Tackling the Tight End position

Being a former high school All-American linebacker has made Travis Beckum a very good tight end. He has the confidence of his quarterback and the semi-outward confidence of a seasoned veteran. But do not let that fool you. Travis only wants to move the chains - for the team.

The reasons are becoming pretty clear why I usually pick Wisconsin tight end Travis Beckum as my key match-up or key player each week in a pre-game article. It was not meant to be that way, according to most.

As a senior at Oak Creek in suburban Milwaukee, Beckum was being recruited by everyone in the nation. Miami (FL), Michigan, Ohio State, Tennessee, and Oklahoma all offered the 6'4", 225 pound number one linebacker in the Midwest a scholarship. Scout.com had him ranked as the top prospect in Wisconsin and 56th best in the nation, also. Tom Lemming called him a "can't miss linebacker All-American." His high school coach Joe Koch had other positions in mind.

"Travis played linebacker for us, but could play safety, linebacker, or defensive end in college." Koch said. "He is great in coverage as well as being a terrific run stopper." Beckum has been timed at 4.5 in the 40 yard dash. If I were an anonymous bystander, I would be thinking you need to get this guy the ball and see if he can make a play.

Well, I certainly feel more confident in that assessment. Now.

Entering today's game, he ranked second in receptions on the team to Paul Hubbard (16) with 15. In my pre-game analysis, I felt, from watching film on Northwestern, that if John Stocco had time to throw he would find his favorite third down target open in the zone spots. A zone spot of a defense is in the middle of the field just beyond the linebackers. Also, on the edge of the field between the safety coverage and the corner stop coverage. The Wildcat linebackers are very poor in coverage. Irony is a fun thing.

"We know he is a weapon for us.", Stocco said of Beckum. "He is fast and has great hands. Being a former linebacker might help him as well." It is fun when you have a former LB with that kind of athletic talent and speed to throw the ball to.

The skilled tight end is still a semi-outwardly confident player. But you would never call him supercilious or haughty. He is not one to soak up the personal accomplishments. Travis may acknowledge them, but he will never be a ‘Yeah for me' kind of guy. Even when you tell him he achieved something no Badger tight end in this century, decade, millennium has, Beckum laughs and then smiles…and then talks about the team.

"It feels good." Beckum says of gaining over 100 yards receiving. "I hope I can do it to help the team every game. I let Stoc (John Stocco) know that if he needs to throw the ball, I will do my best to catch it for him." And, catch it he did today. Travis hauled in career highs in receptions (8) and yards (107) as the Badgers defeated Northwestern 41-9. Beckum now has a team-leading 23 receptions for 315 yards on the season. He became the first Badger tight end since November 18, 1995 to turn that trick. Matt Nyquist had 13 catches for 140 yards against Iowa on that date. But do not think for a minute that he relishes in that.

"That's good (laughing) and makes me feel happy," the former high school linebacker states. "But I am just trying to go out there and not concentrate on anything else but moving the chains for us." He does that at high regularity. Of the 23 receptions Travis has on the season, at least ten of them have gone for a first down or touchdown. Pretty nice to have that from a guy who used to be on the other side of the ball.

One more thing you need to realize: he has two more years to play. When asked if Beckum brings back memories of Owen Daniels, Stocco is quick to negate the comparison(s). "I don't think Travis is that complete of a player yet," the signal caller says. "But, I do not think you can find anyone more athletic than that. If he keeps learning and keeps improving on his blocking, he can be a special player."

To me, he has all the tools you could ask for in a tight end (or wide receiver for that matter). He has the size at 6'4", 220 pounds. He has the speed, as I have already given his 40 time. He is very athletic. "Travis was the best basketball player in our high school his senior year," Coach Koch proclaimed. That is an athlete.

And he also has the attention of his quarterback. Which is a very good fringe benefit to possess.

"I feel confident that if I throw the ball his way he is going to make the catch." Stocco states. "He is a guy that is able to find an opening in a defense. There are some plays were you know the main read is to go to this guy or that guy. But, on the same play, I know that he (Beckum) will be going against a zone coverage (aka a linebacker) and that he is the best read." And the speed helps Stocco have confidence to. "Yes," Stocco laughs. "The guy can run. That is for sure; and it helps."

Move over Matt Spaeth and Scott Chandler, there is a new tight end in Big Ten country. Oh, by the way, he used to be a linebacker in high school.

"It is fun right now," Beckum says matter of factly. "That is the best part about this team. We are winning and everyone is having fun." His head coach agrees.

"Travis is a gamer." says Badger head man Bret Bielema. "He is a guy that really enjoys playing the game. He is a very entertaining player to be around. (Last week) he began to come into his own." Perhaps everyone else besides me will start keying on Travis in their pre-game write-ups now. It would certainly be a smart decision.

After all, he has only played six games at this position.

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