By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
Three years ago, Boise State wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn showed flashes of talent in spring ball that had everyone expecting a highlight-filled career.
But after four-game NCAA suspensions for impermissible benefits tied to his host family delayed his start to the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Boldewijn’s breakout still hasn’t happened.
This could — and probably should — be that year.
“I’m really excited to actually be there for the first game,” said Boldewijn, who is now a senior. “I have yet to play a full season. I can’t wait to make that happen.”
Boldewijn is coming off one of the best games of his career. He made a career-high five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown in the MAACO Bowl win against Washington.
It was the 10th time that Boldewijn has made at least three catches in a game but he’s only done that in back-to-back games twice.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen this week, speaking about Boldewijn and fellow senior Aaron Burks, said it’s time for the two fast, big-bodied receivers to stop showing flashes and start showing consistency (the full quote is in the wide receivers report below).
So far this spring, they have answered.
“I think (Boldewijn) is going to have a tremendous year, I really do,” Petersen said. “When you get to your senior year, I think it means something. It’s a little different. You’re not only playing for yourself, but you’re really playing for this team. You’ve been through it a lot. The details all matter. You understand that. And that’s when you can take that next step and that’s where he’s at.”
Boldewijn (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) made 18 catches last season and 19 catches as a sophomore in 2011. He said he isn’t sure what effect missing the first four games each season had on his development, because he doesn’t know any different. He played in every game in 2010 but in a limited role.
“It was definitely hard,” he said of the suspensions, “but I was trying to be positive. I have great guys around me. I was looking at it like this: It really sucked for me, but there are worse things going on in the world. And at least I wasn’t out because of an injury or worse things going on. I’m just trying not to think about that. It’s a new season. I’m just looking forward to playing the whole season.”
One memory he isn’t putting behind him: that bowl game.
“It was really cool,” he said. “It just made me a little more hungry for next season. I think we’re all doing some great things. I feel like the last part of the season everyone kind of blossomed a little more. We were able to see what everyone was able to do out there.”
The Broncos’ pass game also could get a big boost this year from the return of senior tight end Gabe Linehan.
Linehan made 23 catches for 252 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 — setting himself up for a potentially huge career.
Instead, he sustained a rare hamstring injury last fall and, after four games of trying to play through it, underwent surgery in October. He only made one catch for 23 yards.
“It was a pretty uneasy feeling to not have confidence in your own body once you really start pushing it to the level of game play,” Linehan said. “It was something I had to deal with. Now it’s just part of my story and I’m going to get better from it.”
Linehan had an avulsion fracture, an injury that caused the hamstring to separate from the bone.
He has participated in only individual drills so far this spring but has been pushing toward playing in the Spring Game.
“It’s exciting,” he said of returning to the field. “I’ve got to keep a level head on my shoulders. It’s a process, so I can’t rush. I have rushed a little bit, to my own fault. … It’s a really big pride thing trying to get back for spring ball even though it might not be realistic. I’m trying to get some plays under my belt and get my footing back and get the vibe back.”
He spent a lot of time working on upper-body strength during his recovery and says his lower-body strength is nearly back. He hopes to become the complete tight end coaches envisioned before the injury.
“It’s just forever improving on the line and being able to be that complete dual threat,” he said, “so that I can be trusted on the edge (as a blocker) and be trusted in routes. I just want to be somebody who can be on the field at all times and not have any tendencies.”
The Broncos are holding a closed scrimmage today before scattering for spring break. The next practice open to the media is Tuesday, April 2.
POSITION REPORT: WIDE RECEIVERS
Returning starters (2 of 3): Junior Matt Miller enters his third season as a starter. He already has 128 catches for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns in his career — putting him on pace to break Austin Pettis’ school record for receptions (229) and challenge Titus Young’s mark for receiving yards (3,063). Senior Kirby Moore returns as the slot receiver. He has 79 catches for 857 yards and four TDs in his career, including 36 catches last season. He caught at least four passes five times last year but was skunked in the last two games. “I’m coaching them up as much as I’m coaching anybody up,” Boise State offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Robert Prince said. “The thing coming up with those two guys is their veteran leadership. We’ve had some good leaders in that room and they have to take over.”
