Spring Game Analysis: Receivers

With multiple players on the offensive side of the ball saying catching the ball and developing chemistry was goal number one this summer, one can draw their own conclusions about what did not go right from the receiving unit. Thanks to David Gilreath and a cast of others, however, there were bright spots to take away Saturday.

MADISON - With big guns Travis Beckum and Kyle Jefferson out with injuries, the Wisconsin football team used their annual Spring Game to see if the rest of their receiving core was up to the challenge.

The jury is still out with their decision.

Two dropped balls in the end zone highlighted an up and down day for Badger receivers. Despite that downfall, head coach Bret Bielema still found a bright spot the day in sophomore David Gilreath.

Gilreath, last season's freshman phenom return man, shined for the Cardinal with three receptions for 79 yards. Some believe Gilreath is UW's top man after today's show, but head coach Bret Bielema was quick to counter that idea.

"Kyle was doing some good things before he got hurt," Bielema said. "But David is just very serious about everything he's doing. From the weight room to the precision that we're asking him to do on certain routes, to executing, to making a couple of diving catches – I think David is into it."

Saturday proved once again that Wisconsin football is a ‘run first, pass second' program. The Badgers attempted only 38 passes compared to 57 rush attempts. Despite the disparity, tight end Mickey Turner knows that this team is loaded with talent, even with the current set of injuries.

"Coach Chryst is really good about using everything he's got at his disposal," Turner said. "So with me, you know Lance Kendricks, and a couple of younger guys, we've got a good chance this spring to show what we can do and prove we can play a little bit."

Turner, who finished the game with three catches for 46 yards, was responsible for one of the two dropped balls in the end zone. The other, by sophomore Isaac Anderson, is two things that will stick in Bielema's head.

"I wish certain guys could have made a couple of big plays for us," Bielema said. "Isaac's had a pretty good spring, but the thing that jumps out to me is that dropped touchdown. Those touchdowns just don't come around."

With Beckum and Jefferson out, Bielema was looking for someone to step up out on the field. Gilreath took that call to heart, and used his actions rather than his words to lead his team Saturday.

"Coach kind of put us out there and said we need someone to step up and be a leader," Gilreath said. "I'm not really a vocal leader, but I think just going out there and performing…I think I can go out there and lead a little bit by example."

While some declare the annual Spring Game as a glorified team scrimmage, others believe that it is more than that. The players themselves think this is a great stepping stone to get the new starters ready for what's ahead come September.

"It's way different than practice," Gilreath said. "I don't know how many people were out there, but especially when you get out there in from of 80,000 people … it's a little bit different."

All in all, the receiving core grabbed 19 catches for 307 yards. Despite the top two returning receivers out of the game and two dropped balls in the end zone, Turner looks to the future with nothing but a positive outlook.

"Overall I thought it went pretty well," Turner said. "The offense was moving the ball pretty well. We didn't finish on a couple drives but it's all correctable. Overall it looked pretty nice."

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