Heading into the 2018 season, the Boise State Broncos knew they had star players to replace on both sides of the ball. Just as there was no Leighton Vander Esch to roam the field on defense, there would be no Cedrick Wilson (83 receptions, 1511 yards, 7 tds in 2017) to haul in passes from Brett Rypien.
It’s safe to say the Broncos found not one receiver to replace Wilson, but four.
Two games into the season, these four receivers had already announced their arrival. 2018 was still young, however, and many wondered if they could continue their success.
Six games later, it’s apparent that they have. The quartet of Sean Modster, A.J. Richardson, John Hightower, and CT Thomas have continued to snag passes from Rypien. Whether it’s for long strikes, one-handed grabs, converting on third downs, or making the difficult look easy, these four have done a bit of everything in 2018.
— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) October 28, 2018
Given the state of the running game — which is looking improved after the Air Force game — it’s a good thing the group of receivers found their stride.
Two players who had to bide their time in rising to the top of the depth chart were Modster and Richardson. Both had key highlights throughout their careers, but it is in 2018 they have become leaders.
In 2017, both were the top receivers behind Wilson and tight end Jake Roh. Modster and Richardson combined to give the Broncos 65 receptions for 829 yards and five touchdowns.
This season, both have already reached career-highs.
Modster leads the team with catches (43) and yards (642). He’s also caught four touchdowns and has twice gone over the 100-yard mark, doing so against Troy and Air Force. Modster has made four or more receptions in every game but one so far in 2018.
Richardson has been equally consistent. His 35 receptions are second on the team as his 600 receiving yards. The senior has found pay dirt seven times, scoring a touchdown in six of Boise State’s eight games. Richardson has three 100-yard games in 2018 to his credit.
The transfer and the sophomore
Wilson was a great transfer receiver who worked out well for the Broncos. Hightower so far has proven to be quite the transfer steal as well.
After getting shutout in the reception column versus Colorado State, Hightower responded with an 8-receptions, 182-yard, 3-touchdown game in the victory over Air Force. On the season, Hightower has 29 receptions for 488 yards and six touchdowns.
He’s also been a threat in the run game, carrying the ball eight times for 163 yards and two touchdowns. His yardage total on the ground is good for second on the team.
Thomas is also a threat to run, but those duties have fallen more to Hightower and Khalil Shakir as of late. Thomas’ job, it seems, has been the player to come up with huge third and fourth-down conversions.
He can do more, of course, as evident by the 28 passes he’s hauled in so far, including eight in the Oklahoma State game. Thomas also has 356 yards and 3 touchdowns, but has not crossed the century mark in yards in a single game.
The best of the rest
Modster, Richardson, Hightower, and Thomas have dominated, but this is not to say others haven’t contributed as well. The depth of the position has been a plus so far in 2018.
Shakir, a true freshman, has done a little bit of everything for the Boise State Broncos. He has nine receptions for 96 yards and 11 carries for 65 yards, scoring his lone touchdown out of the backfield. Shakir is also 2-2 for 10 yards passing.
Redshirt junior Akilian Butler has also stepped up, making 19 catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
The tight ends have made their contributions as well, making for a well-rounded passing attack for Rypien and the Broncos.
Up and down the roster, the success of the passing game will be integral over the season’s last stretch. If they continue to play like this, a berth in the Mountain West Conference championship game will again come a-calling.
Stats found at broncosports.com