Starters lost: WR Mitch Burroughs/Chris Potter
Returning contributors: Wide receiver could be the Broncos’ biggest strength this season — if three promising players fulfill their potential. Seniors Geraldo Boldewijn (18 catches, 197 yards, two TDs last year) and Aaron Burks (17, 319, one TD) have the size-speed combination that teams covet but neither has been able to string together productive games. They’ve improved this spring. “You can definitely tell a difference,” Prince said. “Those guys are making plays. The thing that we’re really seeing is they’re making plays on 50-50 balls, which means there’s a defender on them but that doesn’t matter, they’re still making the play with their big bodies, going up and getting it.” The third swing guy is sophomore Shane Williams-Rhodes, who made 25 catches for 142 yards and one touchdown last season as a true freshman, when he was used almost exclusively on quick passes around the line of scrimmage and run plays (21 carries, 116 yards, two TDs). He has looked like a complete receiver in spring ball. “We really wanted to limit him his first year,” Prince said. “We didn’t want to put too much on his plate, but this year he’s just part of the group. He has to have the whole repertoire as far as routes. … When the ball comes his way, he’s making plays.”
Other players to watch: Dallas Burroughs, who played as a true freshman in 2011 but only made four catches last season, provides an extra deep threat.
Way-too-early projected starters: WR Miller, WR Boldewijn/Burks, Slot Moore/Williams-Rhodes
17 Geraldo Boldewijn, 6-4, 215, R-Sr.
18 Aaron Burks, 6-3, 200, R-Sr.
34 Kirby Moore, 6-3, 206, R-Sr.
2 Matt Miller, 6-3, 218, R-Jr.
81 Dallas Burroughs, 5-8, 171, Jr.
83 Troy Ware, 6-2, 190, R-So.
11 Shane Williams-Rhodes, 5-6, 158, So.
24 Jackson Reed, 6-4, 218, R-Fr.
29 Taylor Pope, 6-0, 172, R-Fr.
80 D.J. Dean, 6-0, 190, Fr.
Incoming recruits: Kendal Keys (video below), 6-2, 200, Fr.; Tanner Shipley, 6-1, 180, Fr.
— Prince has set some clear improvement goals for his group. “We’re really working on coming off the ball hard — pouncing off the ball. We’re really working on our blocking. And we really want to work on our run after catch. … Reviewing our tapes, we left a lot of yards on the field. With some of our blocking techniques, we need to get better, and they need to make guys miss (after the catch).” As for “pouncing off the ball,” Prince was concerned that receivers were tipping whether a play was a run or a pass. “On pass plays, we’re all going to come off the ball,” he said. “We want to make sure by our body language they can’t tell if it’s a run or a pass. That’s something that we’re trying to get better at.”
— The goal for yards after catch is 5.0 or more per play. Prince wouldn’t say what the Broncos got last year, but it was “lower than that,” he said. That standard comes from Prince’s time as an NFL assistant. “If you averaged over 5 yards per catch, you were going to be in the top 10 in run after catch,” Prince said. “… Our guys are really emphasizing when they catch it, they’re bursting and trying to get yards — whether it’s a curl and they catch it and we’re squeezing out 1 or 2 yards, those yards add up, and then they’re out in the open field trying to make guys miss or split defenders. … It’s been great.”
—Petersen on Boldewijn and Burks: “You can kind of feel them making a move, but again it really comes down to consistency. That’s what we need out of those seniors. The younger guys, you see flashes. OK, we can live with that. Older guys, no flashes. Consistency. Every down. And we’re getting there. We’re not there but we’re getting there with those guys.”
— Petersen on Williams-Rhodes: “Spring is really big for him to kind of test the waters there. But I know we need him to do more. I know we need to get him the ball more and we need to be creative in doing those things because we know when we get the ball in his hands in space he’s pretty electrifying. … I see him being a real big part of scoring points. The stage is set for him to do some good things — a lot of work in front of him, but I think he knows what he has to do.
— Boldewijn on yards after the catch: “We’re definitely getting a lot stronger in the weight room, all the guys are, which is really noticeable to me. During practice, when we’re catching balls it’s always about vertical cut. … We’ve been making a lot of explosive plays. I think it’s definitely going to be big, big things next year.”