How does a player react in real game situations? Who steps their game up? Who crumbles under the lights? How do they execute the game plan? These are all questions every coach on the Wisconsin coaching staff has about players under his supervision.
Of all the coaches on the staff, wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander probably has the most questions about his group, and the former UNLV assistant coach is hoping Thursday's season opener will start providing some answers.
Questions about his starters, the young players that will see the field and the young players that won't see the field, Alexander has plenty on his mind and Badgernation.com talked to the Badgers' fifth-year receivers coach Sunday to try and get some answers.
BN: After Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis, it seems there are a lot of players jumbled up for that number three receivers spot. It's a group that has shown flashes, but not shown them consistently. I am curious where you view your depth?
Alexander: We have a lot of young guys and a lot of inexperienced guys. Until we start this gameday routine, we won't really get to see what we have. They've flashed like you said and we know what their strengths are, but we need to see if they play the game on Saturdays, or this Thursday, like they have practices at times in the fall.
BN: Bielema said he's not ready to label Jeff Duckworth as a dependable receiver yet. I am curious what you would label him as?
Alexander: I think as we get closer, Duck is starting to mature and take ownership of the third spot. He's showing that not only can he learn, he can go out and execute. I think he has done a good job of going out and making plays on the back end of camp and into game week preparation.
BN: How much has he grown this past camp and how much of a benefit is it that he's finally healthy after battling shoulder and knee problems throughout his young career?
Alexander: Yeah, I think it was important for him to come into camp and come in the whole way. I think that's something that has helped him grow both physically and mentally. I am really happy with him being physically ready to play.
BN: If Duckworth is your No.3, who is after him right now?
Alexander: It's probably Kenzel Doe. He's been here since January and he's done a lot of good things. Isaiah Williams has done a lot of good things, but the guy we are probably waiting for is injured, Manasseh Garner. We're looking forward to having him back to full strength next week.
BN: After him bouncing around between offense and defense last year, has Garner benefited from having studied just one position this offseason?
Alexander: He came in as a wide receiver and spent the bulk of the time with me, then went over and did some of the things with the defense and then he came back and we showed him some things at the H-back position. I think he is a natural at some of the things, but he's learning some things on the run. He's really confident and now, we just need him to get healthy.
BN: Do you expect true freshman Jordan Fredrick to be involved at some point?
Alexander: It's hard to say because you never know. I like where he is mentally, I like how he learns, I like that he can be physically and that he's aggressive to the ball. We'll see what happens with how things go.
Alexander: With those three guys, Jordan, Fred and A.J., I feel really good and confident about where they are going to be. The competition won't end with this season, it will just be going when we get to spring ball, because I really like how they came in and attacked the learning. Now with repetition, I think those guys are going to be pretty good for us.
BN: Jordan was a big commitment, picking the Badgers over Michigan. When you win a recruiting battle like that, it puts a feather in your cap that your hard work is paying off, doesn't it?
Alexander: Yeah, we were excited to get A.J. I keep my arm around him right now and while he might not be in the plans for today or the season, I want to consistently let him know that he's in the big plans for our future. I think the offseason and the in season work he gets in the weight room and in the classroom with me will be huge for him going into his first year.
BN: After transitioning from quarterback to wide receiver, it seems like this season will Jared Abbrederis' first as a true receiver. What kind of big jumps has he made this offseason in your eyes that has him prepared to take that next step?
Alexander: There's a part of me that doesn't want to say Jared is trying to please us anymore. He's just trying to play the game. He's accomplished a lot of goals in terms of being visible and making plays and getting and opportunity. Now he can relax and learn a lot more about the game and not worry about the coaches of that opportunity. He's right there.
BN: With Isaac Anderson gone, who have become some of your better blockers at wide receiver?
Alexander: I am going to say all of them because I have tried to teach the skills and get them to adapt to it. A year ago, I could definitely say Isaac, but I am not sure right now. There a couple guys that really understand what we need to do and how aggressive we need to do it.
BN: What's the big key that a wide receiver needs to learn to be a good down-field blocker?
Alexander: Well, you really have to have good body position and fit on a defender. You also have to be willing to execute that second effort. You are going to get beat, you are going to get off balance, but once a guy makes a move on and you feel like you are going to lose him, do you let him go or do you stay committed and give that second effort? I think it all depends and that's what we've tried to teach them. There's been a lot of dedication and the guys have been really focused on what I've been saying. There's a passion in my room of guys that want to get better, guys that are really listening and really, really trying.
BN: It's been nine years since you were the receivers and quarterbacks coach in Las Vegas. Since that was so early in your coaching career, I am curious what you learned during your time there that you took with you and still use today?
Alexander: It was exciting. Guys would go out and put in a good days work in the hot sun. I think I learned the lesson there that the guys that came before me understood what that meant. The heat wasn't a problem. The sacrifice wasn't a problem. While we were there, we had some success.
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