BOISE, Idaho — Thursday, April 1, 2021.
Avery Williams’ calling card at Boise State was as a kick returner, and he finished his career as a two-time Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year. Williams certainly has the skills to do that job in the NFL, but teams don’t often reserve spots on 53-man rosters for guys who can do only that. He was a good cornerback—scouts would love to see that in his repertoire. It starts with speed, and Williams peeled off a 4.41-second 40-yard dash Wednesday at Boise State’s Pro Day. And that opens the doors to other possibilities. “Scouts have requested that I do some third-down stuff, which I showed today, and also some slot receiver stuff,” said Williams after the session.
Which makes you wonder: while the Broncos were going through all that running back angst last season, what if Williams had just gotten a shot as a ball carrier? He rushed for 1,175 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior in high school. With Andrew Van Buren having to shoulder the load—and Boise State finishing last in the Mountain West in rushing—the team really needed a breakaway threat. That 4.41 speed was sittin’ right there.
BATES STILL THE TOP PROSPECT
Tight end John Bates had a middling performance at Pro Day—according to the numbers, at least. Bates ran a 4.80 in the 40 and actually had lost nine pounds since he was measured for the NFL Combine. But it’s his overall game that has NFL scouts paying attention: blocking, routes and pass-catching. Bates said he “didn’t let one ball hit the ground today” after Pro Day. Bates has something that Williams doesn’t have, a track record from his performance during Senior Bowl week in January. Twenty-seven of the 32 NFL teams were represented at Boise State on Wednesday.
CLOSING THE BOOK ON ALSTON
Now that Derrick Alston Jr. has officially announced he’s not returning for a super-senior year at Boise State, let’s put a wrap on his five seasons as a Bronco. You may have heard that Alston arrived in 2016 weighing 148 pounds? And that he scored a grand total of seven points as a redshirt freshman while serving an apprenticeship under Chandler Hutchison? Alston averaged 15.8 points over his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He racked up 34 20-point games and four of 30 points or more. Alston returned to the Broncos this season after first declaring for the NBA Draft with the intent of winning a Mountain West championship. That didn’t happen. But with his 11 points against Memphis a week ago, he did move into ninth place on Boise State’s career scoring list with 1,479 points, one more than Hutchison.
AS THE BASKETBALL WORLD TURNS
Not only is the transfer portal percolating, the NBA Draft door is swinging. In the Mountain West, Utah State star center Neemias Queta is leaving early for the draft. The 7-footer isn’t just on an information-gathering mission—he’s not coming back. Jordan Schakel is departing San Diego State to turn pro, in whatever league or country. The long-range threat has accepted an invitation to State Farm College 3-point Championships this week in Indianapolis, so he’s not coming back, either. UNLV standout Bryce Hamilton has announced on Twitter that he is “entering the NBA Draft process without an agent to test the waters.” One of the latest entries into the transfer portal isn’t from the Mountain West, but he’s a local guy. Former Rocky Mountain star Kolby Lee has elected to leave BYU in search of a new locale.
A CROSSROADS IN CHICAGO FOR BRYANT?
It’s Opening Day for Major League Baseball, and Kris Bryant remains the most prominent former Boise Hawk in the bigs. Bryant enters his seventh season with the Chicago Cubs, and many wonder if it will be his last. He told reporters a couple weeks ago that there haven’t been any contract extension talks with the Cubs, who drafted him No. 2 overall in 2013 and sent him to Boise that summer. Bryant batted only .206 with four home runs in 34 games during the shrunken 2020 season. Things haven’t gotten much better this spring. The Cubbies open today against Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field.
I-84 RIVALRY RAMIFICATIONS
It’s not too early to start thinking about the NAIA Playoffs for College of Idaho—and for Eastern Oregon. The Coyotes are No. 6 in the latest NAIA Coaches Poll, and the Mountaineers are No. 20. They’re the only undefeated teams in the Frontier Conference, and Saturday’s game between the two rivals in LaGrande will go a long way in determining who gets the league’s automatic postseason berth. The last time C of I and EOU met last November, the Yotes held on 24-17 on the road to preserve what was then a 14-game winning streak.
THIS DAY IN SPORTS…April 1, 2006, 15 years ago today:
George Mason’s Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament ends with a 73-58 loss to eventual national champion Florida at the Final Four in Indianapolis. The suburban commuter school from Fairfax, VA, produced one of the great stories in the history of March Madness, knocking off Michigan State, North Carolina, and Wichita State to reach the Elite Eight. The 11th-seeded Patriots then stunned No. 1 seed Connecticut, 86-84 in overtime, to reach the Final Four. In December of that year, George Mason took out a full page ad in the Idaho Statesman wishing fellow Cinderella Boise State good luck against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
(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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