At the start of last season, if someone told you that the Wisconsin Badgers would return their leading receiver and have him only play five games—and get someone to step up and replace that production, only to lose that blossoming second-year wideout after nine games—one would reasonably expect the Badgers to have a down passing season despite production from the tight end position.
However, last season was one of the most impressive outings for Wisconsin receivers in almost a decade despite five catches from Jazz Peavy and the absence of Quintez Cephus for the final five games.
The best part? Quarterback Alex Hornibrook might even have more options to throw to this season.
Wisconsin’s 2018 Wide Receivers
|Chris Clementi||WR||5'11||191||Sr.||Wausau, Wis.|
|Quintez Cephus||WR||6'1||206||Jr.||Macon, Ga.|
|A.J. Taylor||WR||5'11||199||Jr.||Kansas City, Mo.|
|Danny Davis III||WR||6'0||194||So.||Springfield, Ohio|
|Jack Dunn||WR||5'7||173||R-So.||Madison, Wis.|
|Adam Krumholz||WR||6'1||198||R-So.||Stoughton, Wis.|
|Kendric Pryor||WR||5'11||179||R-So.||Hazel Crest, Ill.|
|Sam DeLany||WR||5'10||170||R-Fr.||Delafield, Wis.|
|Cade Green||WR||5'11||186||R-Fr.||Austin, Texas|
|Emmet Perry||WR||6'2||182||R-Fr.||Grand Prairie, Texas|
|Aron Cruickshank||WR||5'9||152||Fr.||Brooklyn, N.Y.|
|Taj Mustapha||WR||6'0||192||Fr.||Southfield, Mich.|
|A.J. Abbott||WR||6'2||187||Fr.||Northville, Mich.|
|Isaac Guerendo||ATH||6'1||195||Fr.||Clayton, Ind.|
|Mike Gregoire||ATH||5'11||176||Fr. (Walk-On)||Green Bay, Wis.|
Despite the injury to Cephus, he still led the Badgers in receiving touchdowns (six) and led receivers in receiving yards (501). The Macon, Ga., product led the nation in terms of QB rating when targeted in those nine games, and despite the talent behind him, he is your likely ace of the position.
Quintez Cephus leads ALL returning FBS WRs in passer rating when targeted, not just the B1G WRs pic.twitter.com/zhTKYI0AKr— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 13, 2018
Health willing, as he came back at the end of the spring, the junior can build on what he did last season.
Behind Cephus, the Badgers have A.J. Taylor, the former four-star running back who parlayed an eight-reception game in the Orange Bowl to catch Cephus for the receptions lead (31). Obviously, he had brilliant moments at the end of the season, and if he gets the opportunity—as he showed with a strong spring—he can make something more of 2018.
Wisconsin WR A.J. Taylor averaged 11.18 yards per target from the slot - the 7th-highest average among all returning FBS WRs pic.twitter.com/vYyNMcWzsk— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 6, 2018
Sophomore Danny Davis, who was out this spring, had the unenviable task of stepping into the Cephus role after the Indiana game, yet passed with flying colors. After the win against the Hoosiers, Davis hauled in 18 catches for 238 yards and four touchdowns. It led to one of the greatest true-freshman seasons at receiver for Wisconsin, and even a talent like Taylor might not have enough to keep him as the third wide receiver.
Something will likely have to happen for redshirt sophomore Kendric Pryor to get himself starter’s targets this season, but as last year showed, he can make things happen when he gets the ball in his hands. He touched the ball 18 times (13 catches and five rushes), scoring three touchdowns. After missing the first five games of 2017, it’s definitely a foundation for the sophomore to build on.
Yet, with the injuries to receivers like Adam Krumholz, Cade Green, and Emmet Perry during spring ball, two true freshmen took the opportunity for reps and ran so well that the Badgers might have to see just how many touches they can get. Brooklyn, N.Y., prospect Aron Cruickshank is undersized (5’9, 152 pounds according to the spring roster), but if you give him the ball and he has an inch of space, the ability to take that proverbial mile is absolutely there. As a return man alone, there might be enough to get him on the field. If he catches passes like he did in the spring, the Badgers have five viable pass options.
Taj Mustapha, the three-star prospect from Southfield, Mich., didn’t have all the moments of brilliance that we saw from Cruickshank. He made enough plays and showed run-after-the-catch skills, however, that even if he redshirts, he may be a gatecrasher for the future.
Along with Krumholz, Green, and Perry, there is also redshirt sophomore walk-on Jack Dunn who, like Cruickshank and Mustapha, stepped up with injuries this spring to receive significantly more reps.
Of all the days I miss #Badgers spring practice, is the day Jack Dunn had four TDs. I call this poetic and ironic, because I cannot use my "Well Dunn" pun at least four times to one @ZachHeilprin. https://t.co/E8zN8JVvSO— Jake Kocorowski (@JakeKocoB5Q) March 20, 2018
The Badgers also add two more highly interesting prospects to the position for fall practice. A.J. Abbott is Mustapha’s high school teammate, a state champion in the long jump, and definitely toolsy enough to make an impact.
Isaac Guerendo of Clayton, Ind. (Avon) is a special kind of athlete on the track and went for 54 catches, 1,258 yards, and 16 touchdowns on the field at the top level of Indiana high school football. He announced himself as a running back/wide receiver in a Wisconsin football Instagram story back in late June, but we will see where the coaching staff places him to begin his UW career.
Projected Depth Chart
WR1: Quintez Cephus
WR2/WR3: A.J. Taylor OR Danny Davis
WR4: Kendric Pryor
WR5: Aron Cruickshank
WR6: Adam Krumholtz