Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: The Broncos’ other key position competition

Not only will there be a quarterback competition going into Boise State fall camp, there is also a battle for Ashton Jeanty’s backup brewing between Breezy Dubar and Sire Gaines. You don’t get a fair sampling during the Spring Game, but Dubar netted just five yards on six carries Saturday, while Gaines amassed 45 yards on five attempts, including a 27-yard scamper. It’s hard to imagine Gaines redshirting this year after coming in as an early enrollee in January and piling up rave reviews since. That backup spot is kind of important. Jeanty began the game with a 25-yard run and had 54 yards on just five attempts. Jeanty’s final carry produced a 16-yard touchdown, but he came up gimpy as he crossed the goal line. Coach Spencer Danielson indicated it was a hamstring problem. Fortunately, it’s still April.


Malachi Nelson was the main attraction for Bronco Nation Saturday at Boise State’s Spring Game, and the results were mainly positive. The USC transfer was 9-of-16 for 137 yards, including a beautiful 32-yard touchdown throw to Chase Penry. Nelson started as a house afire. On the Broncos’ third possession, on consecutive snaps, he hit Latrell Caples on a pinpoint sideline throw before connecting for 33 yards to Prince Strachan. The next play was the TD run by Jeanty. Nelson came back to earth in the second half when the defensive intensity was turned up—there was no more two-hand touch. Overall, it was a fine performance by Nelson. But his pedigree does not make him the presumptive starter. Did Nelson do enough to avoid a quarterback competition with Maddux Madsen in fall camp? No.


When EDGE Gabe Hunter picked off CJ Tiller on the first possession of Boise State’s Spring Game, I (for one) was relieved—relieved that Hunter was still an essential part of the Broncos defense. The senior-to-be from Pflugerville, TX, all but disappeared last season thanks to injuries, and his name hadn’t really come up during spring football. But I did wonder about Hunter, since he had finished the 2022 season so strongly. We first noticed him when he made a mopup interception against Colorado State—then he corralled a game-saving pick late in the fourth quarter on Senior Day versus Utah State. On Saturday, Hunter stepped in front of a Tiller throw and went high to snag it, returning it 33 yards. It was the Broncos’ only turnover of the day. I hope I’m right when I say, “Don’t forget about Hunter this fall.”


The NFL Draft begins Thursday night in Detroit. Dane Brugler of The Athletic not only produces a complete seven-round mock draft, he also ranks the top 300 draft-eligible players. Brugler has Boise State running back George Holani at No. 289. Thing is, there are 257 players slated to be chosen in this year’s draft. That doesn’t always line up with player rankings, but Holani is too far removed in the ratings to be included in Brugler’s final mock draft. It’s looking like the undrafted free agent route for one of the most popular Broncos of recent years. Brugler predicts a brutal draft for the Mountain West, including only four players from the conference in his mock. The top one is edge rusher Mo Kamara of Colorado State in the third round. Other that that, there is one sixth-rounder and two going in the seventh round.


Boise State’s current streak of players drafted began in 2010—that’s 14 years. If Ian Johnson had snuck into the seventh round in 2009, it would be 19. But this is where it may end. The total drafted during the current streak is 30. There have been four first-rounders, the last one Leighton Vander Esch to Dallas in 2018. The Broncos’ biggest haul of all-time came in 2012, about four months after the Kellen Moore era ended. There were six Boise State players taken, and one of them wasn’t Kellen. You had Shea McClellin and Doug Martin in the first round, Tyrone Crawford in the third, George Iloka in the fifth, Billy Winn in the sixth and Nate Potter in the seventh. The one with the most productive NFL career was actually Crawford.


Former San Jose State point guard Alvaro Cardenas is in at Boise State, and that may be tied into Roddie Anderson III being out. Anderson is in the transfer portal after just one season as a Bronco. He came a long way from the beginning of the season to the end, but ultimately was not the Marcus Shaver Jr.-type playmaker that many envisioned. And Anderson probably had one too many turnovers (witness the Colorado game in the NCAA Tournament). But it’ll be tough to forget Anderson’s runner that tied the game at San Diego State with seven seconds left and sent it into overtime—a game the Broncos ultimately won in dramatic fashion.


