Boise State senior wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes has played bigger through the first week of fall camp – literally and figuratively.
The Broncos' small but stout playmaker has bulked up to 5-foot-6 and 173 pounds. He was listed at 158 pounds last year.
Along the way, he earned strength coach Jeff Pitman's nomination as one of college football's athletic freaks with a 500-pound squat, 310-pound bench and 4.46-second 40-yard dash.
"These first five practices have been a little different running around at 175 instead of running around at 155," Williams-Rhodes said Tuesday. "When I get against a bigger defender like (junior safety Chanceller James), the weight has helped me a lot."
Williams-Rhodes also has tried to expand his presence on the field through a greater catch radius, a challenge delivered by coach Bryan Harsin going into spring ball.
"If you're able to have a wide catch radius, you can run different routes and the quarterbacks can have a little more room for error because you can go get the ball," Williams-Rhodes said.
He has evolved from a screens and sweeps weapon early in his career to a well-rounded wide receiver as he enters his senior year. He has made 170 catches in his career, 74 short of Matt Miller's school record.
"Shane has grown into playing the position of wideout," wide receivers coach Junior Adams said. "... Shane, being a smaller-statured guy, is starting to play bigger than his stature right now."
Still, Williams-Rhodes says, "I'm not where I need to be yet."
"After my sophomore year, after catching all those bubbles," he said, referring to the quick screen passes the Broncos favored in 2013, "I said I wanted to become a more complete receiver. And I feel like last year we did that. And this year, I just want to complete the task."
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A few other quotes from Williams-Rhodes:
– On the receivers: "I honestly think this might be the most athletic group we've had in the receiver room since I've been here. We have a lot of athletic, young guys who can go up and make plays and have large catch radiuses and all that. We have a lot of talent." He mentioned Austin Cottrell and D.J. Dean, who others have noted for their impressive summers. Williams-Rhodes also mentioned junior walk-on Taylor Pope. "Most people think he's on scholarship – even people in our room," he said.
– Williams-Rhodes, like others, also likes true freshman Akilian Butler: "He's my little protege. I think he's going to be a really good ballplayer."
– On the quarterbacks: "Eighty-five percent of the time I'm in there, I have no clue who is at quarterback. I will come to the sideline and tell one of the quarterbacks, 'Great throw,' and he'll tell me it wasn't him, it was someone else. So I don't usually know who was in, but they all seem like they're doing pretty good."
– On former coach/Washington coach Chris Petersen: "Whether we win or lose, we're going to all go over there and shake his hand. But we're going to try to go out there and do our best to win. ... I just really like the fact that he always was trying to teach us how to be a man, not just how to be a football player. We all appreciate that."
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Here is my Tuesday newspaper story on Chanceller James, the Broncos' junior safety who has overcome two major knee injuries.
I also posted a blog on the development of sophomore safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner, who says he was humbled by his first year as a Bronco.
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The Broncos will hold a closed scrimmage on Thursday. Coach Bryan Harsin is scheduled to meet with the media after the practice. That will be his first chance to provide his impressions of fall camp.
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