Will Beckum wreck' em?

Tennessee's leading receiver of 2007 caught 73 passes for 1,000 yards and 5 touchdowns. Wisconsin's leading receiver of 2007 caught 73 passes for 960 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Tennessee's leading receiver averaged 13.7 yards per catch and 76.9 receiving yards per game. Wisconsin's leading receiver averaged 13.2 yards per catch and 80.0 receiving yards per game.

It's obvious that Tennessee junior Lucas Taylor and Wisconsin junior Travis Beckum are remarkably similar statistically. There are two significant differences worth noting, however.

1. Taylor is a 6-0, 185-pounder ... Beckum is a 6-4, 225-pounder.

2. Taylor (academics) won't be playing in the Outback Bowl ... Beckum will. That makes him the biggest threat the Badgers pose.

"They have a really outstanding tight end that's been very productive for them," Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis said. "They move him all over the place with formations and get him the ball. He's had an unusual number of catches ... probably about 40 percent of their catches."

Chavis' math is pretty good. Beckum was responsible for precisely 39.45 percent of Wisconsin's 185 completions in 2007.

Like most teams, Wisconsin throws to the tight end a lot near the goal line. Four of Beckum's touchdown catches covered 10 yards or less. What separates him from most tight ends is his ability to stretch the field vertically and make big plays, as well as little ones. He has recorded 10 receptions this season that covered better than 20 yards.

Here's a recap:

- 46-yard catch against Ohio State

- 40-yard catch against Illinois

- 34-yard catch against Michigan

- 30-yard catch against Minnesota

- 28-yard TD catch against Ohio State

- 25-yard TD catch against The Citadel

- 24-yard catch against UNLV

- 24-yard catch against Michigan

- 24-yard catch against Minnesota

- 22-yard catch against Michigan

Because of his superior blend of size and agility, Beckum will be a difficult assignment for Tennessee, especially since one first-team outside linebacker (Rico McCoy) is sidelined by academic issues and the other (Ryan Karl) may be sidelined by an elbow injury. Expecting little-used backups Adam Myers-White and Nevin McKenzie to contain the Badger standout is asking a lot.

Beckum's length and heft will make him a tough cover for Tennessee's safeties, as well. Strong safety Eric Berry (5-11, 200) and free safety Jonathan Hefney (5-9, 185) will be giving up a lot of height and weight.

"Having a tight end like that creates mismatches," Vol defensive end Xavier Mitchell noted. "We've got to be aware of where he's lined up at all times. That'll definitely change some things for the defense."

What makes Beckum even tougher to defend is the fact the Vols can't afford to focus so much attention on him that they overlook Wisconsin's other threats – a mobile quarterback (Tyler Donovan), productive running backs (P.J. Hill, Zach Brown) and rangy receivers who stand 6-4 and 6-5, respectively.

"They've got a lot of weapons and they do a good job of spreading it around," Chavis said. "They do as good a job of mixing up formations, motions and shifts as anybody we've seen. We'll have to be at our best."

As good as Beckum is, even the Vols' best may not be good enough.


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