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Wisconsin football: WR/TE 2019 review, 2020 preview

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How did the pass catchers do in 2019, and what does the future look like?

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Over the next week or so, we here at B5Q are going to run through every position group on the Wisconsin Badgers football team and give you a recap of how they did in the 2019 season. In the same damn post we are also going to give you a preview of what we think 2020 is going to look like! Without further ado, here is your review/preview of the Wisconsin wide receivers and tight ends. Below you’ll find the link to all of our other reviews/previews.

2019 statistical leaders

  • (WR) Quintez Cephus - 59 receptions, 901 yards receiving, seven touchdowns.
  • (TE) Jake Ferguson - 33 receptions, 407 yards receiving, two touchdowns
  • (WR) Kendric Pryor - 23 receptions, 278 yards receiving, 138 yards rushing, one touchdown
  • (WR) A.J. Taylor - 23 receptions, 267 yards receiving, two touchdowns
  • (WR) Danny Davis III - 30 receptions, 250 yards receiving, 110 yards rushing, two touchdowns

2020 returning statistical leaders

  • Top receiver Quintez Cephus declared for the NFL Draft, while A.J. Taylor graduated, and reserve slot receiver Aron Cruickshank decided to enter the transfer portal.
  • Top tight end Jake Ferguson, and receivers Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis all return.
  • Key blocking threats Jack Dunn and Adam Krumholz also return. The two reserve wide-outs combined for 61 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions.

2019 receiving overview

The reemergence of Quintez Cephus was significant for the Wisconsin offense. After leading the team in receiving through nine games as a sophomore, he kicked off the team and out of the university due to off the field issues. He returned to practice the week prior to the opener against South Florida this year after being reinstated and found not guilty of sexual assault, and went on to have one of the more impressive receiving seasons in program history. He led the team in most statistical categories for a receiver, and was a huge spark for the passing game.

@B5QPhotos; Matt Fleming

While Cephus flourished in 2019, the rest of the pass catching threats were often forced to take a back seat.

In 2018, A.J. Taylor led the team with over 500 receiving yards with Cephus out of the lineup. In 2019, the senior saw his receiving output nearly cut in half partly due to the increased attention towards Cephus and an Achilles injury late in the season. Similarly, Danny Davis saw a pretty substantial drop in his production. While he was third on the team in receptions with 30, he was not the nearly the downfield threat that he has been in the past.

As a freshman two years ago Davis averaged over 16 yards per reception, and represented a strong deep threat for the offense. In 2019 though his yards per reception took a precipitous fall as he averaged a mere eight yards per catch.

The rest of the receiving room things were fairly similar to 2018. In back-to-back years, tight end Jake Ferguson was second on the team in terms of yards. He saw a slight decrease in yards and touchdowns, but overall had a nice season considering he was battling a thumb injury during the first few games.

Kendric Pryor has been the model of consistency in his first two seasons of game action. In the past two season he has reeled in just over 270 yards and over 100 yards on the ground each year. While Pryor had a statistically similar season to the year previous, he seemed to play much better in the passing game, as he averaged an extra three yards per reception in 2019.

Behind Jake Ferguson, Cormac Sampson saw the lions share of in-line blocking opportunities. Originally recruited as a tight end he switched to the offensive line last off-season. Thanks to an injury to Luke Benzschawel, and youthfulness behind him, Sampson returned to tight end where he did an admirable job as a blocking threat. Sampson was not targeted in the passing game during the season however.

2020 receiving preview

Let’s start at tight end. Jake Ferguson is still in the fold, and the rising junior should be primed for a nice season. Without Cephus and Taylor, a greater load will likely be rested upon his shoulders in the passing game. Great in the intermediate range, Ferguson is a mismatch for most linebackers and safeties in the Big Ten thanks to his quickness, athleticism, and larger frame.

Behind Ferguson, Wisconsin will return all of their tight ends who were on the roster at the end of the season.

