SCOTT SLANT: An educated national take on 2022


Wednesday Weekly: May 4, 2022.

Chris Vannini of The Athletic is about as respected as they come among Group of 5 writers, so today we delve into his profile of Boise State football. I mean, it is comprehensive—part of a “State of the Program” series previewing Power 5 and top Group of 5 teams for next season. Coach Andy Avalos suggests the turning point—both good and bad—of the 7-5 season last year was the loss to Air Force on the heels of the upset of No. 10 BYU. It pointed out the Broncos’ wild inconsistencies while circling the wagons for a four-game winning streak. Writes Vannini: “(Avalos) knows the standard he inherited as well as anyone. He knows last season was not acceptable. But he believes the mindset that changed midway through the fall has carried into 2022.”

Some key takeaways on Vannini’s takes: 1) The Broncos lack in explosive plays on offense, one key reason they failed to average 30 points per game for the first time in 23 years, 2) Boise State feels a second straight year with the same offensive coordinator means a big senior year for Hank Bachmeier, and 3) The defense was bend-but-not-break last year, but it has to stop bending. Here’s how one Mountain West assistant sees the Broncos. “They were 7-5, but they didn’t lose games by much,” he said. “I just feel like it was a year that could have been 10-2. When I watched them, there was not a game they weren’t in. They never got blown out. I wouldn’t be surprised if they won 10 (this year).”


Waiting for Khalil Shakir’s name to be called in the NFL Draft last weekend reminded me of what Jay Ajayi went through in 2015. Ajayi had also been projected at one time as a late second or early third-round pick and didn’t go until the fifth round. Shakir didn’t have the injury baggage Ajayi had, yet he lasted until the fifth, when he was scooped up by Buffalo. Now we’re inundated with takes from coast to coast that the Bills got a steal. And so did Josh Allen. With all due respect to Shakir, he and Allen did not face off when Shak was a freshman in Boise State’s 34-14 win at Wyoming. Allen was gone by then. But whatever.  Shakir is still the Broncos’ highest pick at wide receiver since Titus Young and Austin Pettis in 2011, and he’s in a very good slot in Buffalo (pun intended).


You don’t typically see teams trading up in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, but when Buffalo saw that Shakir was still on the board, it made a move. The Bills dealt pick Nos. 168 and 203 Chicago in exchange for No. 148 to grab the Boise State wide receiver. It was not a window dressing pick. So the Broncos’ streak with at least one draft choice was extended to 13 years. Not to forget that Shakir did declare early for the NFL after last season, as he still had a COVID year available. So that makes it nine consecutive years that the Broncos have had an early declaree chosen—dating back to DeMarcus Lawrence in 2014.  

The fall in the draft was painful for Shakir, but remember this: Buffalo’s No. 1 receiver currently, Stefon Diggs, was taken in the fifth round by Minnesota in 2015. Diggs has 230 catches over the past two seasons for the Bills. Enough said. It doesn’t matter that 20 wide receivers were taken before Shakir over the weekend.  He’s anxious to get to Buffalo and share the practice field with Diggs, who’s been known for working with the Bills’ young receivers during the offseason.


Yes, it’s a big hole to fill, but it’s not like Boise State didn’t plan for it. B.J. Rains of Bronco Nation News first reported Monday that Mladen Armus will not be returning to the Broncos, presumably opting for a pro career overseas. As a native of Serbia, he should be in demand in his home country (at least). You can’t blame Armus, who is now 25 and gave Boise State two solid seasons. His rebounding is going to be tough to duplicate, especially on the offensive glass. Do the Broncos win the pivotal game at Utah State without him? No. That’s the night Armus scored 22 points with 19 boards—10 of them offensive ones. The Broncos have certainly had their eye on the transfer portal as this played out. Now we’re going to find out what and who is still in there.


We’ve got the goods on Boise State’s new hoops transfer from Texas Tech, Chibuzo Agbo. And Agbo’s got the goods through his instant NIL deals with Matt Bauscher and Taco del Mar, a key to his choosing the Broncos over Nevada and New Mexico. This sure looks like a playing time thing. The 6-7 guard from San Diego, a four-star recruit coming out of high school, averaged only 1.5 points and one rebound per game for the Red Raiders as a sophomore this past season. Agbo’s season-high was eight points in Tech’s NCAA Tournament rout of Montana State. He has two seasons of eligibility left, plus an extra COVID year if he wants it. So in a Broncos program known for developing players, we’ll see what transpires. Agbo’s kind of in the same situation as Abu Kigab was when the latter arrived from Oregon.


Troy Merritt’s been playing pretty well—when he doesn’t have to depend on somebody else. After a week off, Merritt is back on the PGA Tour as he tees off Thursday in the Wells Fargo Championship at TPC Potomoc in Maryland outside Washington D.C. He played with Robert Streb two weeks ago at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. That tournament uses a pairs format, with players competing in a best-ball in the first and third rounds and alternate-shot play in the second and final rounds. Merritt and Streb missed the cut. The former Boise State star is still in the top 50 in FedExCup standings, though.


If you want to follow a former Idaho Steelhead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you can zero in on Toronto’s Jack Campbell. The 30-year-old goalie pitched a 24-save shutout to open the first round Monday night in a 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Campbell, whose Game 1 performance was overshadowed by an ugly third period brawl, is in his fourth season with the Maple Leafs. He was solid during the regular season with a 31-9-6 record and a 2.64 goals-against average. Campbell went 19-7-1 over two seasons with Idaho from 2014-16. Game 2 between the Leafs and Lightning is tonight.


The weather was not made in heaven, but the Idaho Vandals’ foray into the Treasure Valley for their spring game was a success. A hardy crowd turned out at Eagle High last Saturday to watch the Vandals defense dominate (as often happens in the spring). But new Idaho coach Jason Eck is an offensive guy, and his team’s fortunes rest with who is calling the signals. Gevani McCoy finished 8-of-19 for 134 yards and an interception in the game, while CJ Jordan was 5-of-13 for 47 yards. McCoy has an edge, but the race remains open.


Former Boise State kicker Tyler Rausa has worked hard for his USFL opportunity as he tries to attract some NFL attention. Rausa has something to show for it after Week 3, as he’s been named the USFL Special Teams Player of the Week. He kicked a 46-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the game last Saturday to give the Tampa Bay Bandits a 27-26 win over the Houston Gamblers. Rausa also booted a 24-yard field goal (although he did miss a 55-yard attempt in the second quarter). He’s third in the USFL in kick-scoring.

This Day In Sports…brought to you by WESTERN HEATING & AIR…the experts you can trust!

May 4, 2012, 10 years ago today: The beginning of the end for the 50-year-old Western Athletic Conference as we knew it, as Utah State and San Jose State announce they’re departing for the Mountain West, and Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio confirm their move to Conference USA—all of it effective in 2013. That left two football-playing schools in the WAC, Idaho and New Mexico State. The Vandals athletic program faced some tough decisions. Idaho would remain in the WAC for non-football sports in 2013-14 but would play one season of independent football. In 2014, the Vandals would return to the Sun Belt in football and to the Big Sky in other sports, and they’d move football to the Big Sky and the FCS in 2018.

(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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