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Wisconsin Badgers news, 9/18: Robert Wheelwright continuing to work through mistakes

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Here on this site, both in articles and the comment section, the most frequently referenced Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver is probably still Jared Abbrederis. He graduated and is now a NFL player, in case you, uhh, forgot.

Next up? I might say Robert Wheelwright, the sophomore from Columbus, Ohio. Wheelwright came to Madison as a four-star recruit (by Scout) and played immediately as a freshman, two qualities that make a young player -- particularly a receiver -- instant hype material for Badgers fans. He appeared in 12 games last season, but caught just two passes for 9 yards. This season, he played only in the opener vs. Western Illinois and failed to record a statistic. He did, though, make the following imprint on the game (from Madison.com):

The sophomore wide receiver for the University of Wisconsin football team still hasn't come up with a good answer to the question of why he stopped running his route on a play early in the Badgers' 37-3 win against Western Illinois on Sept. 6.

By doing so, Wheelwright didn't even compete for a deep pass thrown by UW junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy. The result was an easy interception for Leathernecks safety Dallas Nichols, McEvoy's third of the season.

"Great pass," Wheelwright said. "I've got to be able to be there to protect the quarterback."

That's just one play, of course. But it highlights a hugely important dynamic within this year's Wisconsin offense: with Abbrederis gone and only Alex Erickson emerging as a viable go-to target, the Badgers won't mess around with mental mistakes and such. The unit surely lacks experience, but it is deep in talent -- case in point are the three freshman receivers that are earning playing time this early.

So this one play, which caused Wheelwright an earful from wide receivers coach Chris Beatty on the sideline, could be emblematic of a no-bull approach by the offensive coaching staff. Or it could just be one play -- remember, Wheelwright struggled with a hamstring injury for much of camp and missed the LSU game -- and Wheelwright is still in position to contribute. He just needs to live up to the basic responsibilities expected from him by Beatty and the staff. Head coach Gary Andersen said this week that Wheelwright "is growing, and it's a maturing process on and off the field. I see signs of improvement, and we are all excited to see those reflected in the practices and on game day."

Links

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has another story on Wheelwright, for those interested. Also from the JS: Wisconsin's defensive backs are "expecting a workout" vs. Bowling Green; the Recruiting Radar tells us how UW's 2015 commits are faring in their senior seasons.

This cracked me up: In a Fox Sports Wisconsin story on Erickson's emergence, Beatty was pretty blunt when discussing where the former walk-on started at UW:

"I had no idea how bad he was before I got here," Beatty said. "But Luke [Swan] told me how bad he was. The first spring we got here, he was a non-factor. But you could tell everyday he was getting better. And by the time we got to the spring game, I said, 'Hey, this guy's got a shot.' The same thing continued throughout fall practice. So now it's one of those deals where it's just, he's our Mr. Dependable."

Badger247 has a great position-by-position scouting report on Bowling Green. 247Sports also ranked the Big Ten's best games of the weekend.

The lede of this story from BadgerBlitz says it all:

For the first time in what seems like several years the Wisconsin Badgers are thin at running back.

ICYMI

Student basketball season tickets sold out in five minutes!

Andrew has a fantastic in-depth breakdown of the latest football and basketball targets expected to visit Madison in the coming weeks.

Over at Hustle Belt, Andrew does some Q&A to preview Saturday's game between Wisconsin and Bowling Green.