By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
Senior wide receiver Shoemaker has become the Broncos’ big-play receiver, but not in typical fashion. He has a dozen catches of at least 20 yards and three of at least 50 yards, usually on throws of 15 to 30 yards.
The only other Bronco with a 50-yard reception this season is tailback Doug Martin.
Six of Shoemaker’s long plays have gone for TDs, including a blitz-beating 51-yarder last week.
“Sometimes it has to do with a blitz,” coach Chris Petersen said. “Kellen (Moore) will find it quickly and then if you break one tackle you’ll have a lot of space. He’s been doing a good job with it … and he’s deceptively fast in the open field.”
Shoemaker continues to line up in the slot, as he did in the past, which helps coaches create mismatches for him. He also plays some outside receiver.
“He does a great job getting open, developing lanes, finding holes and gaps in zone coverages,” Moore said. “He’s just a really smart player.”
Shoemaker has caught 11 touchdown passes in eight games this season — three short of the single-season school record set by Austin Pettis just two years ago.
“I let him know — ‘I’m definitely coming for it, so be ready,’ ” Shoemaker said. “I know it’s right there, but I’m not going to go push too hard for it because that’s when you start struggling.”
Shoemaker had a strange night Saturday in Las Vegas. He dropped at least three passes and Moore uncharacteristically missed on a few other throws in his direction.
But Shoemaker finished with five catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns, including a 5-yard TD on a pass that was tipped into the air by a defender.
“Not exactly how I wanted it to go as an overall game,” he said, “but I made some plays down the stretch and we kind of got it going offensively and it was a successful night.
“… I was kind of in a funk. You’ve got to keep playing. For me, it’s kind of like the saying for basketball, for shooters: Keep shooting; it’s going to go in eventually.”
Sometimes, offensive coordinator Brent Pease said, coaches have to go a different direction when a player gets a case of the drops. Not so with Shoemaker.
“Just the way he’s been practicing, I knew he’d keep competing,” Pease said. “And he goes and makes a play in the end zone like he did.”
True freshman defensive back Lee Hightower is the Broncos’ No. 3 cornerback and backup free safety — less than a month after making his college debut.
“Lee’s doing a great job,” Petersen said. “I just really like his mentality. When you’re a young guy, you’re not going to do everything just right. What you want them to do is not play tentative. He does not play tentative.”
In fact, Hightower already is one of the team’s biggest hitters. He demolished a punt returner last week at UNLV.
“He’s fearless,” sophomore cornerback Ebo Makinde said.
It’s unusual that the Broncos have used Hightower at two positions already. He played cornerback Oct. 15 against Colorado State, then practiced at free safety for a few weeks. He started the second half at cornerback last week with Jamar Taylor injured.
“It could be overwhelming, but coach (Marcel) Yates does a good job of teaching him and coaching him and minimizing that,” defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. “He’s a smart kid, so he’s been able to handle it.”
Brock Huard of ESPN.com wrote a compelling argument for Boise State to be ranked ahead of Alabama and considered a national championship contender this week. It’s only available to Insider subscribers, but here is the link.