Well, who saw that coming? Boise State’s Chibuzo Agbo, instead of testing the NBA Draft waters, has already entered and exited the transfer portal. It’s a big loss for the Broncos. A reported NIL offer in the neighborhood of $500,000 was waiting for Agbo at USC, and there he is. Agbo was a two-year starter and became a force this past season. What I’ll miss about Agbo is his four-point plays. Obviously there’s concern over who will replace Agbo—and if that means a dip into the portal by the Broncos. But already aboard are guys like Andrew Meadow, RJ Keene, Chris Lockett and Emmanuel Ugbo.

Eric Musselman built his Sweet 16 Nevada team in 2018 with transfers—before it was popular. He’s doing it out of necessity as he takes over at USC following five seasons at Arkansas. The “Muss Bus” has pulled eight players out of the transfer portal so far, including Agbo. What are they saying about Agbo in L.A.? His accuracy is getting the most attention: 45 percent overall and 41 from three-point range. One site calls him “battle-tested,” and Matt Zemek of TrojansWire at USA Today backs that up, writing, “He is a decent 3-point shooter, something Trojans fans hope to see from him on the hardwood this coming fall and winter. The Mountain West was a good, tough, competitive conference in college basketball. Agbo faced quality competition, which will hopefully translate to this coming season at USC.”


What’s going to happen between the Mountain West and the Pac-2? Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News has a pretty good handle on the options. If it’s purely a reverse merger, Wilner sees either all 12 MW schools voting to dissolve and move to the Pac-12 with Oregon State and Washington State—or nine schools vote as a super majority to dissolve, leaving a few schools behind. If OSU and WSU choose to invite 4-8 schools, then the Mountain West exit fees kick in (where would that money come from?). Wilner says “the top candidates are fairly clear: San Diego State, Fresno State, Boise State, Colorado State and UNLV.” Wilner’s bottom line is this: “The chances of OSU and WSU partnering with some combination of Mountain West schools under the Pac-12 banner is close to 90 percent.


It took overtime Monday night, but the Idaho Steelheads started the Kelly Cup Playoffs the way they wanted to against the Allen Americans. The Steelheads’ Mark Rassell scored 23 seconds into the extra frame for a 6-5 win in Game 1. It was a see-saw affair, as Allen went up 2-0 in the first period before Rassell potted his first goal of the night. Then Allen was up 4-2 late in the second when Idaho got tallies from Patrick Kudla and Matt Register just 57 seconds apart. It was another goal by Kudla in the third period that knotted the game at 5-5 and sent it into OT. Game 2 is coming up tonight in Idaho Central Arena.


The Steelheads can only look at this as a positive. The NHL is coming to Salt Lake City, as Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith has purchased the Arizona Coyotes for $1.2 billion and is moving the team to the Wasatch Front. This all developed since the beginning of the year, as Phoenix obviously became a dead-end. No more playing in a 5,000-seat arena on the Arizona State campus. With the Treasure Valley just 4½ hours away, the move will manufacture more hockey fans here and benefit the Steelheads. It may even lead to a move up to the AHL, according to some. I’m not sure what it does to the Utah Grizzlies, though.


Troy Merritt spent Masters week in the Caribbean, finishing 67th at the Corales Puntacana Championship in the Dominican Republic. That broke a string of three straight missed cuts for the former Boise State star. Tomorrow morning Merritt tees off with partner Robert Streb in the team format at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Merritt and Streb tied for 13th in that event last year.

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

April 24, 2004, 20 years ago today: The NFL Draft creates a pro football quarterback domino effect of sorts. Eli Manning of Ole Miss was taken as the No. 1 overall pick by San Diego even though he had stated he wouldn’t play for the Chargers. But the Bolts already had a deal in place with the New York Giants, who would draft Philip Rivers of North Carolina State and trade him and a couple of draft picks to San Diego for Manning. The Chargers already had a quarterback, Drew Brees, and he would continue to start during Rivers’ first two seasons. Brees, of course, finally departed San Diego in 2006 and began his legendary run with the New Orleans Saints.

(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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