Each day, I’ll post a blog with all the nuts-and-bolts information about a position and many of the quotes I’ve collected. The next morning, we’ll run a feature story on the position in the newspaper.
Today: Wide receivers
Newspaper story here.
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WIDE RECEIVERS ROSTER
2 Matt Miller, 6-3, 213, R-Sr.
81 Dallas Burroughs, 5-9, 169, Sr.
20 Terrell Johnson, 5-9, 174, R-Jr.
14 Troy Ware, 6-2, 183, R-Jr.
11 Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 158, Jr.
29 Rick Smith, 5-9, 174, Jr. (ineligible this year)
19 Taylor Pope, 6-0, 178, R-So.
6 Chaz Anderson, 5-10, 182, R-So.
82 Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 173, So.
80 D.J. Dean, 6-1, 195, R-Fr.
83 Tanner Shipley, 6-1, 181, R-Fr.
39 David McKinzie, 6-0, 166, R-Fr.
24 Dusty Fisher, 6-2, 179, R-Fr.
28 A.J. Richardson, 6-0, 199, Fr.
8 Sean Modster, 5-11, 189, Fr.
48 Josh Rhinehart, 6-2, 198, Fr.
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Matt Miller, 6-3, 213, R-Sr.: Needs 14 catches, 476 yards and 14 touchdowns to break the career school records held by Austin Pettis and Titus Young. Miller has made at least 60 catches for three straight seasons.
Troy Ware, 6-2, 183, R-Jr.: Fantastic performance in the fall scrimmage could be a hint of a breakout season to come. He scored two touchdowns on 10 catches last year.
Chaz Anderson, 5-10, 182, R-So.: Moved from cornerback to wide receiver for fall camp and made an immediate impact with his speed and aggressive running with the ball.
OR Dallas Burroughs, 5-9, 169, Sr.: Production has dropped from nine catches as a freshman to four as a sophomore to two as a junior, but he started to make plays the second half of fall camp.
Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 158, Jr.: Must adjust from a specialty receiver used mostly for “get it to him” routes to a complete wide receiver. He made 77 catches last year.
Thomas Sperbeck, 6-0, 173, So.: Made five catches as a true freshman last year. Teammates rave about him but coaches still want to see consistency.
OR Terrell Johnson, 5-9, 174, R-Jr.: Named the Offensive Scout Player of the Year last season as a junior college transfer. Showed his explosiveness with a 62-yard TD grab in the fall scrimmage.
Overview: The Broncos return Miller and Williams-Rhodes, who combined for 165 of the team’s 329 catches last season (almost exactly half). But the rest of the depth chart is unproven. The team lost Geraldo Boldewijn (39 catches), Kirby Moore (36) and Aaron Burks (18), leaving Ware (10), Sperbeck (five) and Burroughs (two) as the other top returners. That’s why coaches brought Anderson over from defense. “You’ve got to look at it that Troy Ware and Dallas Burroughs have played a lot of snaps here and then with the addition of Chaz, we’re shaping up to be a pretty good wide receiver corps, top to bottom,” wide receivers coach Junior Adams said.
Key to success: The Broncos need a deep threat and a second red-zone target to emerge from the collection of secondary wide receivers. Those players should get advantageous matchups because defenses will be focused on Miller and Williams-Rhodes, two matchup nightmares for defensive backs.
Reason for concern: Miller and Williams-Rhodes are the only receivers who have proven they can perform at this level — and Williams-Rhodes never has been asked to spend the majority of his time running traditional routes. There’s enough talent at the position to produce big numbers. But is there enough polish?
Star player: Miller should benefit from the renewed emphasis on vertical passing. The horizontal passing of last year’s offense didn’t fit his game. He showed late last season that he can be more than an intermediate receiver, too — he was a frequent, and effective, deep threat.
Breakout performer: Anderson has caught everyone’s attention with his smooth transition from cornerback to wide receiver. “He brings a lot to the table for us,” Adams said. “We’re still getting him acclimated to the position in our offense. Things are still a little fast for him right now, but he’s picking it up really well for someone who’s been in the position for two weeks now.”
