News and Notes: The depth remained true to form. Seniors Owen Daniels and Jason Pociask form a first-team tag team while senior Joel Nellis and redshirt freshman Sean Lewis are the top reserves. Redshirt freshman Dave Peck, sophomore walk-on Matt Brown and true freshmen Jae McFadden and Garrett Graham will grace the scout team.
Fall MVP: Owen Daniels. He is bigger (pushing 250 pounds) and stronger than before, and he still has the athletic ability to pose matchup headaches for linebackers and safeties. In fact, he set a UW record for tight ends in the 40-yard dash last spring (4.68 seconds). Daniels can split a seam and he is at his best serving as a security blanket for quarterback John Stocco on underneath routes. He has very good hands and he also improved his blocking to respectability this fall.
Player on the rise: Jason Pociask. Can a fifth-year senior really be on the rise? Absolutely. Pociask is UW's most underrated player on offense. With Tony Paciotti gone, Pociask is clearly the team's best blocker at tight end and will play a significant role in UW's running game, as both an in-line tight end and H-back. But Pociask has filled that role the past two seasons, starting nine games and often being in the mix in two tight end sets. He has only caught five passes in his career, including four for 60 yards last season, but Pociask is a capable athlete at the position with good hands and solid enough route running skills. He is a fine complement for the more prolific Daniels.
Questions answered: The biggest question heading into fall camp was Daniels' blocking. The converted quarterback is not going to maul people or be the punishing blocker Pociask can be or Paciotti was. But Daniels became more consistent in this area and can respectably cover people up, especially at the point of attack from an in-line tight end spot, his most important role as a blocker. He could still be better in this area, but consider Daniels a serviceable blocker.
Questions remain: At first blush the depth looks solid, but on further inspection it is suspect. Daniels and Pociask are a very good tandem at the top of the depth. Nellis can add something as a blocker in two and three tight end sets and is an okay receiver. Lewis, another converted quarterback, is a tall (6-foot-7, 235 pounds) athlete who flashes potential as a receiver. He needs to get bigger and stronger and has to be more consistent as a pass catcher, though. There was a telling moment in camp when Pociask was out for a day, and UW's two tight set, during a run-oriented segment, was Daniels and Lewis. That is quite a departure, from a blocking standpoint, from the Paciotti/Pociask tandem of the past two years. The rest of the reserves are developmental players. However, the Badgers have alleviated this concern somewhat by cross-training fullbacks like Bill Rentmeester and Matt Bernstein as H-backs.
Final thoughts: Daniels is the type of tight end that can give opposing defenses fits. If he carries over his improvement as a blocker into the season, teams will have to respect his ability to contribute positively to the Badgers' running game. In his first two seasons as a tight end, teams overplayed UW to pass when Daniels was in the lineup. With his size and speed he is a tough matchup for most linebackers and safeties. A very good route runner with very dependable hands, Daniels can also line up in the slot or split wide, giving UW some versatile options.
Pociask is a good complement, a strong blocker who can make plays as a receiver. Daniels is certainly capable of a 30-plus catch season, and Pociask could add 10-15, if the Badgers' passing game improves from last season as it should. Do not be surprised to see Nellis contribute this season as a blocker and get a catch or two along the way.
Tight end should be a strength on this team, but an injury to Daniels or Pociask would change that assessment in a hurry.