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Wide receiver brainteaser: Badgers search for No. 2 receiver

first_imgKelsey Fenton / The Badger HeraldWhen the Wisconsin football team takes to Camp Randall Stadium for the first Spring Game of Gary Andersen’s career in Madison, newness will cover the field.Transition will not only be a term well known to the fledgling coaching staff on the sidelines. It will be also be visibly apparent between the out of bounds lines as the vacant spots have been left by graduating players.They are now being filled with new faces, new players and new numbers to keep track of. This necessary transition will likely cover every corner of the field – except at wide receiver.Every single wide receiver who caught a pass for Wisconsin in 2012 will be back catching passes for the Badgers in 2013. They’ve been doing it all spring, too. At the outset, it sounds like a great returning group, one of the only positions set in stone at the dawning of the Andersen Era. But it’s far from that. There is actually very little set in stone for the Wisconsin wide receiver corps.The clear leader of the group remains Jared Abbrederis, the consensus all-Big Ten performer from a season ago. The redshirt senior’s name was tossed around with the NFL draft at the end of last season, but when ‘Abby’ decided to put future dreams on pause, Wisconsin welcomed the senior back with open arms. It might be because his 49 catches and 837 receiving yards were easily a team-high. It also might be that since Abbrederis leads the way, there is very little known about what lays behind him.A look back on last season reveals that Abbrederis’ 49 catches not only led the way, they also beat the rest of Wisconsin’s receivers combined. The group of redshirt sophomore Jordan Frederick (17), junior Kenzel Doe (16), redshirt senior Jeff Duckworth (9), redshirt junior Chase Hammond (5) and sophomore Reggie Love (1) combined to catch just 48 passes throughout last season. Furthermore, those numbers include the game and a half that Abbrederis missed with a chest injury early in 2012.All of that, plus a new face at wide receivers coach.Chris Beatty was the last assistant hired by Andersen this spring, little more than two months ago. Although he has every player returning, Beatty was put to the job immediately in hopes of establishing an equally dangerous receiver on the opposite side of his all-Big Ten wide out.“We’d like to spread the field a little bit,” Beatty said, experiencing his first set of spring practices as a Wisconsin coach. “But you need somebody that is dependable on the other side.”And in his short time around the group, the new coach sees the makings of a successful group. Beatty named five receivers who he said “have shown some things,” or have improved in his eyes. Nonetheless, he continues to remind himself that there’s a process from arriving as a coach to breeding all-conference wide receivers.Right now, Beatty likes the physicality of the players. At the same time, he thinks the group needs to hone in their route-running skills and trust of their hands. Beatty knows there’s plenty of work left to do.“Right now, nobody is head and shoulders above anybody else,” he said.Except for maybe Hammond, whose 6-foot-5 frame literally places him above the shorter statures of the 5-foot-8 Doe or the 6-foot Duckworth. As far as the No. 2 spot goes, each has their own hand in the mix.“Anytime we go out there, it’s always a competition,” Doe said. “If Duck goes out there and makes a big play, I’m not going to be mad. I’d be like, ‘That’s what I’m talking about, Duck.’“That makes you want to go out there and catch a pass yourself … we all want to play, but we are all still a family. We are brothers.”If they’re good siblings, as Doe tends to consider his competing teammates, they’ll tend to share. Beatty might just make them do it.“It might be a situation where a group of guys become one guy,” Beatty said. “We would call plays to fit their skill set.”That could include Hammond’s height and leaping ability, or Doe’s quickness from the slot position, or even a hybrid of the two, embodied by Duckworth, Frederick or any other ballhawk wearing the cardinal and white.In the end, consistency is the only key that Beatty will be looking for in separating the group of five or six vying for a starting spot. He hopes that with a grander stage, his new friends of just two months will rise to the occasion. His players barely wavered from the same idea. They’ll get that chance with brighter lights and more of an audience at Saturday’s Spring Game.“We just have to be consistent,” Duckworth said, looking to stand out during his last spring football season. “It’s another opportunity, just like all of these practices, to make plays. It’s just the last chance, really, to prove that you’re ready to play in the fall.”last_img

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