It's part two of our unit preview and I'm just now coming to grips with the fact that we started this way too late (curse you, countdown). Today, the OBNUG braintrust™ takes a gander at what should be a dominant unit for the Broncos—the wide receivers. Of course, I should be CEO at my company as well, so that'll show you what "should" will get you.
The Boise State wide receivers should be a fun bunch to watch. Not only because of the known commodities (Thomas Sperbeck and Chaz Anderson) but the potential in Cedrick Wilson, AJ Richardson, and Austin Cottrell.
The offense should be able to move the ball. With Brett Rypien getting better since Zak Hill came along, the Broncos should not lack for a way to get the ball in the air.
It's what happens once the ball is in flight that is going to be crucial. More than a couple of times last year was Mr. Rypien left hanging after chucking the ball. Instead of stick 'em, the receivers had cinderblocks for hands. Not exactly conducive for catching methinks.
So the Broncos are going to need guys who can not only catch, and make dynamic plays, but the fundamentals. They will need do "all the right things" as far as being the moving pieces and cogs in this machine called the Bronco's Offense. Running strong routes, downfield blocking, and getting away from defensive backs will all be paramount since the Broncos don't necessarily have the "throw it up in the air and the receivers go get it" height. The tallest starter is going to be Cedrick Wilson at 6' 3". Sperbeck is 6' and Anderson is 5' 10". Garrett Collingham is 6' 4" but is transitioning from QB and did not show up on the Mountain West Conference two-deep roster release.
Defenses know who the stars are on the Broncos' roster. It's now up to Wilson, and the newer guys, to make the opposition pay if they choose to focus on Sperbeck. I think they can do it.
Thomas Sperbeck, Chaz Anderson, Cedrick Wilson
Thomas Sperbeck will be a Biletnikoff finalist. (editor's note: this is REASONABLE)
We all know Sperbeck and Anderson will deliver. Anderson had a few drops last year that were head scratchers, but I know that was a focus for the team. Wilson sounds like he'll be our 3rd guy and I expect a lot out of him. SWR was a solid contributor and I think Wilson, while operating in a different role, will be a solid 3.
I envision Butler filling the SWR role, that is, the jet sweep-type guy, that can make plays in tight spaces. Hopefully, Rypien feels comfortable enough this year to be able to rely on those guys and distribute the wealth.
Richardson and Modster will be in the spotlight a bit more, and based on what I saw coming out of fall camp, they are ready. News of Ogbebor playing as a true freshman is promising as we will need some young guys to step up and be reliable targets. With Sperbeck and Chaz graduating, that experience will be vital. Pope, Cottrell and Jefferson will get in the mix too.
We have a lot of depth for sure, but the majority of the experience lies with just a couple players. Hopefully this season Rypien is comfortable enough and the younger guys step up to create a more cohesive unit.
Sperbeck, Anderson, Wilson (samesies)
We will have two 1,000 yard receivers this year.
Thomas Sperbeck is good at everything. We know that. He had 1,412 yards and 8 TDs last year--20 catches and 281 yards in one particular game alone. He's a great athlete, and brings a perspective to the position that's pretty unique, as he played quarterback in high school. We actually even recruited him as a safety, so he's gotten some work there as well, and as a result, brings a formidable and uncommon diversity in positional knowledge to pair with his considerable physical ability. Plus, the guy's a dead ringer look alike for the dude that played the cocky Australian kid in Pacific Rim, so he's got that going for him. which is nice. He's also the clear WR1, and a dominant one at that. The number of BSU records I expect him to break this year is decidedly more than zero.
WR2 will likely be filled out by the speedy Chaz Anderson. He really emerged during the (most recent) Fiesta Bowl year as a lethal deep threat. He initially came to BSU as a corner, so he knows a bit about getting open--an athletic twist on reverse engineering, if you will--to go along with his speed Last year, I wouldn't say he regressed, per se, but he had some drops that stood out. Overall, however, I thought he became a more complete player, and I would expect that he will have a very productive season this year.
The third spot will likely be filled by who I've gathered has been the breakout star of the offseason, based off of comments by players and coaches alike: Cedrick Wilson. Wilson has the added benefit of length to his game, which obviously helps in the passing component to offense, as it's essentially a high stakes version of keep-away, between the QB and the WR. Being tall is an advantage there. In addition to that, however, Chaz actually mentioned in his interview Wilson's considerable ball skills. It takes an extremely high level of focus and body control to be able to come down with some of those contested catches, so if a veteran receiver is particularly observing that from a team member, that's a great sign. Wilson has a track record of production as well, posting a 1,000+ yard season, to go along with 17 receiving touchdowns for his JC team last year. He's poised to be one of the more productive transfer players we've had.
I think that likely the next spot belongs to Akilian Butler who, aside from having an awesome name, is also a very fast human. I actually went back and checked out his high school tape for this, because we only got to see him a little bit in Blue (2 carries, 2 catches--but the coaches did burn his redshirt). He has some pretty impressive open-field moves, that made more than a few defenders look silly. There were a couple times he could have taken it all the way, if he'd been able to maintain balance along the sideline but, as it was, his film displayed many cases of him just outrunning the whole defense to score. If last year is any indication, he will be used a lot as a hybrid weapon, kind of like McNichols, before he came the feature back, as well as Shane Williams-Rhodes. Butler has the talent, however, to take that role and make it into something of his own.
For the final 'starting' wide receiver spot, I honestly am not sure who I could single out as likely to lay claim to it on opening day. The two players that seem most likely to fill that role are AJ Richardson or Sean Modster, although both will likely see an uptick in snaps. Keep in mind, however, that we did not have significant roster turnover at this position, so the increase in production will probably have to come from the offense being more productive, overall. Both had very impressive high school tape, got on the stat sheet last year, and AJ even had over 100 yards. Coaches have specifically mentioned them as having improved--Modster more than once that I can personally recollect.
My starting five are Sperbeck, Anderson, Wilson, Butler, and I'm gonna say Modster (just because I have to pick one--Richardson could just as easily be the last one too).
If the freaking Wolfpack can pull off 3 thousand yard rushers (a couple years ago—not super recently), I'm gonna say BSU can pull off 3 thousand yard receivers, especially if the improvement we've been hearing about in Rypien's game is as drastic as has been described. Chazerlson: Don't let me down, guys!