|courtesy Dan Sanger/BadgerBlitz|
After a spring game performance that left a lot to be desired from the wide receiver group (and that’s being nice) many thought this would easily be the weakest and most worrisome position group on the offensive side of the ball for Wisconsin. Fast forward to day number nine of Badgers camp and the question is shifting from can anyone else step up to can this be a position of strength for the 2012 season?
It’s a question that’s worth exploring because most of the “talent” we saw in spring has taken a back seat to players that weren’t there either do to injury or because they weren’t yet on campus. Whatever the reason, this isn’t the same unit we saw dropping passes left and right and lacking any chemistry with the QB’s just a few months ago.
Just over a week into camp and the presumption that Jeff Duckworth is going to be the 2nd wide receiver needs to be gone. Sure, he’s got experience, but at the skill positions experience can only get you so far. By all accounts Duckworth has been one of the more inconsistent players at the wide receiver position.
Yesterday it was reported he fumbled a ball after getting a first down and as Badger fans we all have sick memories of something similar happening to Jared Abbrederis in the Rose Bowl. It’s also something that Abbrederis is well aware this group and he needs to avoid this season to be successful.
He mentioned it to us on Sunday during the Media Day event, referencing his two fumbles and the need to make sure that it doesn’t happen at all this year.
With Abbrederis set at the No. 1 role the Badgers were supposed to be running Duckworth at the No. 2 spot, but once camp opened up to the media it became clear he isn’t the No. 2, that honor goes to redshirt freshman Jordan Fredrick. At 6’3″ and 215lbs. he’s got the size that Wisconsin needs at that position, but it’s the consistency that the Madison native has shown that’s gotten him to the top of the depth chart early on in camp.
He’s taken the vast majority of the snaps with the No. 1 offense this week and hasn’t been regressing at all, rather progressively getting better with each practice.
Joining him in impressing and probably playing a major role in the offense this season is true freshman Reggie Love. The Florida native came to Wisconsin after playing just one season of football in high school, but it’s clear in talking to Head Coach Bret Bielema and Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada that they are high on his ability to contribute out of the gate.
Again, he’s got size at 6’3″ tall and 206lbs., but it’s the speed and the ability to pick up the offense so fast along with a clear amount of raw talent that has Bielema and Canada giddy about the possibilities with this player.
Of course there’s also the speedy and strong, but smaller Kenzel Doe that’s really stepped up his game and is in the mix as a sophomore. He is one of the few wide receivers that actually was able to get his feet wet on the field last season and he’s in the mix as well.
Other names that are emerging so far in camp have been Chase Hammond and oft injured Manasseh Garner.
But, overwhelmingly it’s becoming clear that the youngsters are starting to pass the presumptive favorite Jeff Duckworth by. That’s not to say he won’t have a role in the passing game, because he will, but it goes to show that Wisconsin’s wide receivers have grown up big time in the summer period.
Badger fans and coaches entered camp in search of players that would not only show glimpses of talent but also consistency outside of Jared Abbrederis and it appears that more than one has taken that challenge to heart. We may exit camp seeing a wide receiver corp. that is deeper and more talented than the group that included Toon and Abbrederis last season and that has to be one of the most exciting things to emerge from camp so far.