Wheelwright Eying the Field

With a void at wide receiver, true freshman receiver Rob Wheelwright is hoping a strong fall camp will give him an opportunity to compete on the field.

MADISON - Just hours after he faxed in his national letter of intent to play for Wisconsin in February, Columbus (OH) Walnut Ridge wide receiver Rob Wheelwright was being labeled as a man who could step in and compete for early playing time this fall. No pressure there.

Wheelwright was one of a handful of receivers who took reps on the first day of Monday's practice, primarily working with the third-team offense and using his 6-1, 198-pound frame to haul in some catches. And while he's the low man in a receivers group loaded with young talent, but Wheelwright sees the possibility of playing time.

"It's in my mind, but first I have to learn the playbook," said Wheelwright. "Once I learn that, all of that will take care of itself. It hasn't been as difficult. We haven't gotten into the details yet, but so far it's been kind of easy. I am still learning."

While mastering the playbook is still a process, playing the position appears to come naturally for the former four-star athlete despite the amount of work he has put into his craft. Spending the summer between his junior and senior year working on his explosiveness, Wheelwright saw his yards per catch increase from 11.73 yards his junior year to 18.81 his senior year.

Finishing his career with 26 touchdown receptions, Wheelwright recorded 48 receptions for 903 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, earning first-team all-city, all-district and all-state honors.

"It's about being consistent," said Wheelwright. "Not dropping balls, running good routes and be aggressive are things that will always help me out."

He utilized a similar approach since arriving in the summer to start working out with his new teammates. Running routes almost daily with the quarterbacks, Wheelwright says he has developed pretty good timing with all the passers. Just as important, he's watched senior Jared Abbrederis go through workouts, a sight that has inspired him to be a better receiver this fall.

"All the receivers seem to teach me new things I haven't learned yet and make me a better wide receiver, but Jared is like my big brother," said Wheelwright. "They are all like my big brothers, but Jared is my assigned big brother and helps me do everything I need to.

"I try to work as hard as he does. He just motivated me to become a better me. He's taught me how to get in and out of routes, look the ball in, all the little things you need to do to be a great wide receiver."

Wisconsin ranked 111th out of 120 FBS teams in passing offense last season, averaging 156.9 yards per game. Even more surprising was the lack of a downfield threat. In 14 games last season, Wisconsin had only 27 pass plays go for more than 20 yards. Of those 27 plays, only eight went for a touchdown.

If he can be consistent and learn the playbook, Wheelwright thinks he can be that downfield weapon in Wisconsin's arsenal.

"I feel like I can," said Wheelwright. "Once everything starts coming together and if I am playing out there, I will, to the best of my ability, make a play every time I touch the ball."

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