Spring Wrap Up: Tight Ends
MADISON, Wis. - 15 spring practices are in the books, so it's time to look back and sum up what we learned about each of Wisconsin's positions groups over the last month and a half.
Today we'll move on to the tight ends, after I broke down the wide receivers on Saturday.
New faces are taking over the position
Sam Arneson is still around, and it looks like the senior-to-be will take over as Wisconsin's primary receiving tight end. But Arneson is the only familiar face left over from what was an experienced-laden position. The Badgers haven't seen this kind of changing of the guard at tight end in a few years, but it gives players like Austin Traylor and Austin Maly a chance to contribute.
Of the two it seemed like Traylor will start off as Wisconsin's No. 2 tight end, working from an in-line spot on the line of scrimmage. Taylor is already a pretty good blocker, and he was targeted downfield often during the spring. Maly still seems like a work in progress- he didn't get as many reps as Traylor during the spring, so he'll have to step up his game in fall camp to make sure he's a part of the playing time discussion during the regular season.
Derek Watt will continue to get reps as a tight end
It's no secret that the Badgers are in desperate need of players who can catch the football, which is why the coaching staff is trying to get Watt on the field more often. Watt has good hands for a fullback, but his potential routes are limited out of the backfield. By moving him out into the slot or split out wide they can use his size and strength to their advantage against defensive backs, which could create some mismatches for a quarterback to exploit.
For someone who was still new to the position Watt looked pretty good running routes downfield. Spring football is the right time to experiment with a quasi-position change, but this looks like one that the Badgers will try and hold on to when fall camp starts in August.
Young tight ends like Troy Fumagalli could make an impact
Of all of the tight ends Fumagalli might have surprised onlookers the most. He made quite a few athletic catches for a player just coming off of a redshirt year. At 6-foot-5 Fumagalli already has a good frame for the position- if he could put on some more weight during the offseason he could be a sleeper candidate to crack the two deep.
Eric Steffes made some plays too, and at 252 pounds he could be a force in the run blocking game. And even if Steffes or Fumagalli miss out on playing time this year, they flashed often enough this spring where the Badgers probably feel pretty comfortable about the future of this position.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.