Last season the Badgers pass game couldâ€™ve been a real disaster if it werenâ€™t for the improving and solid play of the tight end position. Wisconsinâ€™s second-leading receiver was tight end Sam Arneson, who had 29 receptions for 387 yards and a team-best four touchdowns.
Things will be different this season though, as Arneson is gone and so is blocking tight end Austin Traylor. It means Wisconsin Badgers spring football is going to be a vital time for this position group.
It also means this could be an interesting spring for the tight end position.
Letâ€™s take a bigger look at the group, shall we?
Returning Starter(s): Troy Fumagalli
Departing Players: Sam Arneson, Austin Traylor, Austin Many
Coming in to Program: Kyle Penniston, David Edwards
Biggest Storyline: Is Kyle Penniston ready to go right away?
Wisconsinâ€™s tight end position group has carried the passing game most of the last two seasons (outside Jared Abbrederis of course), but this group is going to be very different looking. Not only because the offense will use the tight end in a different way, but because itâ€™s a group with a lot less overall experience behind it.
Gone are senior starters Sam Arneson and Austin Traylor. However, as the 2014 season went on we saw redshirt freshman Troy Fumagalli become a bigger part of the offense. He finished last season with 14 receptions and 187 yards to his name.
Heâ€™ll be the leading guy coming in to the spring, but the Badgers got one of the top tight ends in the 2015 recruiting class to enroll early. That man is Kyle Penniston, and he could be the dynamic tight end Badger fans were used to seeing for most of the Paul Chryst era at offensive coordinator.
Spring will be a great measuring stick as to where this team is at, and it will be a big measuring stick as to just how big a contributor Penniston can be in his true freshman season. On film he certainly shows he could be a very Lance Kendricks/Travis Beckum-type tight end and that would really help whatever quarterback the Badgers end up with.
There is no bigger question or spotlight to shine on a single player at this position than the one on Penninston.
Who Starts Against Alabama: Troy Fumagalli, Kyle Penniston
Unless we see a huge breakout spring and fall camp from the wide receiver position, you can bet the Badgers are going to try and use the tight end position to help Alex Erickson get loose on the outside. Fumagalli was a dangerous weapon over the middle and had sure hands most of last season too.
Add Penniston to the mix and youâ€™ve got a dangerous duo in the pass game, with one stretching the field and the other going intermediate routes too. Thatâ€™s difficult for a team to matchup against and I fully expect to see the Badgers get as many weapons on the field as possible against Alabama.