Newcomer to watch: Johnson redshirted last year. He played 24 games in two seasons at Saddleback Junior College. In the scrimmage, he made four catches for a team-high 84 yards.
— Miller collected 41 receptions for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns in the final five games last season. That included an 11-catch, 206-yard performance against Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl.
— Adams on Burroughs: “He’s been putting together some good, consistent practices, making plays on the field, making plays in traffic.”
— Adams on Sperbeck: “He has shown a little bit of inconsistency but when he does do things right he does it good and he stands out. Thomas has shown flashes of some really good stuff. The inconsistency that he does have at times is because he’s just young. I’m going to keep giving him more and more reps and keep putting him in distress situations and see how he responds so I can get him ready for that moment.”
— Dean was having a good camp until a hip injury sidelined him. He did not play in the fall scrimmage.
— Adams says he likes the old-school idea of the top three receivers playing every snap, but that’s unrealistic in today’s up-tempo offenses. “Guys are going to fit in where they make us better on each and every snap.”
— Adams on Miller and Williams-Rhodes: “It was good to see those guys get better from spring ball and the summer to now. Those guys come out there with a plan each day. They know what they want to work on. Matt and I spent some time after practice working on certain technical stuff of the position. Shane has made tremendous strides from spring as far as being able to play the position as a wideout. Guys look up to those guys. The cool thing, and the biggest thing they made improvements on, is they’ve become good leaders in that position room. They’re guys I can lean on, as well.”
— Anderson was a cornerback during his first two years in the program. He split time between corner and wide receiver during the summer and made the switch full time when camp opened. “He’s really good in and out of his breaks,” Williams-Rhodes said. “Honestly, I think he might be one of the best receivers in and out of his breaks. I think it has something to do with playing DB.” Said Adams: “I went back and watched his high school highlight tape and 90 percent of it was him playing wide receiver. He’s strong. He’s powerful. He’s got great ball skills. He’s fast. And he’s probably one of our better run-after-catch guys.”
— Dean, of Eagle High, grayshirted and redshirted out of high school. He made strides in spring ball and was on the summer depth chart. “D.J. is a go-hard, blue-collar dude,” Adams said. “He’s one of those guys I’ve kind of got to slow down. He shows up every day. I even said it to him last night, ‘One thing I know about you is you’re going to go 100 miles an hour.’ ”
— Williams-Rhodes continues to focus on his route-running to make the transition toward more of a traditional receiver role and less of a screen specialist. “It’s just repetition. The more you run routes, the better you get at them,” he said. Said Adams: “Shane has done a good job since spring and the summer just working on his game and becoming a complete receiver. Obviously, it’s going to help Matt. You need another guy to be able to play next to Matt to take some of the heat off Matt, so guys won’t be able to roll coverages and be able to just double-team Matt.”
— Adams has emphasized quick starts off the line of scrimmage. Last year, the receivers often made a quick move before breaking upfield. “When he broke it down to us it made a lot of sense,” Williams-Rhodes said. “It makes someone who is a 4.5 a 4.4 (in the 40-yard dash).”
— Miller’s leadership push has been noticed. “Last night I got on the phone with Matt and said he did a good job at meetings,” Adams said early in camp. “Matt is becoming more vocal of a leader, telling guys where to line up, what route to run. I think that’s very important because originally they were a very quiet group. In this offense, you’ve got to be able to communicate and guys have got to be able to talk to each other.”
— Coach Bryan Harsin on Miller: “Recruiting him and being around him again, he has been to this point as productive as we’d hoped he’d be. I know he’s put a tremendous amount of work in to be where he’s at. Working with him in the spring, he is a clutch-type player.”
— Harsin on the No. 3 receiver: “Chaz, to me, is a guy who’s stood out. Along with Sperbeck. Chaz has had a really good camp. (In the scrimmage) Troy had a really good performance.”
— Quarterback Grant Hedrick on Ware: “Troy had a good camp. He has showed up and been a playmaker for us.”
— Hedrick on other receiver standouts: “Dallas Burroughs has done a good job. Thomas Sperbeck. Those two guys really stick out in my mind.”
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