They don’t hail from hotbeds of football.
While college coaches scour Southern California, the Bay Area and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in search of receiving talent, Boise State didn’t travel far to find its top two receivers in a pair of towns where the combined populations wouldn’t fill half of Husky Stadium.
Yep, Prosser, the hometown of Kirby Moore, checks in with a population just under 6,000 in the sleepy Eastern Washington town in the Yakima Valley. Meanwhile, Helena, Mont., the hometown of Matt Miller, is a metropolis by comparison. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains and near the Missouri River’s best fly fishing, the state capital boasts a population of just over 28,000.
But don’t let their small-town backgrounds mislead you – they are big-time receiving threats in a Boise State offense that is finally starting to figure out life after the departure of the greatest player in program history.
The list of Montana natives playing for Football Bowl Subdivision schools is pretty slim. The state produces one or two players that reach that level each year with the bulk of players ending up at Football Championship Subdivision powers Montana and Montana State.
But Miller always seemed destined to leave the state for a bigger program. He was a three-time all-state football player as a wide receiver/cornerback at Helena’s Capital High, and also a three-time all-state basketball player. In his senior season, he was the Montana Gatorade player of the year in football and a 2010 News Tribune Western 100 selection.
“Matt was one of those guys that was such a good high school player, everybody was talking about him in Montana,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “When we finally recruited him, everyone said they were so glad to see him go, cause they were tired of having to play against him.”
The 6-foot-3, 215 pound Miller got hurt in fall camp his freshman year and redshirted.
“We got to see him a little, but not enough to say, ‘Oh, man this guy is something,’ ” Petersen said.
After a solid performance in spring ball, Miller made his debut in the 2011 season opener against Georgia in the Georgia Dome. He caught five passes for 57 yards and touchdown in the Broncos’ 35-21 win.
“He goes out there and plays like he’d been playing for us three years,” Petersen said.
He finished last season setting single-season freshman school records for catches (62), receiving yards (679) and touchdown catches (nine). Miller leads Boise State this season with 60 catches for 679 yards and five touchdowns.
“The stage doesn’t bother him in the slightest,” Petersen said. “He’s just so competitive.”
Petersen didn’t have to look far to find Moore.
The younger brother of Boise State’s most decorated player, quarterback Kellen Moore, Kirby was destined for the blue turf even while he was tearing up the Washington Class 2A ranks. As a senior at Prosser in 2008, playing for his father, Tom, Kirby Moore caught 131 passes for 2,126 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was the 2A state player of the year and was named to The News Tribune all-state team as well to the Western 100 and Northwest Nuggets.
Bigger, faster and stronger than his older brother, there were many who figured Kirby (6-3, 203) would be a better college player than Kellen. While that hasn’t happened, Kirby Moore is second on Boise State with 36 catches for 368 yards and a touchdown.
He played in 13 games as a true freshman in 2009, making 21 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns.
Because he had a glut of talented wide receivers in the program, Petersen decided to redshirt Kirby Moore in 2010.
Last season, Moore played in all 13 games and caught 22 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown.
“If you had a whole team of Kirby Moores, this would be a real easy job,” Petersen said. “He’s a really good person and a great student. He’s just a quiet, humble, unassuming guy, who goes out there and does his job and makes plays.”
His receiving numbers are down this season. Football after Kellen Moore (2008-11) hasn’t been easy. You don’t graduate a player whom Petersen calls “The greatest pocket passer he ever coached,” and not feel the effect (Kellen Moore, the all-time winningest FBS quarterback at 50-3, is a backup with the Detroit Lions).
With new quarterback Joe Southwick, the Broncos are passing for an averaged of 216.8 yards per game, down from 309.4 yards a year ago.
But neither Miller nor Kirby Moore has hinted at frustration with slower production. That’s not how they operate.
“They don’t talk, they just go play,” Petersen said.
Maybe it’s a small-town thing.Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish