For Darrin Charles, the 2002 season has seen him experience one extreme to another.
Last summer, there was talk that Darrin Charles would have to step into Lee Evans' shoes and carry the Badgers' passing game, at least until Evans returned. Charles had 14 catches for 186 yards as a freshman, yet he showed enough promise that he was expected to become a star overnight in Evans' absence.
We'll never know if that was possible, because on the very first day of training camp, Charles suffered an ankle sprain, got off to a slow start and was far from 100 percent in the season opener. He sprained that same ankle two additional times throughout the season, and never looked like himself.
Charles finished the season with just 20 catches for 256 yards and one touchdown, while freshmen Jonathan Orr and Brandon Williams led the receiving corps with 842 and 580 yards, respectively.
In most talk leading up to the Alamo Bowl, Charles' name isn't even mentioned as a major factor.
"It's really indescribable," Charles said. "I've called it frustration before, and it is still that, but it's just unexplainable. It's a situation where I kind of feel helpless. I just have to find a way to make it happen and make things work."
Could Charles be a secret weapon against Colorado, delivering a breakout game that launches him into next season as a major threat in the passing game?
Don't count that out as a possibility. Charles has looked a lot better in bowl practices, and is beginning to look like the promising player that showed flashes of brilliance last year and during the spring.
"I think overall, this is the best I've been all year long as far as even practicing and things like that," Charles said. "I feel the best I have been so far. I've gotten a lot better. So now it's just a matter of taking it to the bowl game."
Charles is excited about the fact he should have a few opportunities to shine during Saturday night's game. The Buffaloes, much like the Badgers, focus on stopping the run. And the Colorado secondary might be keying on stopping Orr and Williams.
"They have a different look than we've seen all year long as far as personnel, where they line up and what we name their positions," Charles said. "But all in all, I think they are pretty similar to us with match-ups. I think we match up very well. They like to stop the run, and the passing game is open. It's just a matter of taking advantage of the looks you've got."
A healthy Charles can be a major weapon in the offense Saturday and over the next two years. The 6-6, 208-pound former high jump champion has fallen on some bad luck this year, but he hasn't lost his athleticism.
Charles said he is focused on staying healthy for the bowl game right now, but he licks his chops when he thinks about next year. Charles, Orr, Williams and Brandon White, most likely joined by a returning Lee Evans will give Wisconsin a phenomenal receiving corps, particularly with the other offensive talent returning.
"I think there is every opportunity in the world for it to click next year," Charles said. "We have a great group on offense. A great, great group. It's just a matter of everybody just getting better, the younger guys stepping up and replacing some of the older guys and just trying to carry on."
Charles said the UW coaching staff put together a good plan during the period between the regular season and the Alamo Bowl, with a good mix of rest, practice and conditioning.
It's allowed him time to recharge his batteries, and he hopes Saturday night, he will reintroduce himself to the Badger fans.
"I've just had a rough year this year, and I didn't have a great chance to improve or try to make a difference," Charles said. "I think it's time to start over, and here I am."
Darrin Charles Looking to Break Through
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