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February 27, 2014
Spring preview: Wide receivers
MADISON, Wis. - The Badgers are in the middle of a big remodel at wide receiver. Jared Abbrederis is off to the NFL, and none of the five wide receivers the Badgers signed a few weeks ago will be on campus until this fall.
"We want to create competition at the wide receiver position, and the young men in our program are working very hard to get themselves on the field," head coach Gary Andersen said earlier this month on Signing Day. "They're making strides. But we need to get that solidified with good numbers there, some young men that are going to expect themselves to come in here and compete at a high level."
That leaves the Badgers with a crop of untested wide receivers this spring, so they'll get a long look at just what they have to work with at the position. Here's what I'll be looking for once the Badgers start spring practice on March 5:
Who takes first team reps?
Jordan Fredrick leads the Badgers with 27 career receptions and has played in each of Wisconsin's last 27 games, so you have to pencil in with the first team to start spring camp. After that it gets a little more complicated.
Kenzel Doe has just 25 receptions in 34 games, and at just 5-foot-8 he doesn't fit the mold of a No. 1 wide receiver. I think Doe is a better fit in the slot where he could conceivably get lost in traffic over the middle, so don't be surprised if one of Reggie Love or Robert Wheelwright end up getting some first team reps as the offense's primary deep threat during spring practice.
At 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-2, respectively, Love and Wheelwright have the right frame to compete with defensive backs for passes downfield. The duo has just three career catches between them, but the Badgers won't have to work hard to get them a lot of reps this spring based on how inexperienced the position is as a whole.
Don't forget about Alex Erickson, either. A 6-foot walk on from Darlington, Wis., Erickson caught nine passes in 2013 as a redshirt freshman and played in all 13 games last year. The reps are there for the taking: the Badgers will just have to hope that someone shows they can be a reliable pass catcher this spring, or they might have to lean more on their five incoming freshmen than they originally planned.
What will we see out of redshirted players?
Love and Jazz Peavy both redshirted last season, meaning that we'll get to see them get meaningful practice time with the team for the first time since last fall. Peavy needed a redshirt year to put on some weight and get stronger, so I'm curious to see if he still has the speed and elusiveness he showed in high school.
As for Love, we really didn't see a lot of him during the 2012 season and he missed some of fall camp last year as well before ultimately taking a redshirt season. Love looked like he had the potential to be a reliable all-around receiver for the Badgers when he was coming out of high school, so we'll see if he's ready to become a more regular contributor now that he has three semester's worth of weight training under his belt.
The wide receiver position is going to get a little more crowded this fall when the freshmen arrive on campus, so players like Love and Peavy might be hard-pressed to find a better opportunity to prove to the coaches that they can rely on them.
Projected Depth Chart
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.