Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: The Blue – the lair of a Burley Bair?

It made sense when regular season high school football left Albertsons Stadium 11 years ago. It seated 35,000 at the time, and it was just too cavernous for the preps. But now, Boise State is going to make it an event and see what happens. There’ll be a tripleheader on The Blue to kick off Labor Day weekend on Friday, September 1: the “Battle In Boise.” It starts at 3 p.m.—the first game features Oakley against Kendrick, the second pits Emmett against Fruitland, and then there’s the nightcap (drum roll, please): Burley versus Vallivue. You know what that means. Gatlin Bair, the Burley High star who is the highest-rated recruit in state history, will be playing on The Blue. Is it the first appearance of many? As 24/7 analyst Brandon Huffman said on KTIK last week, it definitely ain’t over yet.

It’s “official visit” season for Bair, who was in Fort Worth last weekend, hosted by TCU. Bair thanked the folks in Funky Town. Next this weekend is “Bling Town,” as he gets a load of the flash that Oregon brings. The Horned Frogs and Ducks are in Bair’s top five—or, according to him, his “other four” along with Michigan and Nebraska. Bair proclaimed three weeks ago that Boise State is in his top two. He’s actually close to a five-star rating from 24/7 Sports. Bair’s state records in the 100 and 200-meter dashes haven’t put him over the top yet. But track and field insiders note that Bair’s knack for the technical aspects of sprinting is what has helped him continually lower his personal bests this year, and those smarts will help in football.


You may have seen this Twitter post from incoming Boise State running back Breezy Dubar the last weekend in April. Dubar linked video from a high school track meet in Texas. He was running a relay and pulled up around a turn, falling to the track in pain. Dubar was on IST with Prater & The Ballgame a few days after and said it was a hamstring. He felt a pop as his leg of the 4 x 200 relay began, and he broke down at the turn. Dubar said doctors told him it’s a pulled hamstring and that he’ll be out from six to eight weeks. If it shakes out that way, he’ll be ready for fall camp in August. Dubar said he’s ready to learn everything he can from George Holani and Ashton Jeanty—and that he’s also ready to compete with them. Dubar arrived in Boise last Saturday so he can at least observe Boise State’s player-run practices this summer.


When will the transfer portal’s 2023 window run out for Boise State? Not yet, apparently. The Broncos got a commitment Tuesday from Tyler Keinath, an FCS offensive lineman out of Western Illinois. The 6-4, 305-pound Keinath hails from Sacramento, so he’s not in totally unfamiliar territory. The bio on him at the Western Illinois website is, shall we say, limited. “Appeared in five games along the offensive line” in 2022. That’s it. But what it does tell us is that Boise State has a lot of depth now on what is a promising O-line. The Broncos had three incoming freshmen offensive linemen in their 2023 recruiting class and have since added three transfers up front: Nikolai Bujnowski of Virginia Tech, Ethan Carde of Texas Tech, and now Keinath. We are now 80 days away from kickoff in Husky Stadium.


Athlon Sports gives Boise State the benefit of the doubt as it previews the 2023 season. First, Athlon has the Broncos at No. 38 instead of No. 62 (where ESPN’s SP+ rankings have them). Here’s the Athlon capsule: “Expect the Broncos to contend for double-digit wins for the ninth time since joining the Mountain West in 2011. But for Avalos to get this program back into the top 25 and in the mix for a New Year’s Six bowl, navigating a schedule that features road trips to Washington and San Diego State, along with a home date versus UCF, in September is a must. Additionally, the Broncos need Taylen Green to continue his development and elevate the offense. If the new starters on defense maintain last year’s level of play, Boise State should be the frontrunner to hoist the Mountain West Championship in December.”


It indeed came to pass: running back Dalvin Cook was released by Minnesota. Even though Cook is healthy and in his prime, the Vikings think he’s past his peak. So that clears the way for former Boise State star Alexander Mattison to be RB1 in Minnesota. The reactions are predictably interesting. Not surprising that many don’t think Mattison is ready to carry the load. But those in the know will point out that Mattison, if not more explosive than Cook, is more versatile. In spot duty over the past four seasons, he’s rushed for 1,670 yards and 11 touchdowns. But he also has 70 catches for 526 yards and three TDs. One thing about Mattison that’s really noticeable: if you see photos of him in his early years when he wore No. 22 next to ones in his current No. 2, you can see that he’s much bigger now.