Mickey Turner and Joe Rudolph are still unsure of Cormac Sampson’s long-term position for next year after playing tight end in 2019. A player that the staff is high on, it would not be shocking to see him stay at tight end in 2020, or return to the offensive line.

Luke Benzschawel should be ready to return to action after missing all of 2019 thanks to a knee injury sustained in fall camp. A big bodied in-line option, Sampson’s position in 2020 might be dependent on the availability of Benzschawel, who is a solid run blocker. Gabe Lloyd also missed the year due to injury. The rising senior walk-on could be called upon in a greater capacity if needed.

There are a host of youthful options behind Ferguson as well. Walk-on Jack Eschenbach is a good pass catcher given his length and quickness, but he still needs to add weight and strength for the position. Freshmen Hayden Rucci and Clay Cundiff both redshirted last season, and could work their way into more opportunities in 2020 as well after a year of development.

Incoming freshmen Cam Large and Cole Dakovich are both athletic specimens that should elevate the talent level of the group as well. Large was one of the most sought after tight ends in the country, while Dakovich is a former basketball standout that is new to the position but possesses big-time potential.

In the receiving corps, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor are the two most established returners.

Davis will be entering his senior season, and will likely be called upon to take over as the number one outside receiving threat. At 6-foot, Davis is blessed with good hands and tremendous leaping ability. For the Wisconsin passing game to be good next season it will be imperative for Davis to return to the deep threat that he was as freshman.

Pryor is the most dynamic receiver on the roster given his combination of speed and explosiveness. In fall camp, Faion Hicks specifically called out Pryor as the toughest receiver to match up with given his skill set. Pryor should continue to be utilized in the rushing attack with jet sweeps and end-arounds, but I anticipate a larger role as a receiving threat in 2020. With both Cephus and Taylor gone, the duo of Davis and Pryor will need to step up their game to pick up the slack.

Behind the two aforementioned returning contributors, Jack Dunn and Adam Krumholz may see an expanded role as well. Both walk-ons, they have flashed at times during practice, but are sparingly used in game situations outside of decoys or blockers.

The two primary players to keep an eye on during spring practice and during fall camp will be A.J. Abbott and Taj Mustapha. Former high-school teammates, both players bring a unique skill set to the team. Abbott is a bigger receiver at 6-foot-2 and nearly 200 pounds that can stretch the field. Mustapha is more similar to Danny Davis in terms of size and jump ball ability. The rising redshirt sophomores are primed to see more playing time, but they will need to become more reliable. In fall camp wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore praised them both for their ability, but acknowledged that he was looking for them to step up and be more consistent.

Redshirt freshmen Stephan Bracey, Cooper Nelson, and Cam Phillips will all be worth monitoring after a year to get acclimated in the program as well.

Other reserves Emmett Perry and Cade Green have yet to really establish their footing on the team due to injuries, while incoming freshman Isaac Smith and Devin Chandler are probably redshirt candidates. (I love Devin Chandler’s senior film though).

Name to watch for 2020

The key player to keep an eye on is true freshman Chimere Dike. The prep standout is enrolling early at Wisconsin, and will get every opportunity to impress in spring camp. The do-it-all athlete played four sports in high school, and was always the best player on the field as a senior. He earned All-State honors for both receiver and defensive back, and also played running back at times for his high school team. He is coming in as an athlete, but projects best to wide receiver. With the opportunity to focus in on one sport, and one position, he could really pop and put himself in a spot for playing time in 2020.

2020 spring depth chart projection (2020 eligibility)

  • WR1 - Danny Davis (senior); Adam Krumholz or Taj Mustapha (redshirt sophomore)
  • WR2 - Kendric Pryor (redshirt junior); Jack Dunn (senior) or A.J. Abbott (redshirt sophomore)
  • TE - Jake Ferguson (redshirt junior); Jack Eschenbach (redshirt sophomore)
  • In-line TE - Luke Benzschawel (redshirt senior) or Cormac Sampson (redshirt sophomore)