By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
The Boise State football team’s wide receivers have been making leaping, diving, sliding catches all over the practice field in the first four days of fall camp — serving early notice that the passing attack will not wither without Austin Pettis and Titus Young.
“We all have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” senior wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker said. “We’ve really heard from the media around the country that the receivers are gone and who’s (quarterback Kellen Moore) going to throw it to now? We’ve got guys to throw it to.”
A lot of guys, in fact.
Shoemaker leads the group with 60 career catches. Juniors Chris Potter and Mitch Burroughs provide experience and versatility. Sophomore Kirby Moore made 21 catches as a true freshman in 2009 before redshirting. Sophomores Geraldo Boldewijn (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and Aaron Burks (6-2, 191) are receiving prototypes with their sub-4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash. And freshmen Matt Miller and Troy Ware have shown playmaking ability.
Youth is the issue — Shoemaker and Moore are the only receivers with at least 20 career catches.
Pettis and Young, two NFL Draft picks, each had 71 catches last year alone.
“Those guys were exceptional players,” said offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who was the wide receivers coach the past five years. “You don’t always run across kids like that. … There are kids here who have the same skills and abilities — they’re very, very talented — and once they just continue to work on the fundamentals and understand the schemes they’re going to be fine.”
To that end, the quarterbacks and wide receivers met once a week during the summer to watch video together. They developed a better understanding of how each other attacks a defense.
“Being a good communicator makes you a better quarterback and a better wide receiver,” said sophomore quarterback Joe Southwick, who proposed the combined video study.
The offense has struggled to run the ball in camp — as always, against the Broncos’ dominant front seven — but the passing attack has looked surprisingly crisp.
“We’ve all been working really hard,” Boldewijn said. “Someone’s got to step in and take over the spots, so we’re all working hard for that.”
Potter was impressed with the summer work of the young wideouts — the way they learned the offense, improved their bodies and honed their skills. The missing ingredient is game experience — and that won’t come until September.
“The guys have taken the summer really serious with the weight room — they’ve gotten bigger and stronger,” Potter said. “I’m excited to see these guys get out there and play.”
A few practice notes from Sunday:
— The receivers still make some young mistakes. Boldewijn and Burks each turned a should-be reception into an interception with dropped passes Sunday. Boldewijn also made a nice adjustment on a fade route to catch a touchdown pass in tight coverage to cap a scoring drive by the first-team offense. Shoemaker later made a leaping catch along the back of the end zone.
— The defensive line is a menace. The second-team group — good enough to start some places — made life extremely difficult for Southwick.
— Sophomore tight end Gabe Linehan has made several athletic catches in camp, living up to his billing as a potential breakout performer.
— Safety Jeremy Ioane has intercepted a pass on back-to-back days in the newcomer practices. Cornerback Bryan Douglas also had a nice pick in the newcomer practice, outjumping a receiver in the corner of the end zone.
The Broncos hold their first full-squad, full-pads practice Monday morning.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Hedrick has received a glimpse into the future while participating in the afternoon practices for newcomers and young veterans. The Broncos have some impressive skill players in that group — including tailbacks Jay Ajayi and Malcolm Johnson and wide receivers Miller, Ware and Dallas Burroughs.
“It’s good for me to take that leadership role and help them out a little bit,” Hedrick said. “… We’ve got a lot of good guys. It’s fun to see.”
Shoemaker has been the starting slot receiver for the past two years, but the 6-foot-1, 213-pounder is expected to play extensively on the outside this year.
He answered any questions about his ability to make that transition when he ran the 40 in 4.4 seconds in spring testing.
“I’m deceptively quick,” Shoemaker said. “I don’t know if it’s the big-body thing or whatever. I’ve always had pretty good speed and I put in a lot of work in the offseason. It definitely helped in the spring and hopefully it will carry over into the summer and show up in the season.”
Shoemaker, a Mountain View High product, was third on the team with 32 catches for 582 yards and five touchdowns last season. He led the Broncos with an average of 18.2 yards per catch.
His experience puts him in a leadership position — and he has embraced that role. He is the only senior receiver on the team.
“Stepping into that new role at first is going to be a little bit different,” he said. “But I’m excited about it. I want to be that guy and I want to embrace that leadership role. … I’ve always had a lot of respect for the seniors ahead of me and I’d like to be that guy that people respect as a senior now.”
Random stat: Boise State defenders intercepted or broke up 52 passes last season. Of those plays, 29 (55.8 percent) were made by seniors who are no longer with the team.
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Miller, the highly touted recruit out of Montana who tore an Achilles’ tendon early in fall camp last year and was limited to drills in spring ball. He has looked good the first three days, working in the afternoon practices.
“It’s been fun watching him,” Potter said. “When he came in, everyone was like, ‘This kid is pretty good.’ Now he’s back in the swing of things. He’s got such a big body and such great speed. … I’m definitely excited for him.”
UPDATE: Miller was outstanding in the Sunday afternoon practice. He made several leaping catches — and a one-hander. He dominated during a 7-on-7 session. On Monday, he'll get a chance to go against the Broncos' top defensive backs for the first time.
If you missed the paper this morning, I had a profile of Pease.
Don’t forget that you can follow me on Twitter (@IDS_BroncoBeat). I usually post a couple quick observations after each practice and links to my blogs as soon as they’re posted. I also have been answering a lot of player-specific questions there.