While the UW offense should be a potent unit next fall, the Badger coaching staff is looking for increased production from its tight ends. An ankle injury to starter Bob Docherty cut off the momentum the 6-6, 265-pound sophomore had gained early in the season. Tony Paciotti and Mark Bell didn't show the type of consistency the Badgers needed, and Rob Tucker, who had been used regularly in the motion game, was thrown off the team after a well-publicized off-the-field incident.
The Badgers might have to make a position change or take a look at incoming talent in fall camp to help shore up the tight ends situation. But in the meantime, new Tight Ends Coach Rob Ianello will arrive from Arizona looking to improve the current corps of players.
PLAYER TO WATCH: BOB DOCHERTY
Unfortunately, the biggest publicity surrounding Docherty in recent months is a report that surfaced in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, suggesting he is in academic jeopardy. Coach Barry Alvarez was infuriated by the report, and all indications are that Docherty will recover and quality to play in the fall.
Now the question is, can Ianello bring out the best in Docherty, a player that has shown flashes of greatness but has lacked the consistency necessary to earn a regular starting job? It took much longer than expected for Docherty to return from his ankle injury last season, which was a disappointment to former tight ends coach Paul Chryst. He was expecting Docherty to do big things in his second season.
ON THE HOTSEAT: TONY PACIOTTI
Paciotti has floated in and out of the lineup over the last couple of seasons. Once again, Paciotti has not shown the type of consistency the Badgers look for in their tight ends. He has been effective at times in a blocking capacity, often playing in double tight end formations, but he has yet to catch a pass in his college career and hasn't shown the hands to be a pass-catching threat.
Paciotti is a well-liked player in the locker room and was very highly recruited out of high school. But entering his junior season, he will need to prove something to Ianello during spring ball in order to factor into the mix next fall.
KEY BATTLE: TONY PACIOTTI VS. MARK BELL
Paciotti isn't the only player Ianello will be keeping a keen eye on. Mark Bell, a 6-4, 254-pounder from Arizona, saw action in 10 games last year and caught a three-yard touchdown pass against Michigan State. He was also used primarily as a blocker, and there will be an ongoing battle between Paciotti and Bell to earn a regular spot in the offensive rotation. If Pacitotti and Bell don't step up their game during the spring, the coaching staff might look to the incoming crop of recruits to help them immediately during fall camp.
PREDICTION: Bob Docherty will return with a lot of motivation and fire this spring, and take a couple of steps forward to lock down the No. 1 tight end spot.
Spring Football Preview: Tight Ends
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