Having to replaced veteran wide receiver coach Henry Mason a year ago after Mason suffered a spinal cord injury on a fall in his home, DelVaughn Alexander had to not only learn the system of offense, but had to cope and adapt with losing his top two receivers to serious injuries.
A year later, Alexander returns but to a whole new set of problems and challenges.
With no veteran wide receivers in the group and Wisconsin's lone returning wide receiver struggling to make plays, the Badgers are plagued with an overabundance of youth at the position, which had caused many headaches throughout the ranks of spring camp.
But drop balls and missed assignments aside, Alexander likes the potential his receivers has shown and, with a little work over the summer, knows that the sky is the limit.
BN: With a lot of youth in your wide receiving core, would it be fair to say that if you had hair that it would be gray during this spring camp? Has it been frustrating?
DelVaughn Alexander: (laughing) First I would like to say that hair I do have might be gray if I let it grow out. It's been a ride. It always is. That is one of the challenges of being a coach and we accept that challenge. We have a young group but as far as talking about them as a young group, this will be the last spring and the last point in time where we'll address that. They've done a good job. They've tried to meet the challenges. The bar was set high and we look forward to the fall.
BN: Has Kyle Jefferson played like the number one receiver this camp? Bret has called him out and I am sure you've said some things to him. How has he responded to that?
DelVaughn Alexander: It's been tough on all the guys. They are the guys. They don't have anyone to turn to at the position like they did a year ago. A year ago, they could talk to an older guy about settling in and understanding the position, football and school. Now when they turn right or left, they see guys that have the same things in common and that's not knowing. That's what makes it tough on them.
BN: David Gilreath, we've obviously seen the talent he brings in the return game but now we've seen his talent in the receiving game. How has he handled that transition and how have you liked how he has responded to becoming a better wide receiver in this offense?
DelVaughn Alexander: He's done a really good job. I mean, there was never a concern about David being able to play the position. There was just always a guy in front of him. We were able to move both Swan when he was healthy and Hubbard when he came back to the X position, so that always kept David as the third receiver. In the meantime, they were playing X and he was behind them learning and he picked up on a lot of little things, the notes on the position, and now he's ready to go.
BN: How tough was last year on Isaac Anderson just for him not being able to stay healthy? The last week it seemed he has his best practices?
DelVaughn Alexander: I think the toughest thing for Isaac was going through fall camp. Once he realized that his body was not going to allow him to be who he needed to be for the fall, we decided that he needed to redshirt and everything was fine. He took the time to take care of his body and prepare himself mentally and now, he's a lot further along because of that mental preparation.
BN: Another guy that had a challenging year was Daven Jones being away from the game for so long. What have you seen from him this spring that has allowed him to bounce back?
DelVaughn Alexander: Right away Daven came into spring football and had a better awareness of what we were trying to get done. He had moved from being a flanker to a split end and he took the bull by the horns there. He dived right in. He was very instrumental in pushing himself to understand what we want.
BN: It looks like Kyle and David are going to be your two main receivers. Who is going to be your third wide receiver right now? If you had to pick one, who has stepped up for now and grasped that one?
DelVaughn Alexander: Right now, with the group that we have and there's not a lot of help coming in, there's probably five or six guys that are fighting for an opportunity. People may say that there is a one or two, but in our offense we start Travis (Beckum). Does he count? (laughing) So after that, we want to use everyone else's strength around Travis and within our running game. So we haven't really defined that. We just want to see the players make plays.
BN: When he was healthy, what did you see from Nick Toon in this camp? Overall, how have you liked his progression?
DelVaughn Alexander: Well, Nick came out really strong. He understood what we were doing, making plays, running fact and had a nice physical presence to him. So he came and showed that he has something to contribute and this is coming off a redshirt year, which is really difficult. And then sure enough, the injury happened. When you get the lingering hamstring is really difficult to come back from that and that's what made it tough and evaluate him now.
BN: When did you first see recruit T.J. Williams (the only receiver in the 08 class) and what did you like about him?
DelVaughn Alexander: I saw him on film upstairs in the offices. He's a speed guy. Speed changed the game. If we can get him to a certain level of understanding, then you don't know if you can play or not this year. That's one of the things you learned about from a year ago. Both young guys played. They came in knowing nothing, built themselves up to a level to understanding and then we used them because we had to. It's the same thing for every freshman coming in. His goal has got to be to want to play and want to compete to show he's got some ability and can contribute.
BN: How important is this summer going to be for your wide receivers? Throwing a lot of balls at each other has got to be one of the high things on the docket.
DelVaughn Alexander: I think for any wide receiver or any football, the off season is important. For us, of course we have to catch balls and we have to get stronger. One of the things that I have set as a goal for our guys is understanding defenses better. Coming out in the spring, I hope they understand what we want to do offensively but if they can understand what the opponent it trying to do to stop us, and that will come from a lot of film study, then we have a chance.
BN: Is the spring game a 15th practice for the unit or do you stress it as a game situation?
DelVaughn Alexander: There are some things that happen in each practice where we work on situations but usually we are standing around and we talk a little bit more. We treated the spring game as a game. It's the only day you get to rehearse the game during the spring. That's what you talk from that. Other than that, there were 14 days that the players were evaluated on that were just as important as the spring game.
BN: Do you still talk to Henry Mason as often as you did when you first took the job?
DelVaughn Alexander: I haven't talked to him much this spring but I have seen him a couple times in the new year. We did touch base with what the group may be doing or if he had any advice for me.
BN: When did you know that you were coming back for another year because Bret announced it to the public on signing day?
DelVaughn Alexander: I didn't know much. When he announced it, it may have been a couple days prior to that. I was excited. I am always excited about an opportunity. One to stay here and do it all over again but to work with a young group of guys, I was able to touch them and hopefully I can continue to help them grow and that's what I look forward to.