Broncos defense: Pessimists vs. optimists

The more cynical among us question how well the Boise State defense can play this year. The Broncos have a new defensive coordinator, defensive line coach, edge coach, safeties coach and cornerbacks coach. They allowed 27 points and 373 yards per game last season. Boise State is thin at linebacker and generally untested at the corners. But I guess it just comes down to believing. Spencer Danielson has the potential to be a one-of-a-kind D-coordinator. With Danielson pulling the strings, this Boise State defense will have an identity—and a personality. Defensive line coach Frank Maile and safeties coach Jeremy Ioane in particular come in with great resumes, and former Broncos star Jeron Johnson, guiding the cornerbacks as a rookie coach, brings an NFL pedigree and history as a decorated Bronco.


This must feel good to Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier after all those fourth-team preseason All-Mountain West nods he picked up. Bachmeier has been named to the watch list for the 2021 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award that goes annually to the top upperclassman quarterback. It takes off-field factors into consideration, like character, citizenship, integrity and those who honor the game. The Golden Arm Award is betting that Bachmeier’s most relevant season is 2019, when he threw for 1,780 yards and nine touchdowns over seven regular season games before being injured. Also, five Boise State players are on the Polynesian Player of the Year watch list: Kekani Holomalia-Gonzalez, George Holani, Kekaula Kaniho, Zeke Noa and Khalil Shakir.


This is a lot more up-to-date than the college football preview magazines. Chris Vannini and Justin Williams of The Athletic profiled the American Athletic Conference the other day and picked UCF to finish second behind Cincinnati. The synopsis: “The Knights lost their top three running backs and several receivers from last season, but Gus Malzahn has filled those spots with an influx of Power 5 transfers. The biggest question is how Dillon Gabriel will fit in Malzahn’s offense, which often involves read-option runs, as Gabriel throws one of the best deep balls in the country. The entire starting offensive line is back, which should help, and a defense that has gotten worse in recent years at least will have experience. The opener against Boise State and a trip to Louisville will give us a sense of this team before AAC play.”


It’ll still be Bulldog Stadium when Boise State visits Fresno State in November, but it’ll be something else for the Broncos’ next trip down in 2023. The cash-strapped Fresno State athletic department has struck a deal with Valley Children’s Healthcare for a 10-year, $10 million sponsorship that includes naming rights for Bulldog Stadium, which is in dire need of renovation. The new name for Bulldog Stadium will be announced later and will be in place for the 2022 season. The partnership was brokered with the assistance of former Bulldogs quarterbacks David and Derek Carr, according to the Fresno Bee’s Robert Kuwada.


Conventonal wisdom says that the Albertsons Boise Open scoring record could be in jeopardy this week with so many trees having been removed at Hillcrest Country Club. Wes Roach must have taken that to heart as he fired an eight-under 63 to take the first round lead on Thursday. Roach’s day included an eagle on the 16th and a beautiful chip-in for birdie on the final hole. The 32-year-old Duke graduate is up by a stroke on Hayden Buckley and Ted Potter Jr. Defending champion Stephan Jaeger, the Korn Ferry Tour money leader, is six shots back and is tied for 45th. Par was not par for the course Thursday. The average score was under 70 (69.833). Fan note: the Albertsons Fan Pavilion on the 16th hole serves half priced beers every time a player makes a birdie or better. There are lots of birdies.


Troy Merritt will need a good second round performance today to make the cut in the Northern Trust, the first tournament of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Merritt’s front nine was, shall we say, problematic, with two double-bogeys helping force him to make the turn at three-over. The former Boise State star rallied on the back and finished with a one-over 72, tied for 72nd.


The waiting game begins for Justinian Jessup. Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area took a look at three key Warriors rookies after Tuesday’s final summer league game. Here was Poole’s assessment of Jessup. “The Good: Deep shooting is his game, but he also exhibited additional scoring ability, most notably making a driving floater for at least the third time in the last two games. His 3-ball was on target early, both on the move and catch-and-shoot. Jessup was active, again, defending the passing lanes. He clearly is riding a wave of confidence. The Bad: After a hot start, he tailed off precipitously. His lack of lateral quickness is glaring, and likely will be a permanent issue. Effort is fine, and there’s a chance he’ll get better, but this game was another example of Jessup’s limited upside on defense.” He’s on the bubble.


The Boise Hawks got a strong start from Mitch Gabbert and two-run homers from Sean Skelly and Wladimir Galindo to beat Missoula 5-2 Thursday night. It was the Hawks’ first victory over the Paddleheads in 11 tries this season, and it preserved Boise’s one-game lead in the Pioneer League’s Southern Division. And a few more nuggets on new Idaho Steelheads assistant coach and Boise native Keenan Kelly: his family was among the first Steelheads season ticket holders when the team debuted in 1997. Kelly attended Fairmont Junior High and was set to go to Capital, but he moved to Wilcox, Saskatchewan, to play junior hockey. His first coaching gig was with the Junior Steelheads under former Steelies coach John Olver 12 years ago.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by ZAMZOWS…Nobody Knows Like Zamzows!

August 20, 1915: The Chicago White Sox obtain “Shoeless” Joe Jackson from Cleveland for three players and cash. Jackson, of course, was involved in the infamous “Black Sox Scandal,” the conspiracy to fix the 1919 World Series. He was also a central figure in the 1989 film “Field Of Dreams” and became relevant again last week when Major League Baseball held its “Field Of Dreams” game in Iowa between the White Sox and New York Yankees.

(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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