway?

The only bowl Idaho would likely be in was a soup bowl.

Former Coach Robb Akey was allowed to recruit any athlete who would help them win from 2009-2012. I believe it was a win at all costs attitude that Rob Spear and President Nellis encouraged. Coach Akey did exactly that and despite him wanting to get rid of the " thieves, criminals and drug guys" he inherited in 2007, he replaced them with players who didn't want to go to class, wouldn't behave and couldn't stay eligible. Idaho said players left because the Vandals had no conference and they didn't have enough money to hire baby sitters to make sure the football players went to class.

Bull shit.
I am all for giving marginal kids a chance to get a college education and turn themselves around. I believe in giving them a second chance. Maybe even a third if they deserve it.  But, if those kids can't stay eligible by going to class and getting mostly C's, that's on the kids. They were not ready for the challenge of self improvement at the time and they sabotaged themselves. It isn't the end of the world, just the end of their chance to get a education.

Idaho took a chance on some marginal students who played football and, with so little to lose, they have lost again.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lift Fast or Lift More?

Power football. Two tight ends and two backs and up the gut we go. How long has it been that Boise State has been able to execute that? One reason they got away from it was to cater to the pocket passing of Kellen Moore. The strength of the team was with the ball in his hands and working off that to unleash Doug Martin. The run first Boise State offensive lines from tackle to tackle have been in decline. They were trained to have speed and stay injury free. Former strength coach Tim Socha was all about speed in everything
the Broncos did. They even bench pressed fast.
But did they use enough weight?
Did the offensive lineman spend as much time working on their 20 and 40 yard dash times as they did power cleans, dead lifts or throwing tractor tires around? The debate rages on in strength training but maybe new strength coach Jeff Pitman will return the offensive line to a group that doesn’t have to throw the ball on 3rd and 1 which Boise State did in the spring game. The bigger runs that Jay Ajayi had were off tackle and
in space. For this team to run downhill, they need to do it between the tackles and just move people back. It may take until 2015 but I believe that effort is underway.
Here is what caught my attention at the Spring scrimmage:

ATTENDANCE: Only 13,882? Well since you could take up two seats with one butt that sounds about right. It just looked like more and I don’t understand why Boise State doesn’t scan tickets on the way in other then they don’t want to turn anyone away.
And that’s a good thing.

OFFENSE: Looks like the shot gun snap needs some work. Marcus Henry had 4 or five low and to the left snaps to the QB. That will have to change or the offense will never find a rhythm. The reverse to Shane
Williams-Rhodes is alive and well. He has the speed to break it and defenses will have to honor him and that will provide openings between the tackle and guard. The offense inability to sustain drives was obvious BUT the big play is still a nice return to the scheme and gives me lotsa hope for the 14 season. I like the statue of liberty too. Thomas Sperbeck is playing like he will be the 3rd WR on the field. He showed some strength dragging Jeremy Ioane for extra yardage and caught 6 balls. He can also throw on the move.  Beyond him though, this WR group needs some more talent.  And the only freshman coming in the Fall is Sean Modster.  Modster is a potential deep threat Boise State needs badly.  Jake Roh will be real good at TE and made some nice catches. Devin Demas can provide some big plays here and there but the rest of the back up RB’s seem average. Maybe incoming freshman Jeremy McNichols or Cory Young can have instant impact.

DEFENSE: Much quieter effort by Dylan Sumner Gardner. He will play in the Fall I still think. But we did see the emergence again of Joey Martarano making 5 tackles and Blake Renaud stuffing the run which is his best attribute. Tyler Horn, Corey Bell, the player of the spring on defense, Gabe Perez, and Darren Lee pressured the QB well. Coach Yates may have also found a extra DB in Dionza Blue who made an impressive interception.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

BSU Scrimmage Suprises

The first open scrimmage of the Harsin era at Boise State
was different, for a lot of reasons. The practice was open to the BSU faculty
and students and the groups were also offered a tour of the new football
facility. Harsin also reorganized the day to include Junior Day for recruits
and their families to get an in depth look at the program. It paid off as 4
star Qb Brett Rypien and Pocatello LB Kyler Manu both gave a verbal to the school.
Harsin will do it again next Saturday. The previous staff had juniors in but didn’t
put them on display as much as they did Saturday. Other differences were the
students being invited to participate in an on field promotion before the
scrimmage began, an enthusiastic welcome to the crowd by Coach Harsin,
cheerleaders, concessions, and most noticeably, loud contemporary music during
the entire practice.
It was a marketing machine type affair.
Most of us though came to see the newest edition of the Boise State team. It is always difficult to evaluate a team scrimmage because for every good play there is a bad one. I, though, came away
with a tremendous feeling about the play making ability of the group. For me, I don’t care who they beat on a given play. Last season this team lacked explosiveness.
This practice they showed some. Here is a position group
look at what stood out to me:
DB: Cleshawn Page and Corey Bell took interceptions to the house; this team desperately needs
turnovers for points. Bell also was disruptive in the backfield and had a sack.
Freshman Dylan Sumner-Gardner, DSG, was a beast at times with an interception,
a few big hits and a few other tackles. He also made an error in the end zone
on a pass interference but he is only 18. Dillon Lukehart made a big hit and
had a key pass break up.
LB: Freshman Joe Martarano made a few plays at the end of the scrimmage to announce his
candidacy for playing time. Wouldn’t that be nice?
DL: Beau Martin and Armand Nance had sacks. Gabe Perez made 2 nice TFLs, one on Jay Ajayi and
had a huge goal line stop on Derrick Thomas. Nick Terry showed promise with a
sack. On a 2nd down play Tyler Horn got in the backfield to disrupt things and followed that up on 3rd and long with QB pressure beating OT Steven Baggett to kill the drive.  DE Sam Mccaskill dominated at times with a TFL on Thomas and a sack on Finley. The group was productive and disruptive not absent like last season at times.  
RB: Not a great day but I have way more confidence in Fields and Demas to get the job done in
relief of Ajayi. Thomas looks a step slow. Ajayi runs like a bull in a china shop and ripped off some impressive ones.
WR: Miller made an acrobatic 25 yard catch and is solid. I was most impressed by Dallas
Burroughs who made a long ball catch proving that he could be the answer this
offense desperately needs to stretch the defense. Troy Ware caught balls
instead of dropping them when he was open. And Shane Williams- Rhodes proved he
can catch the ball in traffic when he tight roped a sideline catch, didn’t drop
a punt and had a huge double reverse run.
TE: Were used in short to intermediate routes but didn’t stand out much and will need to improve
their blocking skills. They were also the only motion package Harsin really showed.
OL: Not unusual for the O line to be behind the D line this early. I don’t expect much from
this group til the opener in August. They will also benefit from a thicker play book to keep the defense honest.
QB: Hedrick had some great runs and throws and showed enough playmaking skills to keep me
wanting more from him. Finley looked lost at times and Stuart just doesn’t seem
ready at all to me. This group needs much more time but if Hedrick doesn’t turn
the ball over he has enough skill to compliment the rest of the offense.  

For an early spring scrimmage, it had plenty of fireworks and this team needs it.