Setting the Stage
A young Wisconsin quarterback will have a reliable target at his disposal, as Jazz Peavy returns for his senior season after leading the Badgers in yards (635), yards per catch (14.77, min. 10 catches) and touchdowns (five). Peavy got plenty of one-on-one coverage because Rob Wheelwright demanded a lot of attention, usually a corner lined up in his face and a safety over the top. It’s a reason why his graduation from the group is significant, as some receiver will have to step up to take the pressure off of Peavy.
Player to Watch: George Rushing
George Rushing was a distant third option for the Badgers last season and has combined to make 18 catches for 218 yards and no touchdowns in his three seasons with the program. Last season he made two catches in each of Wisconsin’s first four games and then only four catches the rest of the season. Needless to say the Badgers need more from him. His age and 6-1 size work in his advantage but inconsistencies have caused him usage to be limited. The true senior will be given every opportunity to get a leg up on the competition.
Story Line to Watch: How Will Cephus Grow in the Offense?
A raw athlete with only a year of high school varsity experience, it was anyone’s guess how Quintez Cephus was going to handle the transition to Big Ten football. The results likely exceeding everyone’s expectations. While he wasn’t constantly used in the passing game (four catches, 97 yards), Cephus was able to get opportunities with the football on the jet sweep (five carries for 41 yards) and was a tremendous down-field blocker, springing multiple long runs by Corey Clement that earned him more playing time over some of his teammates.
A former Division-1 basketball recruit, Cephus’ athleticism, length and speed is his biggest asset. In two spring practices we’ve seen Cephus and Hornibrook connect on deep passes in 7-on-7, reminiscent of the 57-yard completion that the two had in the victory at Iowa last year. That pass turned out to be the longest completion of the year for Wisconsin.
With one year under his belt, Cephus’ upside is tremendous.
End-of-Spring Goal: A solid number two
Peavy has the only guaranteed spot as the team’s No.1 receiver, so a group that has five other scholarship receivers and a handful of walk-ons participating in spring is a group that is tasked with bringing the critical balance to UW’s offense. A season ago the Badgers ranked 65th in the country in yards per completion (12.41), but the five receivers who caught passes averaged slightly better at 14.2 yards per catch.
In addition to Rushing and Cephus, Wisconsin will see what sophomore A.J. Taylor, redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor and freshman Deron Harrell will bring. Like Cephus, Harrell doesn’t have a lot of experience at receiver but has an athletic background that can be useful.
And considering UW’s receiving leader was a walk-on in five of the last six years, seeing what freshmen Jack Dunn (second-team state as an all-purpose player) and Jack Popp (first-team all-state safety) can do on the field will be intriguing to the staff.