Wisconsin Badgers news, 5/27: Can UW's receivers step up in 2014?

Mike McGinnis

It's right up there with the quarterback battle: can Wisconsin develop more receivers now that Jared Abbrederis has reached the NFL?

Throughout the 2013-14 season, the Wisconsin offense was largely one-dimensional. With running backs James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement tallying 58 percent of the total offensive yards (3,600 of 6,251), there wasn't an urgent need for quarterback Joel Stave and wide receiver Jared Abbrederis to go above and beyond in an effort to supply additional ammunition on the offensive side of the ball.

Sure, the former walk-on played his part in the Badgers' 18th-ranked offense in terms of points per game, registering 1,081 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. The same can be said for tight end Jacob Pedersen, who added 551 yards and three scores in his final season in Madison. Yet both playmakers have since departed, which leaves far too many question marks at the tight end and wide receiver position.

If you watched any of the BCS nowl games in 2014, you may have noticed the immense presence of athletic playmakers lined up on the outside, which made the offensive coordinator's job a lot easier when he wanted to chalk up a calculated risk downfield. In fact, nine of the BCS bowl-bound squads put forth at least four combined completions of 20-plus and 30-plus yards, with the lone exception being Stanford. On the other hand, head coach Gary Andersen's squad registered one. Wisconsin's Capital One Bowl opponent, South Carolina, chalked up six.

There's reason to believe that number for the Badgers will not fluctuate at all next season, with a whole host of raw and unproven talent on the outside. Wide receiver Jordan Frederick has thus far been more of a decoy than a legitimate threat in the passing game, as he is rarely used. Wide receiver Kenzel Doe seems to only make plays on special teams, and he has proven to have inconsistent pass-catching ability from the slot position.

However, I see a lot of potential for the rest of the playmakers on the depth chart. Tight end Sam Arneson is a big body who equally excels in the run game and passing attack. Wide receiver Rob Wheelwright, who saw action primarily on special teams in 2013, has the athleticism to stretch the field. Wide receiver Alex Erickson has the experience to flourish for offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, seeing action in all 13 games last season.

And you can't forget about wide receivers Jazz Peavy and Reggie Love, who have the skill sets to see the field and contribute in one way or another. Plus, the class of 2014 boasts four incoming wideouts, including Natrell Jameson, Krenwick Sanders, Chris Jones and George Rushing.

The biggest glaring hole for Wisconsin should never really be exposed all that much throughout the 2014 slate of games, as the team won't be challenged outside of game No. 1 against LSU. Still, the Badgers might be run off the field against the far-superior Tigers.

It wouldn't be wrong to think UW can't find its way back to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship with Nebraska posing as the most serious threat in the newly-aligned divisions. (Remember: the Badgers get the Cornhuskers at Camp Randall Stadium Nov. 15). Nevertheless, I can bet Andersen won't be content to simply just get to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time as a head coach.

Badger Bits

There are a number of traits a Division I head coach should, or could, exhibit if his team is going to be successful. ESPN.com's Seth Greenberg believes Bo Ryan has a plethora of them (Insider). Ryan is "considered" to be one of the best in terms of flexibility and game planning while he headlines at recruiting, networking and evaluating.

The schedule presents its shortcomings and perks every year, filled with what are deemed as "trap games." Sports Illustrated's Badger of Honor outlines those games for Wisconsin's 2014 schedule.

247 Sports' Evan Flood predicts who will or won't commit to the Badgers ($) for their 2015 recruiting class. Andersen and his staff also extended a scholarship offer to class of 2015 linebacker Chris Orr on Monday. The DeSoto, Texas product has only been offered by North Texas and Nevada.

Wisconsin's men's hockey program has churned out countless NHL stars, spanning from Chris Chelios to Dany Heatley (50 in '06, baby) and everyone in between. Within that list is the New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh, and USA Today Sports' Rick Carpiniello writes that New York's trade acquisition for him was the best in team history. On top of this all, the Badgers stand above the rest of the collegiate hockey programs in terms of points scored by pro alumni this postseason.

Quick Hitters

Bo Ryan and Kelly Sheffield will receive the Madison Sportsman Award for their respective postseason success, courtesy of the Madison Sports Hall of Fame.

Former UW wrestling coach Duane Kleven leads the charge for the 2014 Madison Sports Hall of Fame inductees.

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