BOISE — Octavius Evans is back, but he’s not really back. At least not yet.
Boise State’s junior wide receiver had just two catches last season while battling a high ankle sprain but is finally at full health and practicing with no limitations during fall camp.
So when will he be his old self again?
“I used to catch a pass and be like ‘oh yeah, it’s over with,’” Evans joked Tuesday. “I’d get in that mood, and I have to find that again in myself. I’m pretty sure I will, it’s just going to take a little time.”
Evans referred to it as ‘game ready’. He feels fine physically but hasn’t been at full strength or practiced normally in close to a year, so it takes time to get back into football shape and get comfortable with running routes and catching passes with a defender in his face.
He’s shown no lingering effects of the injury during the first 10 days of fall camp, and hasn’t appeared to look rusty during the portions of practice open to the media.
“I have been out for a long time so it feels a little weird, but I’m getting back into it slowly,” Evans said. “I’m still working on trying to build that back and find that again, but it’s getting better. I definitely should be ready and back to the same me soon.”
The ‘same me’ could be a scary thought for opposing defenses. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound Evans burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2017, hauling in 15 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He was expected to be the Broncos’ top red zone threat and one of their best overall receivers in 2018 as a sophomore.
But that quickly changed when he suffered an injury during fall camp last August and was limited to just two catches — an 11-yard catch against Wyoming and a 1-yard catch against San Diego State — while appearing sparingly in five games.
“It was pretty hard and emotional for me, but my team did a good job of helping me get through it and kept pushing me to keep studying film and stuff,” Evans said. “It was definitely difficult for me, but I kept pushing and tried to do whatever I could for the team. I had ups and downs with the injury, but I’m over it now. I don’t look back at it anymore. I just focus on what I can do now.”
Evans practiced as much as possible and did what he could to try and play, but more times than not found himself inactive on game day. It was essentially a wasted season, since he barely contributed and lost out on a redshirt year by appearing in five games (the limit is four).
“He handled it very well,” wide receiver and roommate CT Thomas said. “He was encouraging us and he didn’t get down. I live with him and I saw it first hand. He was never one of those guys that got mad. He was just always uplifting and trying to help the other receivers.”
Ten days into fall camp, Thomas and the Broncos have seen the 2017 Evans — one that’s causing problems for the defense out on the field.
“I’ve seen a lot from ‘Tay’ and I’m expecting a lot from him,” Thomas said. “I think he’s going to do everything he’s supposed to — come in and block or come in and score a touchdown. He’s an exceptional player, he just hasn’t got his shot yet.”
So what can Evans be expected to do when he gets his shot?
“That’s a good question,” Evans said. “I don’t really like talking about that. I just like to go out there and play. Everybody is here for a reason, everybody loves the game, so for me it’s just go play and do the best you can and whatever that is, coach is going to find a way to put you in the best spot.”
Boise State already has a plethora of talent at wide receiver with Thomas, John Hightower and Khalil Shakir primed for big seasons. But Evans could be a major contributor if he’s back to his old self, which it appears he is.
“It’s unfortunate what happened last year, but he’s back and ready to roll,” wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau said.
Asked if Evans could be the dominant player many once projected him to be, Kiesau said, “Absolutely.”
It was a long year for Evans, who last talked with the media about the last time he felt 100 percent — this time last August.
“I’m just excited to be out there,” Evans said. “I feel fantastic.”