Time to start breaking down the Badgers position-by-position. First up, a look at the receiver corps. Lots of questions after the top guy.
1. Jared Abbrederis
We know what we’re getting from Abbrederis. A reliable outside target who can stretch the field. And he’ll be a weapon on punt returns. A solid #1 for Danny O’Brien to hook up with. Hopefully he can play Nick Toon to O’Brien’s Russell Wilson.
2. Jeff Duckworth
Could be a good second weapon for O’Brien, if he can build on the flashes he showed in 2011. He’s not especially gifted but he appears to be developing into a reliable target.
3. Manasseh Garner
Known more at this point for his special teams toughness than his receiving skills. But the Badgers staff appears to be counting on him to make a big leap.
4. A.J. Jordan
A former four-star recruit who red-shirted in 2011 and now has a chance to burst onto the scene. The opportunity is there with all the uncertainty.
5. Marquis Mason
There’s talent there without doubt, but he’s coming off knee surgery and there are questions about his toughness. At 6-4 he could be a tremendous weapon. But will he come around?
6. Chase Hammond
Another tall target. Not a speedy guy but he has good hands.
7. Isaiah Williams
Unlike Mason and Hammond, he actually has some game experience, though it’s very limited. He’s athletically gifted but obviously far from a polished product.
8. Jordan Fredrick
A converted high school defensive back. Nice size and good hands.
9. Fred Willis, Jr.
Saw only special teams action last year, but was once a three-star recruit, so who knows? Update: Quit the team cause he no longer loves the game.
10. Jake Stengel
Another tall guy but he’s kind of slightly built.
11. Kenzel Doe
Saw limited playing time in 2011. If he makes any impact at all this year it will likely be as a kick returner. Optimistic sorts have him pegged as the next David Gilreath. We’ll have to wait and see on that. As a receiver? I don’t see him getting much action.
12. Reggie Love
An intriguing freshman prospect. He’s big and has considerable athletic tools. Look out for him next year.
13. Alex Erickson
Will he be the next walk-on to make it big at Wisconsin a la Jared Abbrederis? I’m not ready to put any money on that.
14. Derek Hasanoglu
Tall, athletic guy.
15. Lance Baretz
Gritty redshirt freshman who should stand out on special teams.
16. Connor Cummins
Another special teams stand-out.
Abbrederis could be the best receiver in the Big 10 and I expect him to quickly develop chemistry with O’Brien the same way Wilson did with Toon last year. After that? It’s really anybody’s guess. Duckworth has the most experience but he’s not a hugely intriguing athlete. Jordan, Mason, Hammond and Williams seem to have more upside but they’re so raw it’s hard to say with any of them. If one of those guys steps up in a big way, it could become a solid receiver corps. If nobody steps up and Duckworth doesn’t show development? Danny O’Brien isn’t going to have a lot of people to throw to beyond Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen, which will force a return to the old-fashioned ground-and-pound.
Here’s a little vid of wide receivers coach Zach Azzani talking about these guys. He seems to like Jordan Fredrick.