If asked who the most pleasant surprise from last football season would be, a popular answer would be wide receiver Jazz Peavy. Health had a big reason for it.
After only appearing in two games as a redshirt freshman, Peavy saw action in all 13 games and became the third receiving target for quarterback Joel Stave by notching a reception in eight games. With Alex Erickson graduating, Peavy will be expected to take that next step in his growth as a wide receiver and become a primary receiving target in Wisconsin’s offense.
Stats: 20 receptions for 268 yards (13.4 average per reception), long of 42, in 2015.
Strengths: Although Peavy has only played in 15 career games, he has demonstrated the ability to run good routes and the ability to get open. With Wisconsin having to replace Stave at quarterback, Peavy’s ability to be consistent in his assignments will help out either Bart Houston or Alex Hornibrook, allowing them to throw to a place where their target is supposed to be. It also helps that Peavy is able to locate the soft spots in defensive coverages in order to get open.
Weaknesses: While a solid route runner, Peavy lacks top-end speed coveted by a No.1 receiving option. His 6-0 size is also a factor that can be a weakness playing one-on-one passes in the air. The biggest thing is consistently catching the football. Peavy has strong hands but has spells where he struggles catching the football, something that plagued him at times throughout spring practices. If he wants the trust from wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore, Peavy needs to polish out his game and be technically sound in his assignments to make up for deficiencies in other areas.
Why he’s #21: In order for the passing game to succeed and to take pressure off of the run, Wisconsin is going to need someone outside of Rob Wheelwright to step up. That likely burden falls on Peavy, who showed he was capable of doing it last season when Wheelwright got injured midway through the season. Targeted by Stave on important drives against Nebraska and Northwestern, those two games were two of his better career performances, combined to catch nine passes for 132 yards. Working with the starters throughout spring, and receiving plenty of reps, Peavy should continue to feel comfortable with his place in the offense when camp begins.
Overall: It has been a while since Wisconsin has had two wide receivers who are capable of making opposing secondaries respect them. In order for that to happen this year will be dependent on Peavy taking that next step in his development and Wheelwright staying healthy. Staying healthy throughout spring football was important to Peavy, proving that a) he could remain healthy and b) gave him opportunities to continue working on being a compete, every-down receiver for Wisconsin. Peavy certainly has the skills to open up the offense. If he delivers, not only will he serve as a nice complement to Wheelwright, it’ll help Wisconsin replace the production being lost from Erickson.