Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring Game-- The Receivers

The headliner of the team's pass-catchers is undoubtedly tight end Travis Beckum, who probably could have come out this year and been taken in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. He made the wise decision to come back and try to become more of an NFL prototype by bulking up a bit. It'd be fun to watch him carving holes in the Badger D on Saturday, but he's out, recovering from shoulder surgery. The same goes for the team's second best receiving threat, in my estimation-- tight end Garrett Graham. If UW didn't have Beckum running around, I think fans would have even more appreciation for Graham's performance last season, which was remarkable for a guy essentially playing his first season.

The guys replacing Graham and Beckum are sophomore Mickey Turner, redshirt sophomore Lance Kendricks, and true freshman Jake Byrne. Turner's proven himself to be a capable blocker so far, but has no pass receptions as far as I can tell. Byrne's from Arkansas, but grew up a Badger fan, and graduated from high school a semester early to come up and be part of spring practice. Kendricks should be the most interesting TE to watch. He was a top recruit at receiver a few years ago, allegedly a great athlete, a track guy, who was a bit raw on his receiving skills. He has yet to catch a pass for UW, but he looks to have all the tools. With Beckum and Graham out, keep on eye on what Lance does on Saturday. He's #84.

The wideout position appears to be wide open. Last year's contributing freshman, Kyle Jefferson (#14, tall, fast, but stick skinny-- you likely remember both his bomb catch against Sparty, and then getting totally lit up later in the game on a short reception)and David Gilreath (# 85, short, fast, very good returner) would have been assumed to be in the lead, but Jefferson's not going to play in the game (he has stitches on his leg from running into something in a dorm hallway). Gilreath was almost exclusively a returner last season, and looked too small to contribute in the passing game. But apparently he's doing better this spring. After those guys, there's a huge mix with the talented but inconsistent freshman Daven Jones(#81), the every-once-in-a-blue-moon junior Xavier Harris (#2), the oft-hammie-pulled Isaac Anderson (#6), the converted high school quarterback Maurice Moore (#22) and the legacy Nick Toon (#8), who won't apparently play in the spring game because of, dum-dum... a pulled hammie. (Bummer, it would have been fun to see Nick play.) All of these guys are hungry for catches and will likely be pushing each other and squabbling for playing time from now until the season starts in August. Thus, the spring game matters to all of them and they'll be busting their asses on Saturday, trying to make an impression. If you're going to the game, keep a roster sheet handy, and see if anyone sticks out.

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