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2018 Wisconsin TEs/FBs preview: Badgers need to replace significant starters

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These two position groups are always interesting for UW.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

With all the talk of how potent the Wisconsin Badgers’ offense could be during the 2018 season, Paul Chryst’s offense will have to replace two key contributors.

Tight end Troy Fumagalli walked on and worked his way up to becoming one of the great tight ends in recent Wisconsin memory, leading the Badgers in receptions last season on the way to receiving All-American and all-conference honors.

The versatile Austin Ramesh was quite possibly the most underrated member of Wisconsin’s offense. He could block (pancakes vs. Iowa). He could run (fullback dives on third downs). He could catch (#AirRamesh in the Orange Bowl).

There is talent and experience returning at both tight end and fullback, however, as there are several Badgers who have the ability to fill in the voids left by Fumagalli and Ramesh.

Wisconsin’s 2018 Tight Ends

2018 Spring TEs 2018 Eligibility
2018 Spring TEs 2018 Eligibility
Zander Neuville R-SR
Kyle Penniston R-JR
Luke Benzschawel R-SO
Jake Ferguson R-FR
Gabe Lloyd R-SO
Coy Wanner R-FR

Wisconsin’s 2018 Fullbacks

2018 Spring FBs 2018 Eligibility
2018 Spring FBs 2018 Eligibility
Alec Ingold SR
Jake Collinsworth R-FR

Note: Wisconsin released its 2018 spring roster on March 12. Zander Neuville will not participate in spring practices due to his right leg injury. Jake Whalen is not on the spring roster while Jake Collinsworth is now the back-up fullback behind Ingold.

2017 Leaders

Tight End

Fumagalli: 46 receptions, 547 yards, four touchdowns
Zander Neuville: Nine receptions, 81 yards, two touchdowns
Kyle Penniston: Seven receptions, 56 yards, one touchdown

Fullback

Ramesh: 17 carries, 89 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, two touchdowns; six catches, 76 yards
Alec Ingold: 10 carries, 25 yards, three touchdowns; three catches, 37 yards, one touchdown

Who’s Leaving

Tight end

Fumagalli

Fullback

Ramesh

Early Enrollees

None

Key Additions

Tight end

Jaylan Franklin
Cormac Sampson

Fullback

None

Position Overview

Tight end

Replacing Fumagalli will be a tough chore, as he was a reliable target who forced opposing coaching staffs and defenses to prepare for him each week.

Neuville and Penniston both showed what they could bring to the Wisconsin offense at times last season. Neuville worked as more of the in-line tight end who was a key blocker in the Badgers’ rushing attack and also, albeit in a small sample, could make some plays in the passing attack. A right leg injury suffered in the regular-season finale at Minnesota cost him the opportunity to play in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Orange Bowl.

Penniston has shown his pass-catching ability in limited fashion the past two years, but heading into 2018 should have a chance to play more of an integral role.

Luke Benzschawel was injured for a good chunk of last year, but I was impressed with him from what I saw during spring and fall camps. Depending upon Neuville’s spring status with the knee injury, he could receive a significant portion of snaps.

There’s also Jake Ferguson, younger brother of the departing Joe Ferguson and fellow grandson of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez. Redshirting last year, he earned the offensive scout team player of the year award, something former Badgers tight end Lance Kendricks earned in 2007. The former Madison Memorial product could be someone to watch.

“I’ve actually not thrown to him too much just because we’ve been in different rotations, but from what I’ve seen, he’s made some crazy catches,” Alex Hornibrook said of Ferguson in early December. “Just his body control, and I think that’s probably one thing, he’s really athletic when he’s catching the football. Sometimes people will be stiff and things like that, but he looks really fluid.”

Fullback

With Ramesh gone, Ingold is Wisconsin’s lone fullback with game experience—perhaps leading this position group to be one of the “question marks” for the offense.

Though Ramesh was used more often in the offense, Ingold shined with a three-touchdown game against Indiana while Ramesh sat out with a head injury.

This is Ingold’s time now, and barring injury, the former Bay Port standout should continue the production the position has seen in years past from Ramesh, Derek Watt, and Bradie Ewing.

UW’s spring roster has not been released yet, so we will see who else could be a part of this position group. Wisconsin designated Jake Whalen as a fullback last year, but there was a report from BadgerBlitz.com’s Jon McNamara in early December that said Whalen would “not be with the Badgers next spring due to injuries.” John Veldhuis’s preview last week said the same ($).

Not to be speculative, but redshirt freshman Jake Collinsworth’s Twitter bio states he is a fullback instead of an inside linebacker. We will see if that is the case next week.