Having a standout season returning kickoffs, Gilreath broke the UW record for kickoff return yards in a season in just nine games, finishing with 962 yards for the season and broke the record for yards in a game (189 vs. Michigan State), as well. Fielding punts, Gilreath lead the Big Ten with a 14-yard punt return average (fourth-best season average in UW history) and is without question, the return man for the Badgers. But Gilreath viewed last year as an average year and was, without question, disappointed in his performance. Why?
Sitting down with Badger Nation, Gilreath talked about, while he was happy with his return game, the All-American was not pleased with his play at wide receiver, which is part of the reason he has focused solely on making an offensive impact throughout spring camp.
BN: Wisconsin fans know what a great kick and punt returner you are but now we're starting to see what a good receiver you have become. Can you talk about how important it was to focus in on that position in the spring?
David Gilreath: Yeah, I got my feet wet in the return game last year. Coming in, I knew that I was a good receiver. I just hadn't had a chance to prove it really yet. I had done some things in the spring. I feel that I can be one of the better receivers out there, but I guess that's everybody's attitude. Coming into the spring, I just tried to polish up my game as much as I could and show the coaches and people that I can be a Big Ten receiver.
BN: What was last year like for you? In your first year, you set a bunch of school records in the return game and were a valuable part of the offense.
David Gilreath: In my eyes, I was kind of down on it to be honest. As a receiver, I didn't perform well when I was thrown in there. I didn't do very well. As a punt returner, I wasn't satisfied at all but I knew that I could play this game. In my eyes, I don't think I had a great freshman year but I guess I have high expectations for myself. I'd give myself a ‘C' grade. I think I was average.
BN: How disappointed that you weren't able to take a kick back for a touchdown? Talking to you last year, so many times you felt you were a block or two away.
David Gilreath: That's the goal but that comes with hard work and continue to do what I am doing. I'll get there but it's more of a goal to catch the ball. You've got to catch everything that comes my way and a touchdown will come. I guess that is though a high goal that I haven't gotten yet.
BN: What did you focus over winter conditioning and through spring ball? What was the thing you really focused in on to get better at?
David Gilreath: Through conditioning, Coach Bielema changed up his little routine, I guess it's his routine to get us bigger, and that was my motivation to try and get a little bigger than I was last year so I can maintain a little bit more. I was up there in the McClain every other day catching the ball. I was just catching the ball like I use to back in Pee Wee's, just going out there, catching the ball and having fun. That's what I tried to do but more just gain a little bit more weight.
BN: How have you felt you have done so far through spring practices? Do you feel that you are becoming a better receiver?
David Gilreath: At first, I was like why is there a spring? This should be the time to rest but now I see why. I feel that I've gotten a little bit better catching the ball, being more comfortable in the offense, knowing the schemes, what the defense is doing and knowing our concepts. I think the spring is just been fun so far and I've got chances to do better. I think overall I am pretty much better but there's still a long ways to go.
BN: What have you taken away from Paul Hubbard and Luke Swan? They've obviously been in the program a long time and have been good receivers in this program. What's something you have absorbed from them?
David Gilreath: Swan more. He's not my size but he's more of a little receiver, I guess. He taught me to know the defense. You're not out there thinking as much, especially when you learning the offense to, but he knows the defense and offense so well that he's in the right spot at the right time. I don't know how to explain it. He cruises. I learned more from him than Paul.
BN: You guys are so youthful in the wide receiver core and with that comes some growing pains. Has a leader stepped up and taken charge and if so, who is the leader of the unit?
David Gilreath: Through high school, I am never really the vocal one or whatever. I feel I have really stepped up to be a leader but I am trying to lead by example and keep doing some things good. I think that can be more of a leader. Kyle Jefferson, being the guy with more experience, has led by example more so than others.
BN: Are the drops a concern right now or is that something that is going to work itself out through summer conditioning and getting comfortable within the offense?
David Gilreath: It's always a concern when receivers are dropping the ball. That's not what we are supposed to do. It's spring time so we're trying to get better. That's what we're supposed to be doing. It's a part of the growing process but we're trying to go out there everyday and work on catching the ball. We get out there earlier and catch the ball because that's what we were brought here to do.
BN: What have you liked about the guys behind you, guys like Xavier Harris and Maurice Moore, people we haven't seen a lot on the field a whole bunch?
David Gilreath: They are going out there everyday working just as hard as me or anybody else out there. They are trying to play next year just as bad as me. I respect them. They haven't played much but they're trying to go out there and get better and trying to play. They aren't just sitting there – pouting or complaining about anything. They are out there trying to play.
BN: Have you set goals for yourself, not just for the upcoming season, but for the summer and the fall?
David Gilreath: I always kind of write down some stuff and put it somewhere and look at it at the end of the year to see if I reached them. I got high expectations. I want to be All-Big Ten maybe another All-American (laughing) but you never know how that goes. That is a real goal of mine. I want to be first-team All-Big Ten. I don't think it is so far out of reach but I am working towards that goal, getting a little bit bigger, a little bit faster maybe. I think in this offense with all the weapons we have, nobody knows me. I want to be first team and I am not trying to be cocky about it.
BN: How good can this offense could be? You return a veteran line, have a veteran quarterback and tight end, depth at running back, youth at wide receiver, how good can you guys be?
David Gilreath: We can be as good as we make ourselves. We all know that we can be good, we just have to go out there, work hard and try to get better. If we get better everyday, and I think we can do that, we can be an explosive offense.