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Wisconsin receivers bringing talent, promise into fall camp

This could be a big year for Jazz Peavy, Quintez Cephus, and co.

Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers’ wide receivers could again make sweet music in 2017.

After a breakout performance by Jazz Peavy last season, big things are expected in both the running and passing game from the Kenosha, Wis., native.

Peavy won’t be alone as a redshirt senior, however, as there are at least three other players at the position who could contribute during the upcoming season.

If the wide receivers continue their progression—especially with a couple of emerging true sophomores and a four-year senior in the mix for reps—it will make the rest of head coach Paul Chryst’s offense much more potent.

“A lot of competitors. They definitely will compete, they come out to compete every practice,” Peavy said about the position group, particularly the younger receivers, in April. “They’re putting in just as much work as I am. I remember thinking back to when I was in their shoes and when I was a freshman, sophomore, what not—I definitely wasn’t doing what they’re doing now—so they’re definitely ahead of the game. I love seeing them put in that extra work and making it happen.”

Wisconsin’s 2017 Wide Receivers

Wide Receiver 2017 Year Height Weight Hometown
Wide Receiver 2017 Year Height Weight Hometown
Jazz Peavy R-SR 6'0 185 Kenosha, Wis.
George Rushing SR 6'1 197 Miramar, Fla.
A.J. Taylor SO 5'11 201 Kansas City, Mo.
Quintez Cephus SO 6'1 201 Macon, Ga.
Kendric Pryor R-FR 5'11 179 Hazel Crest, Ill.
Peter Roy R-JR 6'0 192 Muskego, Wis.
Ricky Finco R-JR 5'8 185 Hartland, Wis.
Henry Houden R-SO 6'4 206 Madison, Wis.
Jack Dunn R-FR 5'7 175 Madison, Wis.
Adam Krumholz R-FR 6'1 191 Stoughton, Wis.
Jack Popp R-FR 6'2 205 Mequon, Wis.
Deron Harrell FR 6'3 176 Denver, Co.
Danny Davis FR 6'3 180 Springfield, Ohio
Cade Green FR 6'0 190 Austin, Tex.
Emmet Perry FR 6'2 175 Grand Prairie, Tex.
Sam DeLany FR 5'11 170 Delafield, Wis.

Peavy combined for 953 yards receiving and rushing (635 and 318, respectively) and became a dual-threat in UW’s offense in 2016. Second on the team in receptions (43), his 71-yard run against Minnesota was also the longest rush by a Badger last year. He averaged 15.1 yards per attempt on Wisconsin’s fly/jet sweep plays, leading Corey Clement to reference it as the “Jazz Sweep” late last season.

This is a big year for Peavy. Off the field, he highlighted back in early April that he was working on taking care of his body and studying the right things during film sessions. On it, he realizes the leadership he needs to take on as one of two seniors in this position group.

“I’ve always been the guy that’s always been looking up to somebody, and it’s just crazy that I’m the guy now,” Peavy said. “I’m the older one. I’m the one that the younger guys come up and ask the answers so, I have to be on my Ps and Qs to know the answers to all the questions.”

Elsewhere, don’t discount the possibility of contributions from George Rushing. In the past, the senior has shown he can run and catch the ball.

Wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore mentioned in April that Rushing “had a good spring” after catching 12 passes in 2016, including two against Western Michigan on third downs in the Cotton Bowl. Now with Robert Wheelwright having exhausted his eligibility, Rushing will have the opportunity to earn more reps in his final year at UW.

Three second-year players will challenge him for snaps, however: true sophomores Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor and redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor. Cephus and Taylor earned playing time in their first seasons in Madison and should make their mark on the offense. Pryor redshirted last season but put together a solid spring working in with the first-team and backups.

“They’re all very naturally gifted,” Peavy said. “They all can make big, big plays. They all have God-given athletic ability, and I feel like that’s something they can easily grow on. They have a lot of things you can’t easily teach some people—they just have it, and for them to be able to grow on it and keep growing on it, I feel like it will put them in a great place.”

From watching spring practices, true sophomore Quintez Cephus feels like the true complement to Peavy’s skill set. The former Division I basketball commit earned early playing time in 2016 and though he only had a handful of rushes and receptions (five rushes for 41 yards, four catches for 94 yards) he flashed in those aspects of the game along with his willingness and strength in blocking.

Cephus’s time in the spring was limited due to the tragic death of his father, but he made the most of his reps—especially with the starters.

“He’s one of the guys that I’ve been working out with a ton, all the time in the offseason,” Hornibrook said of Cephus after the spring game. “He’s a guy that can go up and get it, and he didn’t play too much in this game—obviously there wasn’t too much that he was showcasing—but he’s got some crazy talent. He’s one of the best receivers I’ve ever thrown to here or anywhere. I like throwing to him a lot.”

At 5’11, 194 pounds, Taylor has the physique of a mature college player and playing in 2016 showcased his ability to grasp UW’s offense at an early age. Like Cephus, the number of carries or catches was not huge, but the fact he earned playing time during conference play (11 games total) is a significant achievement.

Built in a similar frame as Peavy, the former prep running back flashed with a couple of big plays (23-yard run at Iowa, 35-yard reception vs. Akron) last season and will have to build off of that momentum.

Pryor stood out during some of the 15 sessions in the spring whether it was running the “Jazz Sweep,” working with what appeared to be the first-team offense, or catching some deep passes. That included a nice sideline reception in the spring game on April 21.

The Illinois native also earned praise from safety D’Cota Dixon. His presence as a fifth option at wide receiver will be crucial if injuries hit Ted Gilmore’s group.

Behind those five, it will bear watching who fights for consideration of playing time during fall camp. Ricky Finco sat out spring practices while redshirt freshman Jack Dunn earned praise from Dixon as well.

There is also Deron Harrell, who enrolled in the spring along with incoming true freshmen Danny Davis, Emmet Perry, and Cade Green. Davis is a four-star standout from Springfield, Ohio who committed to the Badgers on National Signing Day, while Perry comes from DeSoto, Texas, the same hometown and high school as inside linebacker Chris Orr.

“Obviously we were watching a couple other kids at that school, who was getting more attention than him, but yet he was leading the team in receiving at that point,” Gilmore said of Perry on National Signing Day. “So we did our homework, our research, and was comfortable with that. I feel his upside may be as big as anyone, because he’s got to grow into that body. You see a big kid that runs but we got to put some weight on him.”

Perhaps the most intriguing praise Gilmore gave to his incoming freshmen on National Signing Day was to Green, who highlighted the Lake Travis, Texas receiver’s toughness and possible ability to contribute on special teams.

“What stood out as we watched the tape, because we watched Cade one time, we kept coming back to his tape,” Gilmore said. “He fit us. He’s a complete player. Although he plays in a spread system, he is one tough son of a gun. That stood out on the tape, and we just felt it was a fit. So we were very comfortable with that.

“He will bring some long-needed toughness to that room, I don’t question that at all.”