BOISE — Holden Huff knew he’d have his own niche as a tall, talented pass-catcher for Boise State here in his redshirt freshman season, but certainly didn’t anticipate what has come his way.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Huff has become the Broncos’ No. 1 tight end with a season-ending injury to Gabe Linehan, and Hayden Plinke’s indefinite suspension thinning out depth quickly.
“It’s been fun, but also, to be honest, pretty stressful,” Huff said. “You’ve got to study a heck of a lot more plays, know more formations, it can be pretty intense. I’d say it’s double, triple what I had at the beginning of the season.”
Huff’s 12 catches and 156 yards are by far tops among tight ends this season. Three others — Linehan, Plinke and Chandler Koch — have a combined four receptions. Huff had four catches for 47 yards last Saturday at Hawaii, scoring his first touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Joe Southwick. Two plays prior to that, the duo connected for a 24-yard completion.
“Back-to-back, almost back -to-back plays, we went right to him,” Southwick said. “He did a great job. That seam ball I threw to him (for 24 yards), he went up and got it, held onto the catch, the guy hit him pretty good in the back.”
Though he admits the workload on and off the field has taken some adjustment, Huff has gone from a primarily receiving tight end to one that can now be trusted to aid in run blocking and to handle the dizzying array of shifts and motions in the playbook.
“Just probably what we’ve been able to throw at him,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said about what has impressed him most about Huff. “It’s that one position from the bleachers you don’t see a whole lot going on, but there is a lot.”
Huff admits he is still on the slighter side for a tight end. He arrived last January after grayshirting, weighing about 195 pounds (by comparison, it’s the same weight as 5-9 receiver Mitch Burroughs). Putting on weight has been a constant battle, and so far he’s been successful, hoping to add about 10 pounds each offseason.
“I have to eat all the time, and that sounds like fun, but it isn’t when it’s like a job,” Huff said.
To have a big-framed tight end who can catch the ball, but has the capability to get bigger and take on defensive linemen with regularity is an enticing prospect to Huff’s coaches.
“He’s going to be really good down the road,” Petersen said. “Down the road — I don’t know if that’s next week, or next year, or whatever … he’s really been showing good toughness hanging in there and finally we got a few things done (last) week.
“When that (weight) comes on him, he’s going to be a really good player.”
Now with a strong game under his belt and another progressing option for Southwick on Saturdays, Huff said he and his group needed a game like the one at Hawaii.
“Tight ends, we mostly block in practice, so to get some thrown your way is pretty great,” Huff said. “I’ve got to keep getting better, and hopefully it will let us open things up a little more as an offense.”