Believe it or not, we are just five days away from the beginning of Wisconsin's 2013 spring camp and with it we continue our look into the roster and the battles within each position group.
Up today is a look at one of the positions that will be key under new head coach Gary Andersen and more specifically new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. That group? We're talking about the wide receivers of course.
It's a group that started off 2012 so promising and when all was said and done ended up so disappointing. So, there is a lot to improve upon and a lot to change within the group. Just how important is this group? Coach Gary Andersen thought enough of it to mention the group as one of the key positions coming into spring during his pre-spring press conference.
"I would move to the skill players on the other side of the football on the offensive side and talk about the wide receivers," said Andersen on Monday. "We want to put a lot of stress. We want to make plays in all three areas of the passing game. We want to find a way to get to all three zones. We want to throw the ball, and we want to catch the ball. They're going to have to get off of man coverage. They're going to have to understand how to be physical out there. They're very physical in their blocking and have been very, very physical. Now you get a guy up in your face in man coverage, it's a little different animal."
So, clearly things will be different for this group and while one spot is sure to be locked down by senior Jared Abbrederis, the rest is sure to be a battle worth watching this spring.
Lost, but not forgotten: None
Starter(s) Still Here: Jared Abbrederis (Sr.), Jordan Frederick (Fr.)
New Faces for Spring: None
Battles to be Had: All spots outside of Jared Abbrederis
Good luck naming the starter opposite of Abbrederis, who was once again a big time and big play threat in 2012. He had team bests with 49 catches for 837 yards with 5 touchdowns. Those are great numbers for a team not exactly slinging the ball all over the field and for the fact that he played in 13 games.
However, what was behind him was awful at the wide receiver spot. The next highest total of receptions went to a tight end and the next best receptions total from a wide receiver was a whopping 17 from Jordan Fredrick. In total the rest of the wide receivers on the roster couldn't even match the total that Abbrederis put up on the season, mustering a whole 48 catches as group.
So, clearly things are about as wide open as they could be for the spot opposite of Abbrederis and it wouldn't even surprise me to see Andersen dip into the Juco pool to pull in someone late in the spring period as well. Who do we see competing the hardest for the starting spot opposite Abbey?
Well, expect Fredrick, who is just a sophomore to be in the mix for sure as he flashed some talent but was very inconsistent last year. Also expect fellow sophomores Reggie Love and A.J. Jordan to be in the mix as well.
However, the most intriguing player to see fit into Ludwig's offense could be speedster Kenzel Doe. While his chances of starting may be slim to none, his chances of being a difference maker for this offense could be very high as he enters his junior season.
Other names to keep an eye on with an outside shot at winning a starting spot? How about our hero of the 2011 Big Ten Championship game, one Jeff Duckworth. He's been injured off and on and saw action in 13 games last year. He's always shown a ton of potential and this is his last chance to make an impression on this team. Another name is Chase Hammond, who had flashes last season as well and has the size that could be a difference maker entering his junior season.
Name to Watch: Reggie Love
Reggie Love saw 5 games of action in his true freshman season, catching one ball all year, so why is he our name to watch? Well, how often do you hear about a true freshman wide receiver even playing for a Badgers team? That experience could be valuable and if he continues his path of growth and understands what the new system will be he could be on his way up the depth chart quickly. Especially since there is jack and squat guaranteed ahead of him. Love is listed at 6'3" and 206lbs. entering spring, so he has the size to him and for my money has some of the best hands on this team. We'll be watching his progress the most this spring and think you should be as well.