While Mattison has been preparing for his new role, former Boise State teammate Brett Rypien wrapped up the L.A. Rams’ final session of OTAs late last week. And just like in Denver, the guy who was originally an undrafted afterthought is right in the middle of the battle to be Matthew Stafford’s backup. “Rypien came in and he’s done an excellent job,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. Who knows—maybe Rypien will become familiar enough to get his Wikipedia page clarified. Right now it reads, ““Brett Rypien is a Canadian-American football quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League.” Was Brett born north of the border and we didn’t notice? No. Apparently he sought dual citizenship in both the U.S. and Canada since his dad, Tim, has it. Now you know.


That was a bummer of a news flash on former Boise State standout Avery Williams. He suffered a non-contact ACL injury in practice and, according to Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith, “is probably done for the year.” Williams has already had surgery on the ACL. What a time for this to happen. Williams’ role with the Falcons expanded last season to include time at running back. He averaged 16.2 yards per punt return last season to lead the entire NFL, becoming the first Boise State alum ever to lead the NFL in a major stat. Heck, he just changed his jersey numeral from 35 to the No. 26 he wore while starring as a two-time Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year. “We love Avery,” said Smith. “He’s got the right mindset and I fully expect him to come back ready to roll.”


Boise State men’s basketball built its portfolio the past two seasons on early-season challenges. Last year it was not only the Myrtle Beach Invitational, there was the 15-point win over Texas A&M that ended up paying dividends. College basketball analyst Rocco Miller tweeted that “Clemson will host Boise State as part of its ‘23-24 non-conference schedule, per sources. First-ever meeting between the two programs. The date is set for Sunday, November 19 at Littlejohn Coliseum. Broncos will then continue on to the ESPN Event in Orlando.” B.J. Rains of Bronco Nation News gave it a not-so-fast-my-friend, responding that it is not a done deal. But Rains did say if it does come together, it would be a home-and-home series, with the Tigers coming to ExtraMile Arena the following season.


It was four-and-out in the Kelly Cup Finals for the Idaho Steelheads with their 4-3 loss to the Florida Everblades last Friday. The Everblades, led by former Steelheads coach Brad Ralph, swept Idaho for their second straight ECHL championship, a disappointing finish to the Steelies’ record-setting season. But it shouldn’t put a damper on the most regular-season dominant run the league has seen. The Steelheads won 58 games, the most ever in the ECHL, completely turning around the downer that was last season, when they missed the playoffs for the first time. They did it with two first-team All-ECHL selections, Owen Headrick and Matt Register, the top five plus-minus performers in the league, and coach Everett Sheen, who won the Brophy Award as the ECHL Coach of the Year. It’s awfully hard to throw cold water on that.


The Boise Hawks have cooled off considerably since that 6-1 start, returning home to Memorial Stadium Tuesday with a 10-8 record (including losses in four of their last five games). “We let a couple slip away (on the road),” said Hawks manager Gary Van Tol Tuesday on Idaho SportsTalk. “We have the pieces to compete for a championship. We just have to tidy some things up.” The Hawks lost a centerpiece of their starting rotation when Matt Gabbert, one of Van Tol’s pitchers during Boise State’s brief return to baseball in 2020, was signed by the Minnesota Twins organization. But that’s a win in Van Tol’s book. With all that said, the Hawks opened a three-game series against the Ogden Raptors Tuesday night with a 9-3 victory powered by four home runs.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by BBSI BOISE…payroll, process and prosperity for your business.

June 14, 2010: Trumping conventional wisdom in what had been the wildest week and a half in college sports history, Texas announces it is not moving to the Pac-10 after all, and the Big 12 is saved (for the time being, anyway). Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State immediately followed suit, allowing the Big 12 to continue with 10 teams after the loss of Colorado to the Pac-10 and Nebraska to the Big Ten. Little did the Big 12 know that A&M and Missouri would ultimately bolt for the SEC. The downside for the Mountain West and newly-invited member Boise State was the resulting departure of Utah to the Pac-10, which would come two days later.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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