Ready to see an expanded role in the 2015 season, tight end Troy Fumagalli could not have come out of the gates any slower. Missing two of Wisconsin’s first four games, Fumagalli caught only one pass for one yard during nonconference play, leaving a huge production gap opposite senior Austin Traylor. Once Big Ten play started, however, Fumagalli started to catch on.
Catching 25 passes during conference play, second-most behind receiver Alex Erickson’s 49, Fumagalli’s presence on the field not only helped take pressure off of Erickson but filled a void when Traylor suffered an arm injury against Iowa and was lost for most of the season. Now the most experienced player of the group, Fumagalli is expected that he will take on a larger role this coming season and for him to deliver in his new role in the offense.
Stats: 28 receptions for 313 yards (11.2 yards per reception) and one touchdown in 2015.
Strengths: It is hard to ignore Fumagalli’s size, as he’s listed at 6-6 and is an intimidating presence over the middle of the field or in the red zone. He can use his frame and strong hands to his advantage, as his ability to consistently catch the football and make positive plays were traits former quarterback Joel Stave relied on in third-down situations for years. Fumagalli has proven that he knows how to read coverages and locate the soft spots in the defense, allowing him to catch the football with his hands and move the chains in pressure situations. The combination of confident hands and getting open will make Fumagalli a favorite, reliable target for whoever ends up starting for Wisconsin.
Weaknesses: Tight ends usually are world renowned for their speed and Fumagalli is no exception, as his yards per game was only 28.5. Even with Fumagalli’s catching ability, he still need to work on his blocking. When Wisconsin goes to a two tight end set, Eric Steffes will likely be in there with Fumagalli, as the redshirt senior is the stronger blocker. In order for Fumagalli to not to get isolated in this formation, he’ll need to show that he is more than capable of just simply catching the football. As a byproduct, he could be more packages that could yield more opportunities for touchdown catches.
Why he’s #10: With question marks at quarterback and depth at receiver, Fumagalli is one of the most – if not the most - reliable options on the team. There was a four game stretch last season during conference play where Fumagalli registered a minimum of three receptions and had at least 45 receiving yards. Only once last year in Big Ten play did Fumagalli not register a catch, which was against Minnesota when the Badgers pounded the ball on the ground. Fumagalli took a nice step between his redshirt freshman year and sophomore year and should take another leap this season.
Overall: The tight end position has been a critical element in Wisconsin’s offense for years (with possibly the exception of the 2013 and ’14 seasons) and the role will grow with greater importance in head coach Paul Chryst’s offense. Capable of being an all-conference player, Fumagalli has the perfect intangibles and skills to be a huge asset in helping the passing game take pressure off a running game that is looking for a bounce-back season. Fumagalli is a smart player who will be counted on to make plenty of plays in the passing game, most notably to keep drives alive on third downs and be a big target in the red zone. No matter where he’s lined up, Fumagalli can provide a safety blanket for Wisconsin.