Bronco Beat

Boise State football expecting new faces at receiver to step up

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin at Mountain West media days, part 2

Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin addresses the offseason issues facing his team at Mountain West media days June 26, 2016 in Las Vegas.
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Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin addresses the offseason issues facing his team at Mountain West media days June 26, 2016 in Las Vegas.

Boise State seems it has most of the pieces in place for an extremely potent passing offense, with sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien and two senior receivers back.

But losing the dynamic Shane Williams-Rhodes has left a void, with only those two seniors (Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson) having more than 10 receptions last season. It was a point the Broncos addressed in recruiting, adding 6-foot-3 junior college transfer Cedrick Wilson in December. He quickly impressed, and is listed as one of the starters at one of the Boise State’s three receiver spots.

“He certainly has (earned it),” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “Cedrick Wilson has done a great job since he’s been here. Great preparer, very good student and has been very productive in what he’s been asked to do.”

Sperbeck had 88 receptions last season and Anderson added 42. With some new additions and some youngsters making strides, Harsin said “you would hope we can get that ball (around) like we had before ... how we’ve progressed from last season to where we are now, we should be able to do it.”

“Two other guys that have really stepped up over the summer are A.J. Richardson and Sean Modster,” Harsin said. “You guys saw Sean, he kind of showed up in the spring game. That’s carried over. A.J.’s a guy that came in here as a grayshirt, probably a little out of shape. Where he’s at right now, where Sean’s at right now, I think, having a great summer.”

In the spring, Sperbeck said Richardson had “the best hands on the team,” and Modster had two touchdowns in the spring game. Both are sophomores.

“I’m really looking forward to see what they can do this season, because they’ve definitely taken a step up,” Sperbeck said.

-Harsin is taking over play-calling duties this season. He said he will receive plenty of feedback from co-offensive coordinators Zak Hill and Scott Huff, adding there will be times those two will make a call, that it won’t solely lie on Harsin’s shoulders. He said Hill has brought a new mindset, calling him a “what if? guy,” prompting some different ways of thinking.

“You have to work at it,” Harsin said. “The way Mike (Sanford) did it, the way Eli (Drinkwitz) did it, it’s still different than the way I do it. You have to kind of let guys do that. My gameplan’s a little different, maybe the way it’s structured and organized, just how I call plays, there’s things you’re comfortable with and you know have worked successfully for you in certain situations.”

Harsin said he’ll have to practice calls during fall camp and make sure he knows how quarterback Brett Rypien feels about each play. At Arkansas State, Harsin tried to call plays. He said it was his “freshman year as a coach.”

“The stuff outside of the football part, I didn’t have a great handle on it, I tried to do too much, I think, trying to manage everything,” Harsin said. “Now, you’re able to delegate, you have people, you trust them to do those jobs.”

-Wilson wore No. 80 in the spring, but is listed as No. 1 on the latest roster. Sophomore STUD Jabril Frazier has switched from No. 18 to No. 8. That’s a number that carries some weight, considering George Iloka, DeMarcus Lawrence and Kamalei Correa were the last three to wear it.

-Harsin mentioned a few newcomers as possible early contributors, including receiver Julian Carter (who will wear No. 2), linebacker Desmond Williams (No. 9), defensive lineman Jabari Watson (No. 40) and defensive lineman Kayode Rufai (No. 45). Junior college transfer Daniel Auelua, who joined the team this summer, is already listed as a co-backup at defensive tackle.

-Safeties Dylan Sumner-Gardner and Chanceller James could possibly still serve some sort of punishment, as Harsin did not say those two were completely ready to play for the season opener. Sumner-Gardner did not make the trip to San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl, while James did not play in the spring game. Asked about them, Harsin said there is still some work to do, neither saying if they would or wouldn’t play.

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San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey is the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, and unsurprisingly, he was named the preseason player of the year Tuesday. The Aztecs took all 29 first-place votes to win the West Division, and had the offensive, defense and special teams preseason players of the year.

“It’s kind of a motivation, but we’re really looking past this type of thing,” Pumphrey said. “We’re focused on day one and game one.”

Pumphrey also was sporting a blinged-out championship ring, and was more than happy to be back in Las Vegas, his hometown, which he displays prominently on his left arm.

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Hawaii quarterback Ikaika Woolsey has not had the smoothest path to his senior year with the Rainbow Warriors. He started twice as a freshman, 12 times as a sophomore, and started last season as a backup before making five total starts, including Hawaii’s last four games. He was initially recruited by then-Hawaii assistant Nick Rolovich, who left for Nevada before he could play for him. Now, Rolovich is in his first season as Hawaii’s head coach. Oh, and Woolsey will be working with his seventh offensive coordinator in his fifth season in Honolulu.

“Learn a new (playbook) every offseason,” he said with a laugh.

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With replay officials given more ability to determine if a hit was targeting, the Mountain West’s coordinator of football officials said the hit that got Air Force safety Weston Steelhammer ejected from the Armed Forces Bowl last year would likely not have happened. The hope is though helmets will be involved in plenty of hits, it will give more of a chance to determine intent.

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Nevada coach Brian Polian had a little fun taking jabs at Rolovich, his former assistant. Rolovich, a frequent social media user, was cautioned that “Twitter is fun until you lose a game.” He also said “he’s the only Polynesian guy I’ve met who was born and raised in San Francisco.”

On the Twitter topic, Polian spoke last year about dealing with some fans tweeting him, including many from Boise State. He talked about it again Wednesday.

“I blocked all three of those guys,” Polian said. “... a lot of it was fun, but some of it was stupid and made me angry.

“Once I discovered that, the four morons that were driving me nuts have now gone away.”

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Rolovich spoke about his affinity for Twitter, and especially, the @FakeCoachHarsin account. Their back and forth began earlier this year when Zak Hill left Hawaii for Boise State, and continued into Wednesday.

“Fake Coach Harsin, and how passionate he is, is a byproduct of the community coming together around a football program,” Rolovich said. “... it’s a good benchmark, at least for our program, to strive for.”

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