If it seems like there have been more sports than ever this March it is because, well, there have been! What’s one more to add to the pile? The Wisconsin Badgers football team starts their spring practice on Tuesday, March 30 and we are going to start previewing each position group. UW will have 15 practices after having zero last year due to COVID-19.
Instead of the traditional position previews we’ve done in the past, these ones are going to be a little more focused on just a couple of players. We will feature one or two players who we think a full spring practice will really help and focus on one position battle that we think will be important.
Up next in our rolling series of spring previews we highlight the wide receiver room.
Players who will benefit from a full spring practice schedule
All of the wide receivers could use the extra work associated with spring practice after missing out on development last spring, however there are a few players in particular have stand to potentially gain the most.
The three players that immediately jump out on the updated roster are the trio of receivers from the 2020 recruiting cycle.
- Chimere Dike made an immediate impact during his freshman year. The 6-foot-1, 194 pound pass catcher demonstrated an ability to make plays in space with the ball in his hand, and was one of the most productive receivers for the Badgers last season. With solid size and tremendous speed, Dike should be one of the top four receivers on the depth chart come fall. This spring should represent a time for him to better understand the route tree, improve as a blocker, and build a stronger rapport with Graham Mertz. After finishing last season as third on the team in receiving yards, his ceiling his extremely high.
- Another player that earned some playing time last season during his freshman campaign, Devin Chandler is a good athlete that has wheels. He retained his redshirt last season, but made the most of the four games he did play in last year culminating with 18 yards receiving and a big 59-yard kickoff return in the bowl game against Wake Forest that completely flipped momentum in favor of the Badgers. A nice spring by Chandler could go a long way in helping him maintain his kickoff return role and also find a niche in the passing game.
- The last of the three 2020 recruits, Isaac Smith did not see playing time last season. Standing 6-foot-2 inches tall and weighing 201 pounds though, he has intriguing size that could differentiate him in the room if he develops this spring. It will be an uphill battle for him to usurp the other two mentioned above and some of the older receivers in the room, but a solid spring could set him up for a larger role in the years to come.
Key position battle
At this point Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor are the likely starters come fall. Both players battling injuries and COVID-19 issues last year, missed out on the second half of the season. With both back and healthy, they should bring a depth of experience that was sorely missed last fall.
Behind them Jack Dunn and Chimere Dike were listed in the two-deep every game last year, and they should lock down two other spots in the rotation assuming they build on last years outputs. Dunn proved to be a reliable slot receiver, and he finished the season second on the team in receptions and yards behind Jake Ferguson.
The fifth spot though is up for grabs this off-season. Adam Krumholz is no longer in the picture, and Taj Mustapha was not listed on the recently released spring roster. AJ Abbott and Devin Chandler would appear to have the best odds to earn playing time, with Abbott having more experience and size that could make him a useful blocker at the very least. Stephan Bracey is another a player to watch in the slot after he missed a chunk of last season. Bracey began last year as the main kickoff returner so he has speed and quickness that set him apart in the room.
With two highly regarded freshmen coming in as part of the 2021 class in Markus Allen and Skyler Bell, this spring will be pivotal for some of the older players in the wide receiver room to secure playing time. Otherwise, the two incoming freshman will be not only hungry to carve out a role, but talented enough to possibly make a move on the depth chart.