All anyone wanted to talk to Boise State coach Chris Petersen about before this season began was his situation at wide receiver.
Gone were Titus Young and Austin Pettis to the NFL, taking with them most of the Boise State record book as the two most lauded receivers in school history.
No one remembered Tyler Shoemaker was still around – until now.
Shoemaker is coming off a career-high three touchdown catches last week against Toledo as the fourth-ranked Broncos return home to host Tulsa on Saturday night. He already has four TD receptions in two games, nearly his entire total from last season when Shoemaker was Kellen Moore’s third or fourth receiving option.
Quickly, and not unexpectedly, Shoemaker’s turned into touchdown option No. 1 for the Broncos.
“He’s had the experience much more than the other guys, he’s been through a lot, he knows so much of the field,” Moore said. “He’s a guy we can really put anywhere. He’ll know the concept and he’ll do it pretty well.”
Before the season, Petersen had bigger concerns about how he’d fill holes on his defense than he did about his receivers. Pettis and Young combined for 142 catches and 19 touchdowns last season, but before the emergence of the two future draft picks, most of Boise State’s success the prior decade had come with a receiver-by-committee approach.
The Broncos thrived in that time with receivers just like Shoemaker; perhaps not the biggest or fastest targets, but receivers who are precise and aware in an offense that relies on timing and recognition.
How much of a committee has it been through the Broncos’ first two wins? Shoemaker has just six catches in two games. Freshman Matt Miller and junior Mitch Burroughs both lead the Broncos with 11 catches each. Starting running back Doug Martin is next with eight, but tight ends Kyle Efaw and Gabe Linehan have 13 combined receptions and two touchdowns.
“It has been a motivation. We heard a lot of talk in the offseason about losing Austin and Titus and who the ball was going to go to and we decided as a group that it’s not going to be a one-person show this year and we know that. Every game there might be a different person that’s really stepping up,” Shoemaker said. “You’ve just got to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities when they come and just continue to get better as a group.”
The emergence of Shoemaker in Boise’s first two games was made more important by the continuing saga of wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn. Originally from the Netherlands, Boldewijn has been held out of the Broncos’ first two games along with defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe because of NCAA eligibility questions.
Although still raw with limited football experience, the 6-foot-4 Boldewijn was expected to be one of Moore’s main targets.
The Broncos haven’t missed Boldewijn yet thanks to Shoemaker.
“I just try to be there for Kellen. I know he’s going to be looking for open targets and a lot of stuff we’re doing on offense,” Shoemaker said. “I just happen to be the guy, but I know I really have to thank those other guys for getting us down there close.”