Brandon Williams wears No. 1 on his jersey, perhaps fitting for the athlete who is Wisconsin's top prospect at wide receiver this fall.
"I didn't ask for it when I came in but I've had 25 for six years now and I just felt that, you know, this season right here is going to be a very big season for me and I just wanted to do a little change," Williams said. "No. 1 is a very eye-catching number, so, you know, I just want to make it happen."
He will have to make it happen in order for Wisconsin to have a productive aerial attack but he has a strong supporting cast. Despite the absence of go-to-guy Lee Evans, who can now be seen donning a Buffalo Bills jersey, the receiving corps will be set come fall. It boasts athletes with diverse sets of skills, allowing the Badgers to spread the attack rather than focus on one guy.
Receivers coach Henry Mason said Williams has stepped up and taken charge.
"I think that he feels like he's the next guy in line and I can certainly appreciate that. I like that in a player that wants to take charge and be that guy and so while it's only a number in the program but he's the guy and that's what you want your best guy to be like," Mason said.
Williams, though, sees it differently.
"I wouldn't really say the go-to-guy because we have (junior) Jonathan Orr, (senior) Darrin Charles. Those guys, Darrin Charles has been here a year before me," Williams said. "Put all of us together and we make a very good combination together."
"I think I bring to the table more of the vertical type game, where I'll be able to go up and get the ball, I'll be able to make a catch in a key moment," said Charles, who towers at 6-feet-6-inches. "I feel [Williams is] like a wiggle type guy and I feel like a Jonathan Orr is a guy who is going to be able to stretch the field and go get the long ball."
Williams the wiggler was singled out in head coach Barry Alvarez' press conference Wednesday as an athlete who is on his way to achieving elite status.
"I just know that he has been very productive as a freshman and as a sophomore," Alvarez said after Thursday's practice. "He's a guy that does a lot of things for us. He was a home-run hitter. He was one of those guys as a freshman, that the speed of the game didn't affect him. … He's certainly capable."
Receivers coach Henry Mason believes Williams is more than simply capable, comparing him to Lee Evans as a sophomore.
"Between Lee's sophomore year and junior year, I don't think anyone saw that coming," Mason said. "Being able to make that type of jump. He's probably at the same level as Lee was as a sophomore but Lee made a big-time jump between his sophomore and junior year and it all remains to be seen where he fits."
Williams and Orr can revert to their freshmen campaigns for advice on filling in for Lee Evans. Orr, then a redshirt freshman and Williams, then a true freshman, took over for Evans when he was sidelined with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Williams racked up 663 yards receiving while Orr grabbed 842 yards. They hold high expectations for themselves this season but have already been versed in the "life without Lee" category.
"Me and J.O. was talking about this a couple weeks ago, how when Lee wasn't here, it was me and him, I mean, not just me and him but we were the guys trying to make most of the plays when we was freshmen," Williams said. "Now we're juniors and it's back to the same situation, so I think we'll be able to step up to the challenge a lot more, put up a lot better numbers."
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