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Wisconsin spring football preview: Sam Arneson leads young group of tight ends

With Jacob Pedersen, Brian Wozniak and Brock DeCicco graduating, a slew of younger tight ends will get their shot at contributing.

Mike McGinnis

Last season, the combination of Jacob Pedersen, Brian Wozniak and Brock DeCicco hauled in 51 catches and seven touchdowns. Pedersen, the 2012 Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year, became a major target over the middle on seam routes (see: the Iowa game) and was tied with running back James White for second on the team in receptions with 39.

Wozniak, though he caught only six passes, provided a significant red-zone presence with four touchdowns. He was also the main blocking tight end, compared to Pedersen's H-back style.

Spring previews: QBs RBs WRs

Both were crucial in the two-tight end sets heavily utilized by offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.

With the three graduating, senior Sam Arneson will lead a typically-deeper faction of tight ends into spring ball.

Sam Arneson SR 6-4 254 10 76 4 Merill, Wis.
Austin Maly RS JR 6-5 240 0 0 0 Waunakee, Wis.
Eric Steffes RS SO 6-3 252 0 0 0 Mount Calvary, Wis.
Austin Traylor RS JR 6-3 243 0 0 0 Columbus, Ohio
Alex Walker RS SO 6-4 239 0 0 0 Glendale, Wis.
T.J. Watt RS FR 6-5 235 0 0 0 Pewaukee, Wis.
Troy Fumagalli RS FR 6-5 233 0 0 0 Naperville, Ill.
Derek Watt* RS JR 6-2 231 15 185 2 Pewaukee, Wis.

*Per, Watt will be getting reps in the spring at H-back.

Main question: Who's next in line to contribute?

Wisconsin has always boasted depth at tight end. Besides Arneson, who caught six passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns last season, there are seven other players who have an opportunity to make their presences felt in the coming weeks.

Austin Traylor appeared to make some waves last season but playing time was limited due to the plethora of talent, even with the two- and three-tight end sets deployed.

Six of Wisconsin's eight tight ends are in-state products. Also vying for momentum into summer are Waunakee's Austin Maly and Mount Calvary's Eric Steffes, along with both Watts.

With the elder Watt receiving an opportunity at tight end, he along with Arneson should at least provide this group with game-time experience -- 25 career receptions, 62 career games, 15 starts -- between the two.