Fall Camp Preview: Tight End

As the calendar turns to August, the countdown to Wisconsin's 2010 football season has officially begun. Between now and the start of camp on August 9th, Badger Nation will extensively breakdown every position. Today, we examine the tight ends, a position with senior Lance Kendricks showed his dominance during the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl.

MADISON - Finishing his career with 121 receptions, (tied for sixth in school history), 1,492 receiving yards (11th in school history) and 16 touchdowns (fifth in school history), tight end Garrett Graham is the lone starter not returning in 2010. No big deal, especially with the emergence of Lance Kendricks in the Champs Sports Bowl.

UW has been stocked at tight end for most of the decade, and Kendricks proved that cold night in December that he is the next in line. In UW's 20-14 win over Miami, Kendricks finished the bowl win with seven receptions and a game-high 128 yards receiving.

A former wide receiver from Milwaukee King, Kendricks showed fans that he can do a little of both - ranking fourth on the team with 29 catches and 356 yards and torched Purdue on the end around for 91 rushing yards – all of which should make Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst giddy with excitement.

"(The bowl game) definitely made me more confident going into spring ball," said Kendricks, who has worked extensively with Tight End Coach Joe Rudolph on blocking. "I felt like that I made it to fulfill a leadership role. I think that Garrett and Mickey (Turner) left a strong bond between the tight ends. Overall as a whole tight end group, that game will help us more forward."

After Kendricks, the lead blocking tight end role looks to be filled by junior Jake Byrne. Byrne saw the field right away in his freshman season, playing in all 13 games mostly on special teams. He filled the same role in 11 games his sophomore season, but Byrne has got the credentials to be vital to the offense. He's a big body (6-foot-4, 251 pounds), he knows how to block and he's become comfortable with the offense.

"I am feeling pretty confident right now," Byrne said near the end of spring. "I feel that I am a lot better with the offense and know what to do. Not necessarily of knowing what exactly to do, but executing the technique and just getting all the little things that turn out to be a big part of the offense."

After Kendricks and Byrne, a cluster of underclassmen will be battling for playing time. Junior Rob Korslin has only played in eight games on special teams, but progressed nicely in the spring. Sophomore Zach Davison has struggled during his time transitioning to the tight end role and Jacob Pederson continues to learn the offense. One player that might emerge is redshirt freshman Brian Wozniak.

Wozniak was a standout in the spring, catching numerous passes off the arm of Phillips, until sickness and injury knocked him out of action. After put on 30 pounds since entering the program, Wozniak catching abilities have increased and his size has made him formidable in the blocking game.

"He's coming along," Rudolph said. "His learning curve has a lot there. He finished fall camp at 240 and he can easily be a 260-pound tight end. He's got a big frame for it and you would love him to be that 260-pound fifth-year senior if he could."

Joining the program in the fall is a tight end recruit that is hard not to get excited about. Sherard Cadogan, teammate of New Jersey quarterback Joe Brennan, is a big body that can get off the line quickly and has very good hands, which comes from him being a solid tackler and shedding blockers. A lot of schools like at him for linebacker during the process, but he picked Wisconsin based on what he saw from the bowl game. As you can tell, he's a smart man.

The likely scenario

Kendricks will be right up there with junior wide receiver Nick Toon in the pass catching department. Kendricks, like his predecessors Graham and Travis Beckum, could be a high NFL draft pick next spring. Kendricks needs to shore up his blocking, but does everything else right when it comes to running, catching and bullying his way for more yards.

I think Byrne will be a serviceable tight end for UW but with all the weapons it has on offense, the Badgers don't need to go deep into their depth at the position. I am anxious to see how good Jacob Pedersen is, the little known tight end from Menominee, Michigan. UW could easily use him and Korslin on special teams.

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