The second in a seven-part series previewing the 2011 Boise State roster, today the focus is on the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends. Part I of the preview looked at the offensive backfield. Check back each day leading up to the season opener in Atlanta against Georgia on September 3rd for more information about the 2011 Boise State Broncos.
Despite the loss of three standout defenders from the Boise State 2010 secondary, if there is one area that has generated questions more than any other for this year’s team, it’s the wide receiver position. The loss of 2nd round draft picks Titus Young and Austin Pettis has lead many analysts and observers to assume that the receiver position is a potential weakness for the 2011 squad.
While Young and Pettis are the record-holders for virtually every career receiving record at Boise State, their departure is not a death knell for the Boise State passing game. In order to catch the ball, somebody has to be able to throw it and this group of receivers has one of the best quarterbacks in college football.
Kellen Moore has the ability to make average receivers good and good receivers great with his impeccable accuracy. The nuances of the receiving position- ability to run after the catch, find openings on 3rddown- those are the things that Young and Pettis brought to the table that the holdovers have to prove they can master.
The pass-catchers are the only offensive position group that did not have a representative on the Mountain West All-Conference preseason list. They hope to add a few names to that list on the much more important postseason honors.
The receivers are a very deep, if mostly inexperienced bunch. Senior Tyler Shoemaker started last season in the slot and showed flashes of brilliance, helped undoubtedly by the presence of Young and Pettis. He did experience some frustrating games with multiple drops later in the season and looks to rebound not only as the leader in terms of seniority but also with his stats. He will now move to an outside receiver spot and try to take advantage of more open field.
Juniors Chris Potter and Mitch Burroughs are undersized but quick receivers who have seen a good amount of playing time in the past two years but not a lot of targets. Both will see the ball coming their direction more often this year and their ability in the open field, where both excel as punt returners, will be critical. Potter is going to play primarily out of the slot this season while Burroughs likely will see time splitting one outside receiver position with Shoemaker.
Another returner who will spend time in the slot, albeit one who missed the 2010 season, is Kirby Moore. The sophomore brother of the Mountain West Pre-season Offensive Player of the Year, Moore missed the early part of last season with an injury and the decision was made to preserve a year of eligibility with a redshirt season, after playing in 2009 as a true freshman.
Moore is a reliable target and obviously has a great rapport with his brother. The familiarity with the offense, and the quarterback in particular, will allow Moore to be successful using his big frame in the slot to win matchups with smaller nickel cornerbacks.
The other starting spot on the outside, vacated by Young, will be handled by either freshman Matt Miller or sophomore Geraldo Boldewijn. Both possess larger frames but surprising speed. Miller got the nod in the final fall scrimmage and possesses the better set of hands of the duo. Boldewijn, however, has astonishing physical gifts as evidenced by his long touchdown catch in the same scrimmage. Based on pure athleticism, Boldewijn is the closest the Broncos have to replacing Young’s big-play threat from the past few years.
Those six will see the primary playing time at the three starting receiver spots and it remains to be seen if there will be a static starting three or if matchups and recent performance will dictate which receivers get the majority of the snaps. In Boise State’s offense, receivers shuttle in and out all the time so each of these six will see plenty of action as they hope to establish themselves as Kellen Moore’s go-to target(s).
In addition to those returners, there are other intriguing receivers on the roster as well. Sophomore Aaron Burks is another big target who has looked very good at times. Unfortunately, Burks suffered an injury in the final fall scrimmage which hurts his chances of grabbing significant playing time this season.
Burks is joined by a pair of true freshman, Dallas Burroughs of Meridian, brother of Mitch, and Troy Ware who grayshirted in 2010. Burroughs has loads of speed and is a candidate to play this season on special teams, if not in the receiving rotation. Ware looked very good in both the spring practices as well as fall camp but the depth in front of him may dictate a redshirt year.
In addition to the current roster, Boise State has a commitment from speedy Shane Rhodes out of Klein, TX for their 2012 class. They currently have offers out to two other uncommitted receivers including Jake Maulhardt, a 6’6” target from Camarillo, CA.
The tight end position is not quite as deep this season following the graduation of starter Tommy Gallarda and reserve Sean King. Kyle Efaw returns for his senior year and has improved each season at Boise State. The offensive MVP of the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, Efaw is a receiving threat that has developed into a solid two-way player at the tight end spot. Blocking is a major point of emphasis for Boise State tight ends and Efaw is ready to handle the primary responsibility. Efaw was a member of the WAC All-Academic team a year ago.
The depth behind Efaw is certainly talented. Junior Chandler Koch returns and is a solid in-line blocker as well. Koch caught only two passes a season ago and will need to continue to develop as a receiver. He’s a very intelligent player and was also named to the WAC All-Academic team last year.
Another intriguing option is Gabe Linehan. The sophomore, the younger brother of former players at both Oregon and Oregon State, showed his big-play receiving ability with a touchdown reception in the fall scrimmage. Linehan saw increased playing time a year ago after an injury to Gallarda, ultimately making four starts. He went on to catch six passes and recorded a touchdown against Idaho. Also named to the WAC All-Academic team, Linehan is the heir apparent at the position. After competing as a quarterback in high school, Linehan is still learning the nuances of the position but shows great promise.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Sosnowski out of Capital High is an undersized option who needs to continue to add bulk to line-up on the line of scrimmage regularly but has solid receiving skills. A two-way standout in college who also played safety, Sosnowski had three catches in the fall scrimmage and will likely see playing time this season if he can hold his own as a blocker.
Freshmen Holden Huff and walk-on Jake Hardee from Bishop Kelly in Boise are both redshirting the 2011 season. 2011 recruit Hayden Plinke is delaying his enrollment and will join the team in January as a grayshirt.
Although more traditionally thought of as a member of the backfield, Boise State fullbacks often have similar responsibilities to the tight end with the varying formations and motion throughout the pre-snap. Senior Dan Paul, a converted linebacker, took over the spot in 2009 after the injury to Richie Brockel and has been the primary fullback since. His claim to fame was a three touchdown performance against Nevada. While not featured as prominently in the passing attack in 2010, recording three of his seven receptions in the final game of the season, Paul is an integral part of the pass protection group. Like his tight end counterparts, Paul was another WAC All-Academic team member, for the second year, in 2010.
Paul will be backed up this season by true freshman walk-on Jamal Wilson, another converted linebacker. The fullback position plays an important role in the rushing attack of course but has developed into more of a hybrid position, similar to an H-Back, in recent seasons. For this reason, the ability to pass block and catch the ball out of the backfield are highly important.
For Kellen Moore to have a successful senior season and another Heisman campaign, he will need his group of receivers and tight ends to step out of the shadows and developing into passing game threats. Boise State has traditionally found receivers who stepped up following the graduation loss of highly-regarded players (including Tim Gilligan, T.J. Acree and Jeremy Childs) and the success of the 2011 team hinges on this talented group of candidates doing the same this year.