To continue our summer of football preview content at Bucky’s 5th Quarter, we are counting down Wisconsin’s Top 10 Most Important Players for the 2019 football season. These aren’t necessarily the “best” players on Wisconsin’s team, although you will find many of those listed, but they have been deemed the most important to Wisconsin’s success this year by our motley crew of writers.
There was much debate via email over who should be on the list and it even resulted in Drew going to Owen’s house and ding dong ditching him. Cooler heads [author’s note: Bob’s head] eventually prevailed and now we have our final list to present to you.
Here is No. 6 on that list: tight end Jake Ferguson
2018 stats: 13 games played (2 starts), 36 receptions, 456 yards, 4 touchdowns.
2018 year in review: Ferguson is the second Badger on our list coming off of a strong freshman season. After redshirting in 2017, Ferguson was one of the bright spots in Wisconsin’s passing attack in 2018. While it isn’t surprising that Ferguson performed at a high level, a year ago today nobody would have predicted Ferguson would be second on the the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
In that regard, Ferguson’s best in 2018 contrasted with Wisconsin’s worst. For example, his strongest individual game was (arguably) a five catch effort for 46 yards and a TD against Minnesota. Yes, that game.
Wisconsin has had a lot of excellent tight ends don the cardinal and white. However, not many have had the freshman season that Ferguson had. Owen Daniels + Travis Beckum + Lance Kendricks combined freshmen seasons didn’t put up 1⁄4 the numbers Ferguson did.
2019 year in preview: Ferguson is going to catch the ball a lot this year. My biggest question is if Ferguson’s blocking will be strong enough to earn him more snaps. If he can demonstrate effective run blocking, that could help punish defenses that stack the box. Alumnus Zander Neuville was the primary run blocker before his injury, and Luke Benzschawel became the top blocking TE thereafter. Ferguson doesn’t have to block at Neuville’s or Benzschawel’s level; I’m just looking for him to close the gap.