Boise State Football

Boise State sophomore receivers ready to convert practice promise into game-day plays

Boise State receivers CT Thomas and Octavius Evans reflect on their freshman seasons

Boise State sophomore receivers CT Thomas and Octavius Evans reflect on their freshman seasons and look ahead to bigger roles in 2018.
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Boise State sophomore receivers CT Thomas and Octavius Evans reflect on their freshman seasons and look ahead to bigger roles in 2018.

Two guys from Texas, both true freshmen, playing the same position — CT Thomas and Octavius Evans had the same hopes when they came to Boise State.

When the pair ran onto the field together for last season’s opener against Troy at Albertsons Stadium, the new friends were fulfilling a goal both had dreamed of for a long time.

“Me and CT, soon as we ran out, we saw a lot of people in the stands and we were like, ‘Bro, we’re really playing D-I football,’ ” Evans said, noting the duo “built a friendship real quick.”

“I felt like I could relate to him, and that’s when I felt like that he was going to be my brother.”

Their styles are quite different, from the speedy, 5-foot-8, 172-pound Thomas to the more traditionally built, 6-1, 201-pound Evans. But both offered enough talent and maturity to see the field right away.

They had 15 receptions apiece, with Thomas going for 121 yards and Evans for 131 with two touchdowns. Having arrived only last summer, both acknowledged it took some time to get comfortable, as evidenced by each having 11 receptions in the second half of the season.

“They know what to expect (now),” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “The thing about Octavius and CT, both those guys work extremely hard, they love football. Octavius is one of our hardest workers. ... He’s a great effort guy, and he’s got skill on top of that.

“CT is the same way. We’re moving him around a little bit.”

With Cedrick Wilson having graduated and likely to be drafted next month, there is a lot of opportunity for the sophomores to take a step up and fill part of the void left by Wilson’s 83 receptions, 1,511 yards and seven touchdowns.

Thomas has worked mainly out of the slot this spring, but the Broncos are trying to take advantage of his speed, putting him into different spots. “They are putting a little bit more on me because I’m not a freshman anymore,” he said.

Harsin called Evans “one of our best practice players we’ve ever had.”

“Last year was definitely a growth year for them, there were some frustrating times for them, obviously, coming from high school,” senior quarterback Brett Rypien said. “... I’ve seen them grow a lot this offseason. I’m really excited for those two guys. They’re going to have to be leaders in that wide receiver room.”

The Broncos have two seniors in Sean Modster and A.J. Richardson who will be major factors, with Thomas and Evans the only other healthy players this spring with any career receptions. Sophomore Akilian Butler is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in September, and the receivers room will double this summer with five scholarship additions.

Rypien and Thomas connected for a key play in the Las Vegas Bowl, with Boise State leading Oregon 31-21 with a little more than 6 minutes to play and facing a third-and-9 from its own 15-yard line. Rypien hit Thomas for a 22-yard gain. Eight plays later, the Broncos sealed the win with a touchdown.

Back then, Thomas was the lightest player on the roster, listed at only 158 pounds. He took a punishing hit Oct. 14 against San Diego State that highlighted it. But he spent a lot of time this offseason in the weight room — and in the dining hall.

“I just try to eat, like, two times,” Thomas said. “Two breakfast meals, two lunch meals, two dinner meals.”

Size isn’t much of an issue for Evans, who scored his first career touchdown Oct. 28 at Utah State as the lone receiver on the field, putting on a beautiful move on a slant for the score from Rypien. His touchdown three weeks later against Air Force on a fade was a fine display of body control.

With his experience from last season, plus his work ethic — he was recognized with linebacker Ezekiel Noa as the strength staff’s Iron Men of the Week on Friday — Evans feels he is taking the right steps.

“Coming in as a freshman, I was kind of lost, because I had to get the signals down real quick, be able to see Brett give me a check and change the play up,” Evans said. “I feel like I’m more comfortable out here and I can be able to make more plays with knowing that I’ve got the calls, knowing what I’m doing.”

The CT in Thomas’ name originally meant “Cold Titan,” a nickname given to him by a youth football teammate’s mom while playing for the Lancaster Titans outside of Dallas. It also could mean “Clutch Texans” if he and Evans, from Center, about 150 miles southeast of Dallas, have their way after making a few plays in 2017.

“I just can’t wait to make more,” Thomas said.

Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @davesouthorn