MADISON - Redshirt sophomore Jazz Peavy came into the 2015 season with no career receptions. In fact, according to the game participation logs, the former Kenosha Tremper standout only saw action against Maryland and Rutgers last season.
This season’s been a different story for Peavy, who’s worked his way into the rotation and is starting to show the potential to be a regular contributor to UW’s passing attack.
Having caught passes in five of Wisconsin's seven games, Peavy had a pair of critical first-half catches in UW's 24-7 home win over Purdue Saturday.
“I definitely knew it would be an opportunity for me,” said Peavy, who entered fall camp knowing there would be opportunities in head coach Paul Chryst’s pro-style offense. “I didn’t how big or small my role would be. I just knew that whenever I was in, for whatever situation it was, I just had to make the most of it -- and it’s built from there.”
Through the first six games of the season, Peavy tied for fourth on the team in receptions - catching 10 passes for 91 yards – and had his longest catch go for 16 yards.
And while he finished with 48 yards on two catches, both Peavy’s receptions went for at least 20 yards that set up the only scoring drives of the first half for the Badgers.
“I really enjoy seeing Jazz’s growth,” said Chryst. “(He) kind of jumped out in spring ball, came back in fall camp and I think he’s certainly a player that Joel (Stave) trusts. That’s a big part of it.”
On a 3rd-and-5 from Wisconsin’s own 35-yard line in the first quarter, Stave found Peavy, who was slotted out far right in UW’s 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers), at midfield for a 20-yard gain. That first offensive series led to the Badgers’ only first-half touchdown, when true freshman running back Alec Ingold rumbled four yards for the score.
His second catch came on 2nd-and-9 with UW driving on the Purdue 40. Peavy ran a smooth route, and turned it up after the catch - sprinting 28 yards down to the Boilermakers’ 12-yard line. Sophomore kicker Rafael Gaglianone later connected from 28 yards to give UW a 10-7 lead. Wisconsin wouldn’t trail thereafter.
Peavy’s become a consistent target for Stave and the passing game over the past two games. Along with his receptions on Saturday, he caught a career-high four receptions for 44 yards in UW’s 23-21 win at Nebraska last weekend.
“Whether it’s the Z [receiver] and third down stuff or just normal down and distance stuff he’s come in, you notice him out there,” senior wide receiver Alex Erickson said. “He’s making plays.”
The confidence has grown for Peavy since the beginning of the season. It was a simple catch for 14 yards on a comeback route, but the fact that it came against Alabama and under the lights of AT&T Stadium in Dallas made him realize his potential.
“That was the biggest eye opener for me,” Peavy said. “That was the one where the ball can be thrown to me now this year, so I knew I just had to make sure I was always available.”
The former prep standout, who caught 38 passes for 535 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior at Tremper, continues to display the consistency needed to become a reliable target in a Wisconsin passing game, which has been forced to carry an offense that has struggled to establish a consistent run game.
His development and recent contributions through seven games of the season haven’t gone unnoticed.
“I thought he had a really nice camp,” Stave said. “His first catch came against Alabama on that comeback on our sidelines - to see him go out there and make a nice play on the ball like that in a game against a really talented team - was big. I thought he did a great job in that game. He just continued to feel more and more comfortable in his role every week.”
Peavy and junior wide receiver Rob Wheelwright have emerged to become the complements to Erickson so desperately desired by the Wisconsin offense. Last season Erickson caught 55 balls, but the rest of the position group only managed 39 catches - with Kenzel Doe leading that subgroup with 17.
Erickson still leads the team in receptions this season currently with 42, but Wheelwright and Peavy have combined for 37 catches for the year - 25 and 12, respectively. The receivers as a whole have caught 90 passes - 48 by others not named Erickson - so far through the first seven games, and are in position to contribute even further as the season progresses.
“I feel like we’re in a great position,” Peavy said. “All of this receiving corps is really good. We can all make plays. We all know we can make plays, and we all push each other to be better, so I feel like we’re in a great situation.”