Welcome back to our fall camp positional preview series we're calling "Camping with the Badgers" and today we're looking at the offensive side of the ball for the first time.
Last week we went camping with the defensive backs, linebackers, and defensive line - so be sure to check them all out before you and I move forward with our first offensive position preview before camp gets started on August 5th.
So, let's get into those that will be catching passes from a new QB this season, the wide receivers.
- Jared Abbrederis (RS Jr., 6'2", 180lbs.) - 55 rec., 933 yards, 8 TD's in 2011
- Jeff Duckworth (RS Jr., 6'0", 212lbs.) - 15 rec., 230 yards, 1 TD in 2011
Thoughts on the Unit:
This is the one group that is the biggest worry, but also has the most potential coming into the 2012 fall camp.
Spring was about as frustrating as it could be for new WR's coach Zach Azzani - who could be seen throwing his hat in frustration many a times during practice this past spring.
Losing Nick Toon, a fourth round NFL draft pick by the New Orleans Saints, will no doubt hurt, but Abbrederis was just as productive as Toon last season and has been ranked as the single best wide receiver in the Big Ten by many publications and the Big Ten Network's own Tom Dienhart.
Duckworth is most remembered for his spectacular catch on 4th and 6 late in the Big Ten Championship game and that showed us he's got some skill, but again, only 15 receptions all season isn't exactly a great look into what Wisconsin will have with him in 2012. He also missed time in spring due to an injury.
Things beyond these two at wide receiver are about as open a contest as there is on this team because the rest of the roster has a combined 4 receptions all of last year. Those receptions came from oft injured Mannaseh Garner (2) and true freshman Kenzel Doe (2).
If there were bright spots from this group in the spring they came from the duo of Isiah Williams and Chase Hammond, both sophomores.
Hammond is the biggest target the Badgers have, standing 6'5" tall, but for all he showed in the spring game (4 rec, 48yds, 1TD) there's still some question about an ankle that's had three surgeries already.
Williams had a pair of costly drops in the spring game (both should've been TD's), but he had worked his way up the depth chart all spring and was on the 1st team when they lined up to start the spring game.
Overall this is a group that has a lot of potential to it and with an entire summer to work with the QB's this unit could wind up being a huge surprise if they've made the strides needed over the summer.
It will be intresting to see how Azzani, a coach that Bielema is high on, gets his guys to make the strides needed to be not only productive, but consistent players for this team come this fall camp.
Others to Watch:
Kenzel Doe (So., 5'8", 170lbs.): Last season he made enough progress by being an early entrant to see time on the field. He's probably the fastest WR they have and could be a massive slot target or someone that throws a wrinkle into the mix against defenses keying on the running game. Watch for him to possibly be a dangerous weapon as the season goes on.
Mannaseh Garner (Jr., 6'2", 213lbs.): He's been the most frustrating player at this position because we've been able to see him flash talent since coming to Wisconsin, but injuries and inconsistent play has kept him from much playing time. If he can get more consistent he could be a major piece to the 2012 receiving corp.
Reggie Love (Fr., 6'3", 205lbs.): Love is likely to redshirt this season, but with a lack of depth his raw talent could help push him up the depth chart. Watching how Azanni coaches up the talented but somewhat inexperienced Love could be one of the more fun things to watch for for the future of the team long term.