Boise State needed Cedrick Wilson Jr. to step in immediately and make a contribution, coming from the junior college ranks and boasting a blend of size and speed sorely needed.
So far, so good.
The 6-foot-3, 183-pound junior wide receiver turned heads in the spring. He, along with seniors Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson, are listed as the first-team receivers on the pre-fall camp depth chart. He also could factor in as a returner.
“When he first got here, he’d lock himself in the receiver room for two hours, just teach himself the offense. I thought that was big,” receivers coach Junior Adams said. “He has unbelievable ability. We’ve just got to make sure we put it on display.”
When asked about Wilson working with the first-team offense so quickly, coach Bryan Harsin said, “He certainly has (earned it).”
Wilson hopes to repay that confidence.
“I just feel like if they trust in me, then I should trust in myself, so I’m going to do what they want me to do,” Wilson said.
Wilson, a quarterback in high school in Memphis, Tenn., didn’t play receiver until his first season at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, where he had 1,674 yards and 27 touchdowns in two seasons. His father, Cedrick Wilson, played seven NFL seasons and won a Super Bowl with the Steelers in 2006.
One of the best pieces of advice Wilson received from his father came before he signed with Boise State, and has been quite fitting his first few months with the Broncos.
“Either you perform, or someone’s going to perform in front of you,” he said.
Wilson, who despite being the team’s tallest scholarship receiver, calls himself “a speed receiver, I guess,” wasn’t even running on all cylinders this spring.
“I don’t think I got to play as full speed as I wanted to. ... It’s gotten much better now,” he said.
Wilson’s dedication to film study and learning the playbook was noticeable during the first week of fall camp in his rapport with quarterbacks Brett Rypien and Tommy Stuart.
“It felt pretty good knowing the plays without having to ask Brett every time,” Wilson said.
It isn’t just on offense that Wilson has impressed, either. One of Harsin’s biggest areas of concern has been who will fill certain special teams roles, namely punt and kick returner. He and senior cornerback Jonathan Moxey are the co-punt returners on the first depth chart.
“We have an idea where we’re headed with that stuff. ... Ced was a guy that definitely impressed us,” special teams coordinator Kent Riddle said. “First, it seems obvious, he caught it well, but also, he did a good job with technique. He wasn’t just running around. When he had the ball, he made things happen. He’s big, so he can break tackles, and he’s fast. Plus, he works at it, all the time.”
That commitment to making the most of what will be a short tenure at Boise State has helped Wilson be in a position to succeed.
“When you come here, people may just be like, ‘It’s just another place.’ To me, I see something new every day. It’s like, ‘This is what I’ve been working for,’” Wilson said.
Dave Southorn: 208-377-6420, @IDS_BroncoBeat