September 17, 2008

Lack of receptions may help UW

MADISON, Wis. - There has never really been a question about UW football philosophy when it comes to game planning. Ever since Barry Alvarez took over as the head guy in the early nineties, the Badgers have been considered a force in the running game.

When you have offensive lines as big as what the cardinal and white typically possess, why not? 'Line your defense up against our offensive line and see who wins the battle in the trenches the majority of the time,' seems to be the mentality.

But the question left unanswered is what about the receiving core? Sure, the Badgers have had their fair share of elite receivers, be it Lee Evans, Chris Chambers, Brandon Williams, among others, but the 2008 version of the position is a little different.

No receiver who sees consistent playing time is an upperclassmen. Sophomores Kyle Jefferson and David Gilreath are the returning leaders from 2007 and their numbers were modest, at best.

"Last year you had a whole bunch of old guys," Jefferson said. "This year, you've got a whole bunch of new, young guys. This group could be the best group that ever came into Wisconsin as a whole."

So far this season, Badger wide outs have caught 17 of Allan Evridge's 36 passes, a little less than half, with tight ends catching the remainder. While those numbers are not too drastic, the Badger running backs have received 142 rushing attempts in the first three games. Understanding the flow of the game and doing what is necessary to win, the discrepancy between running and passing may come back to help UW as they get set for Big Ten play.

"They (opponents) can't see our tendencies," Gilreath said. "We haven't gotten a chance to go up and make plays and everything yet, they don't know. I think going into hopefully Michigan, they'll say, 'We don't have to worry about these guys,' then boom, in the end zone."

In comparison to last year after UW's first three games, the numbers are not really close. The Badger's leading wide receiver at the same point in 2007 was Luke Swan, 17 catches for 297 yards. This year's leading receiver at wide out is Jefferson, 5 catches for 93 yards. Overall, Tyler Donovan had thrown for more than 100 more yards (652) than Evridge (526) has at the same point in the season.

Of course, the Badger rushing attack has been splendid so far and has done what is needed to win games. However, as UW heads into Big Ten play, the passing game will definitely need to be utilized at a higher rate if the Badger's are to be successful.

"I like the energy they've been playing with and doing some good things," offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, in regards to the wide receivers, said. "Unfortunately we didn't get it to them as much as we could have and should have the other night (at Fresno State)."

Still, through the first three games, the Badger faithful have not seen what the wide receivers are capable of doing. They have seen flashes, for instance Kyle Jefferson's 42-yard reception, one of Evridge's lone deep passes of the season against Marshall. But still and all, the top two Badger receiver's have only 11 catches to this point. In 2007, Luke Swan, alone, had 17 through three contests.

"I think it would be more frustrating if we were losing," Gilreath said. "We're winning man, nobody cares. Yeah, I'd rather get the ball-as a receiver you'd rather throw the ball, Texas Tech type offense-but we're winning (and) it doesn't bother me.

"I think later in the season when they're stacking up on the run we'll get the ball. We just got to do what we do and take advantage of the opportunities we do get out there."

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