Spring preview: Wide receivers

Questions abound on unit with very little experience returning

Starters returning: None

Other key returnees: Juniors Jarvis Minton (9 games; 1 reception, 16 yards, 0 touchdowns), Marcus Randle El (5 games; 1-29-1), Luke Swan (no receptions, but was No. 4 receiver after Minton suffered season-ending injury) and Paul Hubbard (5 games; 1-4-0).

Starters departed: Brandon Williams (13 starts in 13 games; 59-1,095-6) and Jonathan Orr (12 starts in 13 games; 40-688-8).

Other key departures: Brandon White (13 games; 8-155-1).

2005 position coach: Henry Mason

2006 position coach: Henry Mason

Spring storylines

So what now?

Williams leaves UW as its career receptions leader with 202, while his 2,924 receiving yards is the second highest tally in school history. He never missed a game in four seasons and was always either the Badgers' No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in the lineup.

Orr was also a prominent player all four seasons, particularly as a freshman and senior. He finished his college career third in school history with 19 touchdown receptions and eighth with 1,824 receiving yards.

White was also part of the depth all four years and was the No. 3 receiver the past two seasons.

How the Badgers replace that trio is an extraordinarily open-ended question. UW's returning wide receivers combined for three receptions, 49 receiving yards and one touchdown all of last season.

Minton has displayed a great deal of promise in practices and looked poised to earn more playing time on game days, but an injury robbed him of the last four games of the season and interrupted his progress.

Randle El had an excellent fall training camp but injuries limited him to minimal playing time. He was briefly suspended in December after he was arrested and charged with battery.

Hubbard may be the most physically gifted of UW's current crop of receivers, and he has steadily gained a better understanding of the position.

In practices the past few years, Swan has consistently been one of the team's best route-runners. He has good hands and is a fundamentally sound player who can fill a role. With Randle El and Minton on the mend last year, Swan stepped in nicely as the No. 4 receiver, a role that primarily asked him to be a solid blocker.

Senior Jeff Holzbauer would have been in the mix for playing if not for a summer water skiing injury that cost him the 2005 season. An underrated athlete, Holzbauer is a candidate for significant playing time in 2006.

Redshirt freshman T.J. Theus does enough well that he could emerge as a viable option in his first spring practice season.

Redshirt freshman Jarmal Ruffin approaches Hubbard athletically and is a more natural football player instinctually. But Ruffin is very rough around the edges and unrefined in the nuances of playing his new position. He converted from free safety to receiver about midway through last season, after playing tight end and defensive end in high school. It will be very intriguing to see how quickly he catches on this spring, because once Ruffin figures out the intricacies of route running and body positioning, look out.

Also in the mix this spring will be senior walk-on Derek Konkol and several redshirt freshman walk-ons, including Richard Kirtley and Matt Gifford.

Much of the intrigue at the wide receiver position, though, centers on what is in store in the fall, when six true freshman scholarship receivers will arrive on campus. This spring is an opportunity for the incumbents to establish themselves before the recruits roll into town.

The one constant in the receiving corps is assistant coach Henry Mason. In fact, the receivers play the only position that has the same coach in 2006 as it did in 2005. Mason has developed a very strong reputation for developing young receivers into productive, and often outstanding, college football players. This spring, with the lack of experience returning, may be one of his biggest challenges to-date.

Badger Nation Top Stories