Starters departed: Andy Crooks
Other key departures: Sean Lewis
Injured players: Beckum, Graham
2007 position coach: Bob Bostad
2008 position coach: Joe Rudolph
With senior All-American Travis Beckum (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) returning for his senior season and junior Garrett Graham (6-foot-4, 241 pounds) emerging as a second threat in 2007 (catching 30 passes and four touchdowns), the Badgers looked to be set at the tight end position for the upcoming season.
It never hurts to be prepared.
With Beckum and Graham missing the entire spring workouts while recovering from shoulder sugeries, four Badgers are looking to impress the coaching staff with the starters on the sidelines, much like what Graham did during fall camp when Beckum missed time.
Leading the way thus far has been junior Mickey Turner (6-foot-4, 236 pounds), a two-star recruit that is built like a lineman. Turner, who is incredibly strong and quick off the line, is more of a blocker than a pass catcher, but has displayed the ability to consistanly catch passes in the flat. Turner won't make many mental mistakes either, as his 31 on the ACT ranks him near the top of the team.
While Turner is more of a blocker, sophomore Lance Kendricks (6-foot-4, 226 pounds) is definitely a catcher. A four-star recruit out of Milwaukee King H.S., Kendricks was originally recruited as a wide receiver (he was a good one, too, ranked 12th in the nation by Scout).
Although his 40-yard dash time of 4.56 seconds is not as quick as the coaching staff want from a receiver, Kendricks elusiveness after the catch and game-breaking ability equaled a perfect fit at tight end, which has been the point of emphasis over the past three seasons to phase Kendricks into that position.
Focusing on the foreign art of run-blocking during bowl practices through January's winter conditioning, Kendricks has finally started to look comfortable on the field, which has rejuvenated his confidence. One of the vocal leaders on the offensive side of the ball, Kendricks has stood out (in a good way) blocking off the end and has been showcasing his pass catching ability over the middle.
Others in the Mix:
One of the four Badger recruits to enroll a semester earlier, Arkansas' Jake Byrne (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) is the biggest tight end competing in spring practices. The tenth-ranked player in Arkansas and 44th-best tight end in nation by Scout.com, Byrne's size will definitely be utilized at Wisconsin, who plan to use Byrne in offensive sets where they can put him in motion and pull him around the end.
A naturally athletic tight end who adjusts well to poorly thrown footballs, Byrne gets up the seams and knows how to get free from coverage, getting up-field quickly and running hard after the catch.
Sophomore Rob Korslin (6-foot-5, 247 pounds): - Redshirted in 2007 but was a valuable member imitating the opposing team's tight end. Named UW's scout team co-offensive player of the week for Northern Illinois game.