On signing day Feb. 3, Boise State receivers coach Junior Adams had a mile-wide smile thinking of what the Broncos’ receiving corps could look like this fall.
He saw a group that could play tall, quick or full of sure-handed options who can make the tough catch on a third down. He imagined it like a garage full of cars.
“I can go drive my F150 (truck. I can go drive my Camaro,” Adams said.
That all is exciting in theory, but the Broncos had yet to take any of those toys out of the garage. Now, 11 practices through spring football, that array of options is starting to show up.
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“That’s one thing we talk about in that (receivers) room is stepping up,” Adams said. “... that’s the cool thing about this group, about this offense, is the variety.”
No returning receiver had more than 10 catches last season behind seniors Thomas Sperbeck (school record-tying 88) and Chaz Anderson (42), opening some prime opportunities for someone.
Junior Cedrick Wilson, who at 6-foot-3 is the Broncos’ tallest scholarship receiver, has impressed in his first spring with the team after hauling in 66 receptions for 1,045 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked. ... We don’t have to ask him to come in and watch film,” Adams said. “There’s times he’s in the building two hours studying the playbook, studying the position.”
Or perhaps sophomore A.J. Richardson, who had 10 catches for 113 yards last season for the Broncos, seven going for first downs.
“You know exactly what you’re going to get. He’s going to catch the ball every time,” Sperbeck said. “He’s got probably the best hands on the team.”
Maybe a candidate like sophomore Akilian Butler, who played in 10 games in 2015, will make a leap. Coach Bryan Harsin noted before the spring a key focus was to develop more deep threats.
“He’s a speed guy, he’s really improved,” Harsin said. “... having that experience has helped him.”
Then there are the mostly unknowns, like sophomore Sean Modster (three catches last season), junior Austin Cottrell (one catch) or redshirt freshman Bryan Jefferson.
“Bryan Jefferson is a guy not many people have seen. He just quietly continues to make plays. He just goes out and does his job,” Harsin said. “I think we’re seeing a guy kind of emerging as a guy that’s going to have a role, a guy we can trust that we can put out there, and he’s going to know what to do.”
Add incoming freshmen Julian Carter and Bubba Ogbebor this summer, who both have the talent to potentially contribute early, and there should be no shortage of options for Boise State quarterbacks. Those here this spring have gained confidence from the veterans.
“There’s not a big dropoff between the 1s and the 2s and the 3s,” Sperbeck said.
It’s no secret around Boise State. There is opportunity for other receivers to get involved, spell Sperbeck or Anderson as needed and make it even more difficult on defenses with no weak link in the group.
“I know someone like me has some experience now, the game slows down a bit, and you have to expect bigger things for yourself, time to expand your role,” Richardson said.
Wilson said “it’s pretty nice seeing they’re giving me the opportunity” to play right away. The Broncos will need it. A void must be filled, and defenses are spread thin when there are targets to worry about.
“They’re very important for the offense, because we can kind of get more of a wide receiver rotation,” Sperbeck said.
Boise State Spring Game information
▪ 5 p.m. Saturday, Albertsons Stadium
▪ Tickets are $10 per person, available at Boise State athletic ticket office day of game or at BroncoSports.com/tickets; $5 tickets for fans who bring non-perishable canned food item to Idaho Foodbank (3562 S. TK Ave.) between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.
▪ Complimentary parking available in stadium’s east lot and Lincoln Garage
▪ Bronco Walk scheduled for 3 p.m. from Caven-Williams Indoor Sport Complex around south side of stadium; gates open at 4 p.m.; pre-game ceremony to honor Lyle Smith, who turned 100 on March 17