BOISE — While all the talk this spring centered around the return of senior starter Joe Southwick, the running game led by Jay Ajayi and how the defense was going to replace key seniors at linebacker and in the secondary, one of the positions primed for the most success for the Boise State Broncos in the fall received little attention at all.
As the Broncos search to find replacements at several spots, the wide receiver unit saw arguably the least amount of turnover from a season ago. Boise State returns its top two receivers and three of its top four, fueling excitement over what could be a key part of the Broncos’ offense come Aug. 31.
“I love it,” said wide receiver Aaron Burks, who had a team-high seven catches for 50 yards in Saturday’s spring game at Bronco Stadium. “I think we’re coming together great because I feel like everybody knows their role and we have weapons inside and out. I think we’re going to add more to the offense.
“We know what we can do. It’s something that’s just going to happen. I feel like people underrate us, but at the same time, we know that we’re going to get exposed and they are going to see what we can do. We don’t have to do anything special, just be us and it will all come out.”
Boise State does lose Chris Potter, who was second among wide receivers with four touchdowns and third in receptions with 34. But Matt Miller, who had teams highs in receptions (66), yards (769) and touchdowns (5), will be a junior this fall and is primed for a big season.
A trio of seniors return for one final campaign and are looking to go out in style. Senior Kirby Moore, younger brother of former Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore, serves as a reliable and steady safety valve in the middle of the field. He was second on the team with 36 receptions and 368 receiving yards in 2012.
Burks, also a senior, only had 17 receptions in 2012 but had 319 receiving yards. His 18.8 yards per catch average was the best on the team and the Broncos are hoping his big-play ability has more of an impact this fall. He’s used a strict diet to gain weight and feels his new body type will pay big dividends.
Geraldo Boldewijn, a senior from Capital High, had 18 receptions last year, but is looking for big things in his final season as well. He had three catches for 32 yards in the spring game, including a 25-yard touchdown reception just before halftime.
“I think they’ve made progress,” coach Chris Petersen said of the seniors. “I think you can kind of feel them making a move, but again it really comes down to consistency. That’s what we need from our seniors. The younger guys, you see flashes and OK, we can live with that. Older guys, no flashes, consistency, every down. We’re not there yet, but were getting there with those guys.”
Chances are the wide receiver group this fall won’t rival the tandem of Titus Young and Austin Pettis, who ran routes together for Boise State until being second- and third-round picks in the 2011 NFL Draft, respectively. But the unique combination of speed, size and skill-set should provide Southwick and the other quarterbacks plenty of options down the field.
“We have a lot of talented guys,” backup quarterback Grant Hedrick said. “We have Matt coming back, Aaron Burks, Geraldo, Kirby inside, Shane (Williams-Rhodes), Dallas (Burroughs) has some speed, all of those guys. You take a look at them and line them up and they can play. It’s just a matter of getting them the ball and letting them do what they can.”
On the senior leadership at wide receiver, Hedrick said: “Anytime you’re a senior you want to go out the right way and I think those guys have the motivation to do that this year. I know those seniors have taken a big leadership role and they are stepping up. They want this thing bad so it kind of motivates everybody else to do it for these guys.”
Williams-Rhodes could be the most intriguing wide receiver of them all. The smallest of the group at 5-foot-6, 158 pounds, the sophomore has blazing speed that could help the Broncos in a number of different areas.
And he figures to see the ball plenty.
“We did that last year a little bit and in his second year there should be a tremendous jump in terms of how he understands how our system operates,” Petersen said. “And then it’s our job as coaches to figure out different ways, whether we throw it to him, hand it to him, kick return. He’s a dynamic guy that can make a difference.”
The wide receivers all hope to make a difference this fall. Whether others are talking about them or not.