Wide receiver: Andrew James (two stars by Scout.com).
Wisconsin was able to sign five wide receivers in the 2014 recruiting class but only three made it to campus (Chris Jones wasn’t an academic qualifier and Dareian Watkins decided to leave the program). Those departures put a little more of an emphasis on receivers for this recruiting cycle then it was anticipated for the 2015 class.
Although James was the only wide receiver to sign and is Scout.com’s lowest commit in the class, he appears to be a good looking prospect. The big scholarship offers never came for James. For starters he committed in March, possible causing other schools to look elsewhere, but also missed a lot of time his senior season with a nagging foot injury, which could explain why schools weren’t barging down his door after Gary Andersen left.
While he wasn’t on the field consistently, the 6-0 James has shown that he can stretch the field when healthy, as he has been timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.4 seconds. Adding that speed will continue to help bolster a young wide receiver core. James should be fully healthy by the time he arrives on campus, meaning he could be thrown right into the mix as a returner. Down the road, James’ speed could be used on bubble screens, a play Alex Erickson was able to consistently get positive yards off of.
James’ speed is a nice aspect to his game, but he’ll need to show that he can consistently catch the football once he gets into camp. It is clear that Wisconsin is still looking for playmakers, so redshirting isn’t a guaranteed if he has a strong summer and fall. If James does redshirt, it will allow him to develop his body and his strength without sacrificing any of the speed that drew former wide receiver coach Chris Beatty to him last spring. He’s a player who has opportunities to see the field early in his career.
Wisconsin did have three-star receiver Brandyn Lee committed in this class, but Lee’s head coach came out and said UW coach Paul Chryst and his staff supposedly didn’t see Lee as a fit and pulled his scholarship. Not retaining Beatty made it next to impossible to land any receivers currently holding scholarships or target new ones.
Signing Day Grade: C+
Electing not to sign a tight end in last year’s recruiting class because of the development of Troy Fumgalli and T.J. Watt, Chryst has to be elated with the former staff locking up Penniston in February 2014 and Edwards during high school summer camp, a couple of prospects who have bright futures at Wisconsin.
Penniston decided to enroll early and could see some early playing time if he can continue to transform his body throughout spring, summer conditioning and fall camp. Outside of Fumagalli, there are question marks of who is going to be able to consistently contribute. Austin Traylor had trouble with ball security last year, Watt dealt with injuries and other players graduated early. If Penniston can make strides in the playbook, on the field and in the weight room, he could be in line to see some playing time. The tight end will likely be more featured in Chryst’s offense, meaning a consistent Penniston will take some pressure off a group of wide receivers who didn’t perform last year.
The 6-7 Edwards will need more time than Penniston to transition into the tight end role since he was his team’s high school quarterback. A redshirt year is almost a guarantee for Edwards as he completely learns the nuances of the tight end position. While it is hard to know how quickly Edwards will be able to adjust to the position, he projects to be a top level tight end prospect because his frame it should help him consistently catch the football.
Edwards is a very good athlete who also played defensive end and linebacker for his high school. His experience at quarterback should make his life easier with his high football IQ and knowledge of the offense.
Signing Day Grade: A