Silent Assassin

With all the intention focused on star tight end Travis Beckum, the Badgers have found a secret weapon in Garrett Graham.

MADISON - When game planning and preparing to stop Wisconsin's potent offense, defensive coordinators are going to star, highlight and shutter when they think about junior tight end Travis Beckum and all the challenges he possesses.

If offensive coordinator Paul Chryst perdiction is correct, opposing defenses will start highlighting Garrett Graham's name in the near future as well.

A relative unknown when fall camp began, Graham, a redshirt sophomore, was thrust into reps with the first-team offense when Beckum missed multiple practices with an injury. Living up to the team motto of ‘Next Man In,' Graham, according to the coaches, became one of the most impressive players in camp; showing off his superb locking, pass catching and the surprise speed he possesses.

"It's a great compliment [to be mentioned as a highlight of camp]," Graham said. "[Playing with the first team] was good experience. It gave me a way to make plays, get the offense down and get some reps in there with the first line. I've been practicing real hard and mentality just trying to prepare and get everything down."

Even the guy he subbed for was impressed with what he saw from his replacement.

"Garrett is someone that made an impact as soon as he came [into the program] on the scout team," Beckum said. "People realized that he had potential. In this fall camp, especially with me being out a couple practices, he took advantage of it and he's still continuing to make plays. He's a heck of a football player and that's what we need – someone to step up when a starter goes down."

Graham, who didn't letter last season, thought that this might be a big year for him, especially after the experience he got on the field last season.

Playing for the first time last season, the only action Graham could manage was garbage time at the end of the Minnesota and Buffalo games. But when it came time for the Capital One Bowl, Graham saw extensive action at tight end, an adventure that, he believes, was one of the biggest positives from last season.

"It felt good to get in the game last year and get the jitters out, especially in the bowl game," Graham said. "The preparation for the bowl game was good experience, as well."

Now Graham is preparing for potentially a big season opposite one of the best tight ends in the nation.

After coming off a season where he caught 61 passes – five for touchdowns - for 903 yards, Beckum is going to be the focus of every defensive coordinator and every defensive secondary, as they all try to shut down Wisconsin's top receiving target. With all the focus and attention spent towards Beckum, Graham is hoping that he can take advantage of being an unknown and, eventually, help ease the pressure off his position partner.

"Wherever I fit in or wherever the coaches put me, I am going to go in and try to make a play," Graham said. "They're going to be game planning around Beckum, so whatever pressure I can take off him will be great."

According to Beckum, the unknown factor is the biggest asset to Graham's game; something Beckum believes Graham can take full advantage of since he won't be the defense's primary focus.

"The biggest thing that people don't know about Garrett is they don't know about him, they know about me," Beckum said. "He's an athlete and he's going to make plays. Maybe later in the season if he does what we know he can, defenses will have to game plan around him and take some pressure off me. He'll definitely be a threat."

So far, the ‘hidden Graham trick' is paying off. Paring him with Beckum in a two tight end set in the opening game against Washington State, Graham caught his first career touchdown when Tyler Donovan found him wide open down the middle of the field – mainly because Beckum had drawn the attention of the young Cougar secondary.

With a tough conference schedule with some tough defenses looking to shut down Beckum and the Wisconsin offense on the horizon, the Badgers will need some new playmakers to step into the foray.

"We're going to need a guy capable of making plays and that's Garrett," Chryst said. "We're going to need all our playmakers to make plays in certain situations. He's got a chance to be a very good, complete tight end."

If week one is any indication, Garrett Graham is on his way … hopefully, he'll do it very quietly.

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