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Wisconsin football: tight end room speaks to the media

Read up on what Mickey Turner, Jake Ferguson, and others had to say about spring practice thus far!

UW Athletics Communications; Kelli Steffes

Spring practice keeps rolling along which means position groups continue to take their turn facing the Wisconsin football media. Last week the corners and tight ends spoke and we’re late on writing up recaps because we are the Badger's number one volleyball blog which takes precedence! Final Four baby!

Anyway, here is a recap on some notable quotes from position coach Mickey Turner, and tight ends Jake Ferguson, Hayden Rucci and Jaylan Franklin.

To start, coach Turner was asked which player, beyond Jake Ferguson, is ready to step up and take on a big role in the 2021 season.

“All of them, Jaylan (Franklin) has been a little nicked up this Spring. He should be full go next week. He’s the one that has taken the least reps of that group... they’re all kind of at different stages. (Jack) Eschenbach has been a guy that has traveling more but has been a role player. Now he has a chance to contribute on offense. I see a great maturity in him. He’s approaching it like a veteran... Hayden and Clay are making that transition from being a young guy to that middle of the road ‘hey I want to be out there making an impact for us.’... it’s been fun to see them just cut it loose. ”

After talking beyond Jake Ferguson, Turner was asked about Jake Ferguson and what his next step needs to be as he gets ready for the next level.

“This is the first time I’ve seen him have the consistency of attitude that he’s had. He’s making plays at practice, he’s doing a lot of things right, he’s being a leader, but every other time I’ve been with him there would be a day or a period where there was a little bit of let off where he had to regroup... he has been an absolute pro from day one with this Spring. As we finish Spring his biggest thing in the summer is getting his body as absolutely strong and flexible and durable as possible. If he’s feeling well, with the attitude he’s got right now, he’s a matchup nightmare.”

To round things out, Turner was asked about the transition of Jaylan Franklin over to tight end. Praises have been sung about what he brings to the tight end room, but we’ve yet to see Franklin in-game at the tight end spot.

“Jaylan just off the tape, it's athleticism. When you add in his length and his suddenness, he’s got the ability to be sudden. He can make DB’s on our teams look silly sometimes with how he changes direction. Add in the 6-foot-6 piece and how he jumps... he’s a guy that’s got great physical traits, I just need to whittle him down to be a tight end. He really balances out our tight end room.”

jake ferguson Jake Kocorowski

After Turner, Jake Ferguson joined to talk to the media. When asked about his pro prospects and his decision to return to UW, Ferguson had this to say.

“I knew I was staying, I would say middle of the year I just didn’t feel like it was my last year yet. I didn’t like 2020. I mean just being 2020 what it was. I didn't feel like I was done yet... I think it was a pretty easy decision for me. Most of the guys on the team knew I was staying, I knew, my family knew. Really, it was an easy decision for me.”

Later on, Ferguson was asked about the difficulties of playing the 2020 season compared to previous ones on campus.

“It's a big jump going from 80,000 fans in the stadium to zero. Just the little things too, being able to interact with your guys outside of the stadium like going to get food with the guys or just go hang out and take a little stress off, you cant do it. That bond that you’re trying to create to go to battle with you can’t do it... it’s hard to get in that rhythm. 2020 sucked, that’s all I can say.”

Kelli Steffes, UW Athletics

After Ferguson, Hayden Rucci also joined the zoom call. First, he was asked about his role and how he expects to break out more than just his blocker role that he was in much of 2020.

“I’m definitely working on it (pass-catching). Still focusing on blocking and really whatever I am needed to do. Still working on routes, but at the same time still working on all aspects of my game.”

Later on, Rucci was asked about what he brings to the room that is unique with his given skillset.

I think from my aspect the focus is more on that blocking. I’m on the heavier side of that room so that definitely helps. Right now, I think that is the biggest aspect of my game.”

Jake Kocorowski

To round things out, Jaylan Franklin joined to discuss his transition to the tight end room from last year to this Spring.

“The transition has been more fun than anything. I think going back to where I’ve really been my best, the offensive side of the ball has really been comforting for me... I think it’s been a good transition, I’m learning, learning quickly, and just trying to see how I can help the team and use my athleticism.”

Franklin continued, adding what he could bring to the team in his role.

“For me, I kinda just always been adept with my speed... I feel like I can bring the same type of energy in the pass game as well as the run game. I’m trying my best to just be me and not compare myself to others in the room because I know my ceiling is going to be different from other guys. Really just trying to use my speed and make plays.”

Overall, this group sounds like it has a variety of players ready to take on a variety of roles. With a strong pass catcher and blocker in Ferguson, a blocker in Rucci, a wild card in Franklin along with others like Jack Eschenbach this group collectively has a chance to be quite something as they progress into 2021.