MADISON – The eligibility attached to Reggie Love’s name lists “fifth-year senior”
While it’s accurate that Love is going into his last year of eligibility with the program, the 6-3 receiver is the furthest thing from an expert.
“I feel like a senior, but I feel like I can gain a lot more experience,” Love said. “Throughout spring ball, throughout the summer, just being more of a leader and being more vocal. That will make me feel more like a veteran.”
Love had been hard to find over the first half of spring ball – literally. There was a stretch where he would have a different nondescript jersey number on every practice, from single digits to the mid-40s and 60s to the high 80s.
He said it was a big joke in the locker room started by head coach Paul Chryst, giving him a different numbered jersey to wear, but it could be interpreted as a subliminal message of him needing to start standing out.
Entering his final year at Wisconsin, Love’s college career has been undistinguished. He has eight catches and seven rushes, 11 of those touches coming last year but none that could be classified as memorable.
Two years ago Love scored the first touchdown of Wisconsin’s season on a 45-yard jet sweep against LSU. Instead of it being a turning point in his career, Love caught only two passes and didn’t attempt another run the rest of the season.
“I didn’t stay consistent,” Love said. “I didn’t bring what I did in LSU to the next game, as you can see by the drop balls. I don’t know. I never bounced back and that falls on me. It doesn’t fall on the coaches for not giving me opportunities. I didn’t earn my opportunities.”
The chance to prove himself has started in practice. Love said his habits have “absolutely” improved, something he attributes to having the mindset that nobody is going to outwork him.
Since the pads have come on, Love has shown his strength to be catching contested passes. Having added some size to his frame late last fall due to taking reps at tight end has put him around the 220-pound mark, Love’s biggest asset is one-on-one matchups in the pass game and willing to throw his body into a block in the run game.
He also believes Chryst’s offense suits him better than former head coach Gary Andersen’s scheme, as Chryst is striving to use bigger receivers to balance out the offense and take advantage of play-action opportunities.
“Coach Chryst has a great plan for me,” Love said. “I am just that traditional wide receiver that Coach Chryst has had in the past. The difference from this offense to the last offense is just trust. I don’t think the coaches and the (receivers) had the trust factor that we have here. Coach Chryst trusts us and we trust the coaches more than anything. That leads to the field.”
Gaining separation in his routes and “being a big boy” in the running game are the two biggest obstacles Love is trying to overcome in order to put himself firmly in the conversation for the fall. Since camp started, receivers coach Ted Gilmore has harped on being aggressive in the run-blocking game and letting the pass routes come naturally.
And with Love starting to show marked improvement, his number 16 jersey has returned to his locker, a sign that his mindset is headed in the right direction.
“I’m approaching this camp that this is the most important thing for me, even though it is spring camp,” Love said. “The game is not until September, but this is one of the most important times of the year.”