Bronco Beat

Heartwarming success of Boise State walk-ons also points to attrition problem

Boise State football walk-ons reflect on being placed on scholarship

Brock Barr, Austin Silsby, Skyler Seibold and Avery Williams discuss being put on scholarship during Boise State's fall camp.
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Brock Barr, Austin Silsby, Skyler Seibold and Avery Williams discuss being put on scholarship during Boise State's fall camp.

It’s always a special moment when a walk-on earns a scholarship, a simultaneous celebration of hard work and feeling of great relief.

That scene has played out more this year than any other in the last two decades at Boise State, with eight walk-ons earning scholarships in 2017 — six in August alone.

“You always get those butterflies like, ‘This might be it,’ ” said senior receiver/snapper Brock Barr, who got one Aug. 17. “When you hear that speech coming on, everyone walk-on, even if they say no, they’re thinking, ‘This could possibly be me.’ When you hear another one get a scholarship, that’s such a cool feeling because you know they’re going through the same struggle.”

[Join our Facebook Live discussion of Boise State football at 11 a.m. Thursday (Facebook.com/BoiseStateSports) and our live chat at 11:30 a.m. (IdahoStatesman.com)]

There’s no doubt Boise State has a strong history of those sorts of players panning out, guys like Brock Forsey, Andrew Browning, Ryan Winterswyk and Matt Paradis among them. Junior linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, a captain this season, is part of that group.

“That was a big reason why I wanted to come here, because there’s an opportunity for walk-ons to get that scholarship,” said junior Skyler Seibold, who was put on scholarship the same day as Barr.

But walk-on rewards sometimes come with a cost. Those scholarships are available because of attrition among scholarship players. Ten of the 21 who signed in the 2014 recruiting class, and seven of the 21 who signed in 2015 left before their eligibility was complete.

Since former coach Dirk Koetter’s first season in 1998, the most walk-ons put on scholarship in a single year was six.

Whether it was from players being kicked off the team or leaving on their own, the Broncos went into fall camp with 79 scholarship players. Two (tight end Jake Knight and quarterback Jake Constantine) left in August. The scholarship limit is 85.

[Related: Houston-area Broncos watch, worry — and try to help — as hometown floods]

“I see it as opportunity for those guys,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “When you have 110 guys and you have 85 scholarships, you look at how many are deserving, and there’s a lot more than 85.”

In Harsin’s four seasons, 18 walk-ons have earned scholarships, 11 of whom are still on the roster. There were 16 in the six seasons before his arrival. Koetter had 11 in his first two seasons, the most (six) coming in 1999. Harsin noted that most walk-ons are recruited like scholarship players, and many had offers from lower-division programs.

Though the attrition has forced his hand, Harsin said that’s not a concern.

“If somebody leaves, one door closes, another one opens,” said Harsin, a walk-on himself when he played at Boise State. “... I think it’s something that’s special for those players.

“At some point, it will (happen) if you keep working.”

BOISE STATE-BRANDED BEER?

A new trend among college football programs is pairing up with local breweries to create team-branded beer as a way to market and perhaps get a little extra revenue.

Montana has “Griz Montana Lager,” New Mexico State has “Pistol Pete’s 1988,” Colorado State has “Old Aggie Superior Lager,” New Mexico has “Lobo Red,” LSU has “Bayou Bengal Lager,” Louisiana has “Ragin’ Cajuns Genuine Louisiana Ale” and Tulane has “Green Wave Beer.”

Boise is a great beer city, so it seems like a natural fit. But don’t expect the Hook And Lager, Statue Left Stout or Hoption Pass IPA in stores anytime soon.

“There are no discussions with any breweries or beer distributors for Boise State-branded beer and I am not aware of any planned in the near future,” said Rachael Bickerton, Boise State’s director of trademark licensing and enforcement. “It’s just not something that we are interested in pursuing right now.”

MOORE MAY STICK IN DALLAS

Thursday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans was canceled to allow Houston players to be with their families and aid with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

It would have been one final shot for former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore to make a case to be Dak Prescott’s backup after undrafted rookie Cooper Rush has been gaining ground quickly with an excellent preseason.

Moore, in his sixth NFL season and third with the Cowboys, has completed 32 of 59 passes for 392 yards, with one touchdown and one interception; Rush has completed 39 of 51 for 398 yards, with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Both have had a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

On a radio show Tuesday morning, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said it is “very likely” that the team will keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster after final cuts are made at 2 p.m. Saturday, so Moore and Rush might both have jobs.

“I’m just excited that we’ve got on this roster the potential of Rush now to go with Dak, and of course Moore. We always thought that he brought the knowledge and the ability to execute the offense to the table,” Jones said on 105.3 KRLD-FM.

STUART’S A STARTER FOR DUKES

Former Boise State quarterback Tommy Stuart, who redshirted in 2014 and played in 12 games the past two seasons, was named the starter for Duquesne’s season opener Thursday against No. 4 South Dakota State (6 p.m., ESPN3).

Stuart, a senior, transferred to the Football Championship Subdivision school in January, making him eligible to play immediately. He was 12-of-18 passing for 114 yards and a touchdown at Boise State, and ran for 62 yards and three touchdowns.

“His personality really lends to a leadership role that in that position you really need,” Dukes coach Jerry Schmitt told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “He has experience playing on a bigger stage that is helping our guys competitively.”

CORD ON STANDBY AT QUARTERBACK

True freshman quarterback Chase Cord has been impressive in fall camp, showing good mobility and arm strength at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. Constantine’s departure moved him up in the pecking order. Although he is the only true freshman on the depth chart, the Broncos hope he won’t be needed.

“We hope that Brett (Rypien) and Montell (Cozart) stay healthy through the year, but obviously we’re planning for whatever. He’s got to be mentally ready to go at any point,” offensive coordinator Zak Hill said.

Instead of serving as the scout team quarterback, as most in his situation would in prior years, Cord is working with the veterans while also doing a bit of scout team work alongside freshman walk-on Tanner Bolt.

“We’re trying to get him as many reps as possible in many situations,” Hill said.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @davesouthorn

Troy at Boise State

When: 1:45 p.m. Saturday

Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)

TV: ESPNU (Mike Couzens and John Congemi)

Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)

Records: BSU 10-3 in 2016; Troy 10-3

Series: First meeting (Boise State is 6-0 all-time against Sun Belt teams)

Vegas line: BSU by 10 1/2

Kickoff weather: Mid-90s, clear and sunny

WALK-ONS PUT ON SCHOLARSHIP UNDER HARSIN

2014 (4): TE Jake Hardee, LS Kevin Keane, RB Charles Bertoli, OL Mason Hampton

2015 (1): LB Leighton Vander Esch

2016 (5): OL Kellen Buhr; LS Matt Cota, WR Taylor Pope, LB Blake Whitlock, RB Ryan Wolpin

2017 (8): NT Sonatane Lui, TE Jake Knight, LB/CB Avery Williams, DE Austin Silsby, WR/LS Brock Barr, S Skyler Seibold, LB Will Heffner, LS Nicholai Pitman

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