Thomas Sperbeck and Cedrick Wilson have been tearing through opposing defenses this season. The question is, will a lack of spreading the ball around come back to haunt the Broncos?
Sperbeck and Wilson combined for 365 of the team’s 391 passing yards in last week’s 49-21 victory over the New Mexico Lobos. Together they accounted for all five touchdown passes thrown by sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien.
The 15th-ranked Broncos have used Sperbeck and Wilson all over the field this season, with each player throwing a touchdown pass and Wilson returning punts. Sperbeck has even ran the ball from the option out of the Wildcat formation.
On the season, Sperbeck has 33 receptions for 629 yards and five touchdown catches. There is a good chance he will go over 3,000 receiving yards in his career during Saturday’s homecoming game against Colorado State. (Sperbeck is currently at 2,958 yards).
Wilson has contributed 23 receptions for 432 yards and five touchdown receptions.
Utilizing players with skill sets like those of Sperbeck and Wilson are foremost on the agenda when developing a game plan. Throw in the Jeremy McNichols touchdown machine and opposing coaches have their hands full when planning for Boise State.
What happens if the Sperbeck and Wilson duo are taken out of the game? What if their opportunities are limited? Will the Boise State passing game be able to adapt?
McNichols is a fine choice in the passing game out of the backfield. His 16 receptions are third on the team, as are his receiving touchdowns (3) and receiving yards (216).
And then? Will Rypien try to force it these guys if they are not open? Does coach Bryan Harsin focus on getting the ball to these three too much?
In short, yes, but only because they continue to get open. During the New Mexico game, the Lobos continued to cover Sperbeck and Wilson one-on-one and we saw what happened. In other instances, plays are being called for the playmakers and they are responding by making smart choices. And Rypien, for the most part, is not forcing the issue.
In the few instances these season when Sperbeck and Wilson are being shut down, Rypien is responding by finding other players.
After Wilson’s breakout game against Louisiana-Lafayette, he was mostly quiet for parts of the next two games. Up stepped Chaz Anderson, who had four receptions against Washington St. and four against Oregon St.
On the season, Anderson has totaled 13 receptions for 156 yards. And he has been an integral part of the downfield blocking game.
One underutilized aspect of this season’s team has been the tight end unit. Alec Dhaenens has 10 catches for 85 yards, but five of those came in the season opener. Jake Roh has only one reception, but he seems to be still rounding into shape after an early season injury.
Are the tight ends being stashed away–outside being used as blockers–until Harsin finds the perfect moment to use them? Will Rypien be able to spread the ball around when needed?
For comparison–for team wise only, not individuals–we can take a look at another Bronco team that focused solely on two receivers. In 2010, it was Titus Young and Austin Pettis who skewered the opposition in dominating fashion.
Young and Pettis each had 71 receptions that season, with Young going for 1,215 yards and Pettis 951. Third on the team in receiving that season was Tyler Shoemaker, who hauled in 32 passes for 582 yards.
In 2010, 17 different players recorded a reception en route to a 12-1 season.
Here in 2016, 12 different players have at least one reception. The next wave, with players like Sean Modster, A.J. Richardson and Akilian Butler have shown flashes of what they are capable of. With Sperbeck and Wilson playing so well, the opportunities for the others to shine have been limited. It is hoped when called upon they will step into the moment.
As for now, the field belongs to Sperbeck and Wilson. It’s their playground and their opposition is just living in it