A cornucopia of options

Lee Evans is but one part of the most talented receiving corps in the nation. Part 10 of a 14-part series.

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Barely a moment went by this fall without Wisconsin's wide receivers doing something spectacular. The team is loaded in every way imaginable—there is speed, size, great hands and stellar play aplenty. Wisconsin has proven productive receivers, outrageous potential, and a few great story lines. Playing quarterback for the Badgers should be like being a kid in a candy store for years to come.

 

The top story is, of course, Lee Evans, who returns after more than a year away from the game due to a devastating knee injury in the 2002 spring game. Evans talent has not diminished in the least. The quickness is present and the burst down field was on full display this fall. Evans once again displayed an uncanny ability to get open and he caught just about everything in sight. He said during camp that he was having a harder-than-expected time working through the inevitable soreness and tired legs that come with fall camp, but Evans hardly displayed it on the field, continuing to play well throughout the fall. It is still to soon to say how well this will translate to a real game situation, but Evans looks fine and with that the Badgers have regained one of the best receivers in college football.

 

Joining Evans in the starting lineup is sophomore Brandon Williams, an exceptionally quick receiver who was rarely coverable on short or intermediate passes. He looks destined to become the Badgers go-to guy on underneath routes. On the other hand, Williams also displayed the speed and extra gear that make him a threat to stretch the field. Williams has good hands and is extremely dangerous after the catch. His 52 receptions last season were the most ever for a Badger freshman. He had 663 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Williams also set a school record last season with 670 kickoff return yards. He will likely enter the season as the top kick returner and No. 2 punt returner behind Jim Leonhard.

 

Jonathan Orr will see the field plenty after setting a school freshman record with 847 receiving yards last season. He caught 47 passes, eight for touchdowns. Orr looks faster and stronger than a year ago. He is a big-time threat to stretch the field, but he also does valuable work in the middle of the field and on shorter routes. Few, if any, teams have a No. 3 receiver that approaches Orr's talent. The 6-3, 190-pound player was rated the No. 18 receiver in the country by Lindy's.

 

Junior Darrin Charles put his immense talent on display in the Alamo Bowl win over Colorado with five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, including the crucial 28-yard catch on fourth-and-10 late in the game that salvaged Wisconsin's chances for victory. Charles was a prep All-American out of Oshkosh North, a stellar athlete who had 2,578 yards receiving during his high school career, including more than a 1,000 yards as a junior, and was two-time state high jump champion. At 6-6, 210, with exceptional speed and athleticism, Charles is a solid presence from the slot position where he will primarily line up. Charles looked to be putting it together in fits and spurts last season, finishing with 25 catches for 323 yards and two touchdowns. This is the year he could truly break out.

 

As if that were not enough, there is the transition of Owen Daniels to receiver/tight end, which has gone immensely well. Daniels has proven a talented receiver who has demonstrated fantastic hands, good speed, and very good strength, especially when protecting the ball. Daniels is a very good athlete who possesses extremely high football acumen. He should see action in spread sets this season.

 

Sophomore Brandon White is another top reserve who had a fantastic fall camp. White made quite a few highlight reel plays. He played in all 14 games last season, but caught just two passes for seven yards. White, though, is another quality, super talented reserve. He has good hands and speed and runs tight routes. He may be lost in the shuffle of so many receivers, but White can play.

 

True freshman Ernest Mason will likely see the field in a variety of capacities this season. He has good size at 6-0, 180 pounds, and is exceptionally fast, with very good all-around skills. Mason enters the season at the No. 2 kick returner and No. 3 punt returner, but looks poised to relieve Brandon Williams and Jim Leonhard of those duties. Mason will also see the field as a receiver; a player who can stretch the field and make a lot of things happen after he catches the ball.

 

Senior Byron Brown also had a good fall and is a decent reserve, with adequate size and speed.

 

The remaining reserves will play with the scout offense this season, but also showed a lot of talent this fall.

 

Redshirt freshman Zach Hampton is a fleet-footed, quick receiver with good hands. A little on the small side, he nonetheless holds up well and runs good routes.

 

Junior Travann Hayes has a lot of talent but has not quite put it together. The team experimented with converting him to cornerback last spring, but Hayes remains a reserve receiver. He displayed good speed and a decent ability to get open, but inconsistent hands.

 

Another redshirt freshman, walk-on Jeff Holzbauer is another quick receiver with good body control and all-around skills.

 

Three freshmen are assured of red shirting. Walk-on Jonte Flowers is a tall and superbly athletic receiver who flashed exceptional hands. At 6-5, 170, Flowers needs to add weight and strength, but his potential is high.

 

Another walk-on, Luke Swan, is the ideal possession receiver. He has good quickness and size at 6-0, 185, and possesses decent speed. More impressively, Swan runs terrific routes and has exceptional hands.

 

Brandon Tobias does not have the look of a freshman in any capacity. He is 6-5, 215, very fast, with good strength and all-around skills. His potential is limitless.


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