Bronco football: Navigating the unknown

Bryan Harsin begins his seventh and weirdest season as Boise State head football coach this Saturday night when the Broncos host Utah State. There will be no fans and no pregame pomp and circumstance, but there will be three COVID-19 tests this week for players and staff. That will tell Harsin exactly what he has to take on the Aggies. Right now, he indicates the entire roster is available, but you never know. “The whole idea is, we have to be prepared every single day for what comes our way,” said Harsin. “We’re going to have to be amazing problem-solvers.” He did have this to add: no Broncos have opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.


The Boise State depth chart, which Harsin points out he doesn’t pay much attention to, had a few interesting twists. Demitri Washington is Curtis Weaver’s heir-apparent at STUD end/linebacker, right? Well, Washington is listed as the starting defensive end, with Sam Whitney at the STUD. “I don’t think that really applies to anything that we’re doing,” said Harsin, who says the depth chart is just a place to plug everybody in. “He plays STUD, he plays end.” Harsin added that Washington, the high-ceiling sophomore, can even play the tackle position. Speaking of which, Homedale High grad Scott Matlock is indeed listed as the starter there alongside junior Scale Igiehon, the imposing 6-2, 293-pounder.


JL Skinner was the presumed starter at one of the Broncos’ safety spots. Presumption correct. Opposite Skinner is junior Tyreque Jones, giving Boise State some impressive height in centerfield. Skinner is 6-4, and Jones is 6-2. How did Jones get the call with Kekoa Nawahine, DeAndre Pierce and Jordan Happle all gone? “Tyreque Jones has shown not just flashes, but consistency in his play,” Harsin said. And consistency has been an area of emphasis during fall camp. Jones played a lot down the stretch last year, grabbing his first career interception on Thanksgiving weekend at Colorado State.


When placekicker Jonny Messina transferred from FCS Stetson University seven months ago, it sounded like Eric Sachse, the sequel. Sachse came in as a graduate transfer last year from Division III Trinity College and had a solid season for the Broncos, including a record-tying five field goals in his debut at Florida State. Well, Messina was not listed on the depth chart Monday, although Harsin said he was performing well currently in practice. Alas, the first kicker listed was true freshman Jonah Dalmas out of Rocky Mountain High. Dalmas is a 5-8, 161-pounder, but don’t let that fool you. “He’s got a strong leg; he’s athletic,” Harsin said, comparing him to Nick Calaycay, who was Boise State’s kicker 20 years ago and is still fourth on the career field goal list. Interestingly enough, Dalmas graduated from Rocky in 2017.

To be fair, Dalmas is listed as “or” at placekicker with senior Joel Velazquez. So Velazquez, who’s also the starting punter, could handle both chores when it’s all said and done. All three chores, if you include his kickoff duties. Redshirt freshman punter Gavin Wale is not on the depth chart this week. Velazquez’s issue last season was consistency, as he endured seven punts of 30 yards or less (according to math by B.J. Rains of the Idaho Press). Velazquez was Boise State’s long-distance placekicker in 2019 and hit a 52-yard field goal at UNLV.


Utah State announced its starting quarterback on Monday. It’s Jason Shelley, the transfer from Utah, who will have the task of succeeding Aggies star and current Green Bay Packer Jordan Love. Shelley has only been on campus in Logan for three months, but he’s picked up the offense, and his dual-threat capabilities seem ot have won him the job. “If we feel we can run the ball effectively, I can add to that,” Shelley said in the Deseret News. “And if we need me to throw the ball 30-40 times a game, I can do that, too.” Shelley started five games and played in 19 the past two years for the Utes but barely saw the field in 2019. He completed 58 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and six interceptions at Utah.


Dallas activated Leighton Vander Esch in time for Monday Night Football, five weeks after he had surgery to repair a broken collarbone suffered in the season opener against the L.A. Rams. But it wasn’t an LVE kind of night in Jerry World, as the Arizona Cardinals embarrassed the Cowboys 38-10. Vander Esch, who made three tackles, left the game early in the third quarter holding his right shoulder and did not return. On the offensive side of the ball, Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was calling the game with one hand tied behind his back. ‘Nuff said there. Cedrick Wilson was blasted on one of those patented “disguised late hits” while attempting to make a third quarter catch. Wilson did return, though.


Gary Van Tol, who brought back the Boise State baseball program early this year only to see it axed in July amidst the coronavirus budgetary crisis, has some diamond duties to look forward now. Van Tol has been hired as head coach of the Cowlitz Black Bears of the West Coast League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The league is made up of teams from Canada, Oregon, and Washington. The Black Bears are based in Longview, WA. Van Tol should thrive in this environment. Numbers we’ll always remember: 9-5, his record in his one very abbreviated season with the Broncos.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BACON…fresh breakfast and brunch every day!

October 20, 1990, 30 years ago today: The Oakland A’s are swept in four games by the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. This came two years to the day after the A’s were finished off in five games by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the ’88 Series. In that one, Oakland was never able to recover from the legendary Game 1 homer in the bottom of the ninth by the Dodgers’ hobbling Kirk Gibson. The A’s have generally been a successful yet underfunded franchise ever since, but 1990 was their last World Series. Same for Cincy.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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