With quarterbacks off limits during the Boise State football team’s annual Spring Game, Curtis Weaver skipped past Kaiden Bennett and blew kisses to the sideline instead of taking down the freshman quarterback on Saturday afternoon.
It was the 6-foot-3, 264-pound junior STUD end’s second credited sack of the first half, and a reassuring sign for a Boise State team that will need to get the most out of its key returners with new faces set to take over at quarterback and running back in 2019.
“Guys like Curtis were out there making plays. He got another couple sacks in there that didn’t get counted, and we know that,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “If he’s able to bend the corner and really go after the quarterback, it’s a different game.”
Weaver and many of the other veteran Broncos expected to be playmakers in 2019 lived up to the task in front of 6,841 fans Saturday at Albertsons Stadium. Weaver, who is already tied for sixth in school history with 20.5 career sacks, led a defense that registered eight sacks Saturday. Receivers Khalil Shakir and John Hightower provided highlight-reel catches on the offensive end as the Broncos put five different quarterbacks on the field.
“Overall, it was good to see some of those guys that have played go out there and make plays,” Harsin said.
[Related: Quarterbacks show promise in Spring Game]
In his first public action since spraining a knee against Fresno State on Nov. 9, Shakir scored on the offense’s opening drive. The sophomore caught a pass from senior quarterback Jaylon Henderson — his first attempt of the game — near midfield, cut hard to his left to avoid multiple defenders and then sprinted down the sideline for a 53-yard score.
“He’s an impressive guy, and he’s getting better and better every single day,” Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said of Shakir. “It’s good seeing him healthy. Obviously at the end of last season not having him was detrimental to us. He is one of those playmakers that can do a lot of things. He’s smart. He’s one of our leaders even though he’s kind of quiet. He’s one of those leaders that does everything the right way and everybody wants to be around him and find different ways to get him the ball.”
Shakir finished with three catches for 96 yards and was one of 10 receivers to have at least one reception.
“Making plays gets everybody going,” Shakir said. “Everybody feeds off each other’s energy, so when one person makes a big play everybody as a whole just gets together and it gets everybody going.”
In addition to Shakir, Hightower had two of the most explosive offensive plays of the Spring Game, grabbing three receptions for 92 yards. Hightower connected with redshirt freshman walk-on quarterback Zach Matlock on a 37-yarder in the third quarter and then brought down a 36-yard pass from Bennett in the fourth.
“Most importantly, the guys had fun. That’s the key ingredient,” Harsin said. “You come out here and you get to compete, you want to see guys that enjoy that where they’re not tight. They’re excited. They want to go play. They want to go out there and get better at the game, but to treat it like a game, because we don’t get to do this until August at some point when we have another scrimmage.”
Boise State will open the 2019 season against Florida State on Saturday, Aug. 31, in Jacksonville.