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Wisconsin’s wide receivers return experience heading into spring practices

B5Q previews the wide outs going into spring ball

Jake Kocorowski

The Wisconsin Badgers wide receivers will only be better than they were last season, and position coach Ted Gilmore appears to be returning all of the group he worked with in 2018. In addition to returning key contributors in rising senior A.J. Taylor, junior Danny Davis, and redshirt junior Kendric Pryor, several second-year players will also have an opportunity to earn reps to contribute after a year of experience under their belts.

For our purposes, we will assume that Quintez Cephus will not return for 2019. His sexual assault trial was moved back to July 29 after more evidence was submitted.

Presumed 2019 spring roster for Wisconsin’s wide receivers

  • A.J. Taylor, senior (40 career games, 10 starts); 66 receptions, 1,049 receiving yards, eight touchdowns; 10 carries, 45 rushing yards; 14 kick returns, 329 return yards.
  • Danny Davis, junior (23 career games, nine starts); 66 receptions, 836 receiving yards; 10 touchdowns; seven carries, 65 rushing yards.
  • Kendric Pryor, redshirt junior (23 career games, nine starts); 36 receptions, 452 receiving yards, four receiving touchdowns; 17 carries, 179 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns.
  • Jack Dunn; redshirt junior (21 games) one reception, 20 yards; 17 punt returns, 94 return yards (walk-on).
  • Adam Krumholz, redshirt junior (17 games): one reception, five receiving yards (walk-on).
  • Aron Cruickshank, sophomore (13 games); one reception, 11 receiving yards; six carries, 51 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown; 26 kick returns, 533 return yards.
  • Taj Mustapha, redshirt freshman (four games); one reception, three receiving yards, one touchdown catch.
  • Isaac Guerendo, redshirt freshman (four games).
  • Brady Schipper, redshirt freshman (two games); walk-on.
  • Cade Green, redshirt sophomore (one game).
  • Emmet Perry, redshirt sophomore; did not play in 2018.
  • A.J. Abbott, redshirt freshman; did not play in 2018.
  • Mike Gregoire, redshirt freshman (walk-on); did not play in 2018.
  • Cam Phillips, mid-year enrollee true freshman (walk-on).

Note: all stats above are career stats; previous previews have stated just 2018 stats

Who to watch

Since Taylor, Davis, and Pryor are pretty solid No. 1-3, the question is who will be the second slot player and who will get reps during particular rushing situations.

The first player to watch is Cruickshank. He played the most of first-year wide receivers last season thanks to his ability to contribute on special teams. He needs to add more weight from his freshman year in 2018, so I am interested to see if he is both stronger and able to use his strength to continue progressing at the various spots within the wide receiver responsibilities.

The next couple to potentially watch are rising redshirt juniors Adam Krumholz and Jack Dunn. Both players caught just one pass last season, but both have been entrusted in the past for blocking. Our own Owen Riese shared this PSA last season:

If both can show some ability to get open and catch the ball this spring, they could add another threat to obvious passing downs and play action.

As for the rest of them, I have no idea. My biggest challenge to them is to see who can join them as a solid pass blocker. If any of them can, they will get a lot more playing time. They may not get a lot of catches, but there might be great opportunities for chunk yardage.

Why fans should pay attention to this position this spring

Apart from what I mentioned above, we know how important it is for the quarterback and the wide receiver position groups to be on the same page. As Jack Coan, Graham Mertz, Danny Vanden Boom, and Chase Wolf are fighting for the top job, it will be most interesting to see which quarterbacks will click with which receivers. In 2018, Coan appeared to slightly favor Davis, and Vanden Boom threw a touchdown pass to Mustapha in mop-up time in a September win against New Mexico.

How Mustapha progresses in his second set of spring practices, like his position mate in Cruickshank in being mid-year enrollees for the 2018 season, will be something to also keep an eye out for. The Michigan native played in four games but still retained a redshirt year. That previous playing time could be a factor in stepping up in 2019.

Where does this position group line up in terms of concern compared to the rest of the 2019 team?

I think this is the only group that is certainly going to be better than last season, where there was considerable preseason hype prior to the 2018 season. If development continues, the weapons for Gilmore, head coach Paul Chryst and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph in the passing game could make more of an impact.

This is football, however, and success is so interdependent. The numbers may or may not be good for this group in 2019, but I think their statistical success is going to be more a reflection of offensive line and quarterback play.

Basically, I have no concerns.