Scott Slant Wednesday Weekly: The Spring Game’s healthy contingent

The only entirely healthy position group going into Boise State spring football was the wide receivers unit. We’ll see if the rest of the Broncos offense is healthy enough to get these guys the ball on Saturday in the Spring Game on the blue turf. There’s the obvious issue of replacing Khalil Shakir as the feature receiver. It’s sure looking like Stefan Cobbs is the guy after his 34 catches, 421 yards and five touchdowns in 2021. Right behind him are three experienced pass-catchers: Latrell Caples, Davis Koetter and Billy Bowens. And Caples appears poised for a breakout. It’s crunch time right now for junior Shea Whiting. The collective wild card is the talented quartet of redshirt freshmen who have been waiting their turn: Jalen Richmond, Ben Ford, Eric McAlister and Kaden Dudley.


We are not forgetting Austin Bolt here. Bolt, now listed as a wide receiver on the Boise State roster, has met the media. And now that we’ve heard the former Borah High star’s perspective, we can call him a Boise State late bloomer. Bolt acknowledged this week that while he was a great athlete in terms of Idaho high school football, he was not a great football player. Now, Bolt has gone from the smallest tight end on the roster to the biggest wide receiver at 6-3, 215 pounds. “They wanted me at tight end at the beginning, and I wasn’t heavy enough,” said Bolt. “I’m just really raw in all my fundamentals,” he added. Yeah, he seemed like a wideout all along. After all, the closest he came to a catch last year was on a deep route in the home finale against New Mexico. It was, in fact, Bolt’s only target of the season.


Shakir rocked Boise State’s Pro Day last Wednesday, exceeding his vertical leap mark at the NFL Combine by a full four inches, jumping 38.5. Shakir looked strong, shifty and quick running routes, too. The quarterback doing the throwing was noteworthy. Taylen Green, via a waiver through Boise State, got to throw to Shakir and Octavius Evans in drills. Shakir was in a really good frame of mind for Pro Day. He asked his girlfriend, Sayler, to marry him the evening before at Lucky Peak. The photo gallery they shared with KTVB was great. (She said yes, of course. I’ve seen the ring. Very nice.)


Coach Andy Avalos did nothing to temper Bronco Nation’s fascination with running back Ashton Jeanty last week as he talked about spring football progress. “Ashton ran over some defenders in certain situations,” said Avalos. That only bolsters a comparison I’ve had in mind as I’ve watched video of Jeanty. He looks like Antwaun Carter, a generously-listed 5-9 back who played at Boise State in 2004 and ’05. But Carter was 215 pounds. Jeanty is 5-8, 200. The difference is, Carter was a backup, while Jeanty could be the Broncos’ feature back after George Holani leaves. But yes, Carter ran over defenders in his time. In two seasons, Carter rushed for 718 yards for the Broncos. He scored 17 touchdowns, though. When in his career do you think Jeanty will hit those numbers?


As you know, the south end zone at Albertsons Stadium will have a very different look this fall. When the stadium opened in 1970, that’s where the tiny Division II-level scoreboard was located. You know, with the score panels that said “Home” and “Guest.” Now, thanks to the $4.5 million donation from Melaleuca, a new 6,000 square-foot video board will sit above the south end zone, with installation expected to be completed sometime during the 2022 season. I know some in Bronco Nation would trade that for better restrooms and concession stands on the east side of the stadium, but this is a big step forward in fan experience. The key to this thing is replays. If those are handled well on the big new board, it’ll give fans one less reason to stay home and watch on TV.


College basketball season is over. And looking back, it’s pretty interesting that some grumbled about Boise State being on the same No. 8 seed line as North Carolina on Selection Sunday. It was understandable, I guess. In the final NCAA NET rankings before the tournament, the Broncos were No. 29 and the Tar Heels were No. 31. So UNC should have been a No. 8 seed in the Dance. Then the tournament started. Boise State lost by 11 to Memphis, which was clearly better than its No. 9 seed. And North Carolina started the run that carried it all the way to the national championship game Monday night, where the Tar Heels lost to Kansas 72-69. The Broncos were hurt by their November track record for sure, but how about North Carolina? It was 12-6 in late January and looked like a bubble team.


The 2022-23 Boise State basketball roster is officially in limbo. First came Marcus Shaver Jr.’s announcement last Thursday that he’s declaring for the NBA Draft but leaving his options open to return to the Broncos. That’s a fairly standard move these days for a guy in Shaver’s position—he can glean a lot of input from NBA personnel and a lot of valuable experience from on-court tryouts. Nothing’s guaranteed, but there’s a decent chance he’ll be back. It may be eight weeks before we know, though. Emmanel Akot is another story. The first thought upon Akot’s entry into the transfer portal over the weekend was that he won’t be back. It’s been pointed out that Akot could come out of the portal and return to the Broncos, but how often does that happen? Only coach Leon Rice knows for sure.

Sophomore Kasean Pryor was one of the biggest cheerleaders on the Boise State bench this season, but he didn’t play much. So it’s not a surprise that Pryor has also entered the transfer portal. Pryor logged only 36 minutes over eight games. The 6-9 guard from Chicago scored 18 points, 14 of them in a rout of NAIA Montana Tech in December. Meanwhile, Devonaire Doutrive has announced on Twitter that he’s declaring for the NBA Draft while keeping options open for a final year of college eligibility. Doutrive, who was dismissed from Boise State’s program on December 1, hasn’t yet found a new landing spot.


The Steelheads seem like they’ve been chasing the Utah Grizzlies all season long in the ECHL Mountain Division. Now it’s brass tacks time, as the Steelheads host the Grizzlies in the final homestand of the season beginning tonight (Idaho and Utah close the regular season next week in West Valley City). The Steelies will have to take four of the five games against the Grizzlies in regulation to overtake them for second place in the division. That’s right, second—Rapid City is now in first by percentage points over Utah. The big news has been in the stands, where sellouts have been the norm at Idaho Central Arena. Plan on at least two more this week.


It wasn’t a championship Sunday for Troy Merritt last weekend, but neither was it a final round fade as the former Boise State star raked in his second-best payday of the season and equaled his best finish at the Valero Texas Open. Merritt tied for fourth at TPC San Antonio with a three-under 69 Sunday, earning $344,000. He also tied for fourth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. Merritt said on Idaho SportsTalk Wednesday that he has his putting to thank, calling it “perhaps the best putting performance of my career.” With his Texas winnings, Merritt has gone over the $1 million mark in season earnings—he now at $1,256,000, 56th on the PGA Tour money list. He won’t be playing the Masters this week, but he’s probably set for the PGA Championship in May.


Idaho is approaching the halfway point of spring football under new coach Jason Eck. By all accounts, the Vandals are rejuvenated. It’s too early to say what Idaho’s offensive and defensive schemes will look like this year. Eck first needs to find out exactly what he has in the way of talent, and then make everything fit. “The biggest thing is we’re trying to evaluate guys and seeing where guys should be,” Eck said. “Trying to evaluate all the talent we have on the rosters to see what guys have the skill set athletically.” Spring ball culminates with the Vandals’ spring game on April 30 at Eagle High.

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

April 6, 2015: Duke and coach Mike Krzykewski win their fifth national championship with a 68-63 win over Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament final in Indianapolis. The Badgers seemed like a team of destiny as they rolled into their first title game in 74 years. They built a nine-point lead with 13 minutes to go in the game before the Blue Devils methodically made it evaporate. Of Duke’s 68 points, 60 were scored by freshmen, a championship game record. The victory lifted Krzykewski into sole possession of second place in all-time national titles behind UCLA’s John Wooden, who won 10.

(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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