The future is now for the Wisconsin Badgers‘ wide receivers.
Over the past two seasons, first and second-year players contributed significantly to the offense. In 2017, Quintez Cephus, A.J. Taylor, Kendric Pryor, and Danny Davis all emerged as viable targets in the passing game for quarterback Alex Hornibrook, forming a dynamic set of young receivers that is generating unprecedented buzz under the direction of position coach Ted Gilmore.
With much of the offense returning—nine of the 11 regular starters, plus significant contributors—the ceiling is high, and a lot of that has to do with the deep and talented receiving corp.
Wisconsin’s 2018 Wide Receivers
|2018 Spring WRs||2018 Eligibility|
|2018 Spring WRs||2018 Eligibility|
*Note: We have updated the wide receivers list after Wisconsin released its official 2018 spring roster on March 12. Paul Jackson moved to outside linebacker and Deron Harrell transitioned to cornerback, as first reported by the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway. As noted on Tuesday, Quintez Cephus will not participate in spring practices.
Quintez Cephus: 30 receptions, 506 yards, six TDs (consensus All-Big Ten honorable mention
A.J. Taylor: 31 receptions, 475 yards, five TDs
Danny Davis: 26 receptions, 418 yards, five TDs (including three vs. Miami in Orange Bowl
Kendric Pryor: 13 receptions, 179 yards, one receiving TD; two rushing touchdowns
*Like Cruickshank, listed as an athlete on National Signing Day
Bucky’s 5th Podcast, Ep. 8: Jump to 56:50 for our spring wide receivers preview
If you’re a Wisconsin fan, what’s not to be excited about with these wide receivers? Your top four statistical contributors return, and they really are still scratching the surface of their potential.
Cephus earned all-conference honorable mention last season, and before his injury was leading the team in receptions. At the end of the season, he still led the team in yards per reception (16.7) and touchdown catches (six). The leg injury suffered against Indiana cost Cephus the rest of the season, and according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article back in late December, the now-junior’s goal was to “at least” participate in individual work during the spring.
Taylor led the team in catches (eight) and added a touchdown in Wisconsin’s 34–24 victory over Miami in the Capital One Bowl on Dec. 30. He also emerged with big receptions against Michigan (three receptions, 79 yards, and a touchdown).
Then there’s Davis, the big play threat who also helped shred Miami’s pass defense with three touchdown receptions (five catches for 56 yards overall) in that New Year’s Six Bowl win. How he continues to develop after a breakout freshman campaign will be worth a look.
A versatile player, Pryor emerged last spring and appeared to relay that into a solid start to fall camp before a moped injury cost him some time in August as well as a couple of games into the season. Playing in 10 games overall, he showed the ability to help the offense through the air and also on the ground, with rushing touchdowns against Iowa and Michigan.
Behind those four, I’ll be interested in seeing how four redshirt freshmen—Cade Green, Emmet Perry, Deron Harrell, and walk-on Sam DeLany—look this spring. Green made a couple of nice catches during one July practice but both he and Perry were out for a significant portion of fall camp due to injuries.
Harrell enrolled last spring as a grayshirt, while Taylor mentioned DeLany’s name in December as one to watch heading into this season: “He’s quick, he’s shifty, and he’s a little elusive, and I like that about him.”
Speaking of walk-ons, there are also Jack Dunn and Adam Krumholz, both of whom took on larger-than-expected roles last year. Dunn also became the No. 2 punt returner on the depth chart late in the season.
There’s also Paul Jackson and Chris Clementi, who joined the team in the fall.
Early enrollee Taj Mustapha joins the loaded receiving corp to start the season. Where head coach Paul Chryst and his staff place Aron Cruickshank will be interesting to see on March 13, as UW listed him as an athlete.