Boise State Spring Practice

Boise State wide receivers Thomas Sperbeck (left) and Shane Williams-Rhodes (right) take a break during a spring practice in March.

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BOISE — Fast food has always been the one thing Boise State wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes can’t do without. And for the past few years, the 5-foot-6 speedster could eat whatever he wanted without having to worry.

That was, until he stepped on the scale last week.

Deciding he wanted to bulk up a bit for his senior year, Williams-Rhodes hit the weight room in January with a goal of gaining about 15 pounds by the start of next season. Never one to gain much weight, he figured it would take some time.

Whoops.

After finishing the Fiesta Bowl at 156 pounds, Williams-Rhodes checked in at 168 pounds on the updated Boise State roster for the start of spring practices.

“I gained the weight a little faster than I thought,” said Williams-Rhodes, who is only two pounds from his target weight of 170. “I’m almost where I need to be, but I’ll need to gain a little bit more because I know in fall camp I’ll lose a couple pounds.”

Williams-Rhodes is the shortest player on the team and also battled Donte Deayon for the lightest. But as the receiver prepares for his senior season, he figured adding to his frame might help him avoid some of the minor injuries he’s dealt with in recent years.

The Spring, Texas, native led Boise State with 68 catches last season and his 171 career catches are fifth on the school’s all-time list.

“I just feel like with that weight, you’re able to run through a couple more tackles and get off more man-press and stuff like that,” Williams-Rhodes said. “Having that extra weight, I didn’t lose really any speed for it, so I think it will be good.”

Williams-Rhodes is one of the most experienced and productive players in the Mountain West. His 68 catches were good for fourth in the conference last season, while his seven touchdowns tied for second.

He had 77 catches for 702 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2013 despite missing the final two games with an ankle injury. He entered last season saying he wanted to be more of a traditional receiver, and finished with 585 receiving yards.

But his production mysteriously dropped off late in the season. Williams-Rhodes had at least four catches in 11 of the first 12 games, but he didn’t have a single catch in either the Mountain West title game or the Fiesta Bowl.

“Just how it goes sometimes playing receiver,” Williams-Rhodes explained. “You can go out there one game and have 15 catches and the next have none. I know it’s part of the position and we were still winning, so I couldn’t complain.

“It definitely is tough not getting it, but I understand. We all had a common goal and we reached it.”

The emergence of Thomas Sperbeck at wide receiver — he had 12 catches for 199 yards in the Fiesta Bowl — likely took away some of Williams-Rhodes’ opportunities. So did running back Jay Ajayi, who set a school record for single-season rushing yards before leaving early for the NFL.

“Shane plays his role in this offense,” wide receivers coach Junior Adams said. “The coverage dictates a lot of where we go with the ball. Shane is a team player, so there wasn’t any problem. Shane does a really good job of being a leader on the field and directing traffic and getting guys lined up, and when his number is called, he does make the best of it.”

Regardless of what both sides are saying, one of the leading receivers in the Mountain West the previous two seasons going without a catch in Boise State’s two biggest games of 2014 should be considered somewhat puzzling.

Head coach Bryan Harsin said last week that it was the coaches’ jobs “to find ways to get the ball in his hands. … He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and right now he’s one of our strongest players. His numbers last week (weight testing) were out of the roof. We’re excited about him going into the spring.”

Knowing he only has one season left — and with Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson emerging as possible candidates to take more of his opportunities — Williams-Rhodes hit the practice field Monday with plenty of motivation.

“Senior year, I have to go out with a bang,” said Williams-Rhodes, who also has been getting some work at kick returner. “Like I said last year, I’m trying to become more of a traditional receiver. I felt like I was a bit more involved in the vertical game and I want to continue to do that.”

He hopes the extra weight will help. And that he won’t have to give up fast food.

B.J. Rains has covered Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press since 2013 and is a three-time winner of the NSMA Idaho Sportswriter of the Year Award. He appears on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket every Friday at 4 p.m. for the Blue Turf Sports report.

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