Former Wildcats running back learns nuances of receiving in redshirt year

by: JOSH KULLA / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Wilsonville alumnus Tanner Shipley will remain with the Boise State football team despite the departure of acclaimed coach Chris Petersen. Above, Shipley splits two defenders during a 2012 game against Sandy.Leave it to Tanner Shipley to win awards even when he’s not seeing the field.

As a redshirt player who did not compete on Saturdays in his first season with the Boise State football team, the Wilsonville High School alumnus still found a way to make an impression — one that he hopes will pay dividends in the future.

Shipley was honored as the Broncos’ special teams scout player of the year at the program’s annual banquet last month, proving to be an effective playmaker in practices and scrimmages.

“That was one of the big things that I prided myself on — taking each rep as if it could be my last,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m just trying to get better.”

It was a year of transition and growth for the 6-foot-1, 182-pound freshman, who is expecting to contribute in the coming seasons as a wide receiver after serving as Wilsonville’s primary running back as a high school senior under coach Adam Guenther.

Shipley went from racking up 1,392 rushing yards for the Wildcats and being named the Northwest Oregon Conference offensive player of the year in the fall of 2012 to absorbing the nuances of Boise State’s offense while knowing he wouldn’t step onto the gridiron on game days the entire season.

It was almost like he was starting from scratch.

“From Day 1 in June, it was a grind the whole time,” he said. “We were working out at 5:45 every morning. ... It was a good building year for me and the other guys, practicing against the (defensive starters) every week. I definitely saw huge progress from Day 1 to the end. It was awesome. But it was my first year playing receiver, and it’s still going to be a grind to perfect everything I can in this new position.”

Shipley said he plans to stay with the Broncos despite the departure of acclaimed coach Chris Petersen, who left to take the head job at the University of Washington. The vacancy was created when Steve Sarkisian accepted the gig at the University of Southern California.

When Shipley de-committed from Brigham Young University in favor of Boise State last January, he highlighted Petersen’s presence as a key factor in the decision.

But Shipley said he’s looking forward to playing under new coach Bryan Harsin, a former Broncos player and assistant coach who was recently at the helm at Arkansas State.

During Harsin’s stint as Boise State’s offensive coordinator (2006-10), the team went 61-5 and ranked No. 1 in the nation with 41.41 points per game.

“I really like Boise a lot,” Shipley said. “It’s a great place to be, and I feel like it’s my home already. I think it’ll give me my best opportunity.

“We’ve had team meetings with (Harsin), and he seems like a great guy, a humble guy who’s ready to make his changes and do the best he can to make us a better team. I’m excited about the new staff coming in. I know (Petersen) was a solid base for this university, and it’s sad he had to leave. But I’m excited that Harsin is here.”

Harsin inherits a program that compiled an 8-5 record this season, including a 5-2 mark in the Mountain West Conference.

The Broncos finished their year Dec. 24 with a 38-23 loss to Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu.

Shipley said the disappointing finish didn’t detract from the progress he made with the team over the course of the campaign.

“It was a huge accomplishment to see the journey that we went through, to be a better team by the end,” he said. “We lost that final game, but it was a fun year. It was a good ending.”

For Shipley, though, it was hardly an ending at all.

As he pursues a degree in entrepreneurial management, he continues working towards earning time on the field as a playmaker next season and beyond.

Shipley feels he’s already begun acclimating to the increased speed of football in the collegiate ranks.

“I could tell it’s a little faster, but, once you start playing, after that first week it’s just football like you’ve been playing all these years,” he said. “The speed has changed, but it’s not such a big change to where I felt like I was being passed up. It’s more (a change in terms of) how much time is being put into the game, how much focus is needed. The workouts are hard. It’s all a level up. It’s everything you’d expect. It’s tough. It’s the hardest thing you’ll do, but it’s definitely worth it.”

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the transition for Shipley was not being able to contribute in games after being a centerpiece of Wilsonville’s offense just 12 months earlier.

“It’s frustrating, but at the same time it makes you even more hungry,” he said. “Next year is going to be a big year for me. We’re a young team, so it’ll be a great experience to come in and start playing. I definitely feel like I’ll make a huge impact because we lost three senior receivers. It’s going to be a big year.”

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