Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nelson Wins WAC Honor

The Boise State track team didn't fare particularly well at the Sun Angel Classic, but Alex Nelson did, and his hammer throw win earned Nelson an honor from the Western Athletic Conference office.

The WAC named Nelson as its Outdoor Field Athlete of the Week for his performance in Tempe.  Nelson tossed the hammer 208-feet, 8-inches to win the Collegiate Division event.  He not only won that event, but his mark would have placed second in the so-called "Premier" hammer throw as well.  Nelson now owns the best mark in the WAC this season, the only Bronco to have that distinction in any event.

Winn Named to Lott Trophy Watch List

Boise State defensive tackle Billy Winn received word that he is on the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List this coming season.  The Lott Trophy is given annually to the top collegiate defensive player in the nation.

This alone lets Winn know what he must achieve this fall.  For the Broncos to be the kind of team that the players, coaches and fans want them to be, Winn must be a leader (if not The Leader) on a Boise State defense that will again be one of the best in the nation.  Billy has had his moments of greatness (his knifing through the Oregon offensive line to nab LaGarrette Blount for a safety is one), but the Broncos are looking for him to thoroughly dominate the opposition on every play, to be so much of a threat that opposing offensive coordinators are constantly drawing up double-teams and having to change their offense because of him.  If Winn forces that, it doesn't matter which and how many awards he receives; he will have done his job.

The Western Athletic Conference never recognized Winn as a first-team player (to each his own, I suppose.)  He has had 22 tackles for loss and 10 sacks combined in the last two seasons.  Now, Billy needs to ring up those kind of numbers in one year to rise to the next level.

There are 42 others on the Lott Impact list--IMPACT stands for Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity, qualities that Ronnie Lott himself stood for.  More than 200 former stars and coaches, media members and LOTT Board members vote on the finalists, which will all be recognized at the Lott IMPACT Trophy banquet December 11 in Newport Beach, California.

Blue-Orange Game Set for Saturday at 5

Of course the real "moment of truth" will be this fall, but in a way, it will be Saturday for the Boise State football team.  The Broncos will be on display for all to see how what they have learned in spring ball.

There have been several things to look for:

1.  Who is going to step up at receiver?  Tyler Shoemaker is the most seasoned, but you can't beat Georgia (or TCU, or Fresno State, or Air Force, or Nevada.....). with one receiver
2.  Has the defense conditioned itself so they can play four full quarters against a quality opponent without getting tired, ala the Nevada game?
3.  Will the Broncos have a kicker they can rely on to make the clutch field goal for them?
4.  Who will step up at safety to replace Jeron Johnson?

Boise State lost several players and a lot of talent off the team that lost a game last year, but we know that the Broncos reload each year and new players become stars before our eyes.  To be honest, there isn't a lot of improving that has to be done, but the four areas mentioned above must be taken care of for Boise State to dream of a game in January.

It will be an exciting year, if for no other reason because Boise State is entering a new conference, the Mountain West, with a new group of conference rivals and a new set of challenges.  The quality level goes up considerably week to week.  I always felt that the top part of the Western Athletic Conference could compete with most teams, but it was #4-#9 where it was suspect and fell behind the Mountain West and the "BCS" conferences.  That isn't to say the games were easy--Boise State could always count on getting another team's best effort, and that was something most outsiders could never understand.  But now, you not only get an opponent's best shot, but you get opponents that are solid top to bottom in the Mountain West. 

So Saturday, fans will get to see the "new Broncos", without Titus Young and Austin Pettis, without Jeron Johnson, Winston Venable and the rest of the talented senior class that surpassed all others before them.  That said, the Blue & Orange Game is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.  Still, to the finely tuned Bronco fan's eyes, there will be enough action to be able to answer the questions posed above either affirmatively or negatively.

The "Game" starts at 5 p.m. Saturday in Bronco Stadium.  It will be most interesting to see how this new group of Broncos is progressing.