Our series continues looking at a player or a group of players from each Big Ten team who needs a home run type of summer before preseason camp begins. Who needs to hit it out of the park in preparation for the season?
For previous entries, click here.
In the batter's box: Wisconsin
Who needs to step it up: Receivers not named Jared Abbrederis
One of the most memorable moments of my spring trip to Wisconsin came after several dropped passes by Badgers wideouts during a scrimmage. An obviously frustrated Bret Bielema yelled out, "Somebody step up at receiver. You'll play!" While that seemed to light a fire under some of the receivers during the rest of that practice, spring definitely was an up-and-down time for players at the position with leading pass-catcher Abbrederis sitting out drills because of an injured foot. Abbrederis should be full go by August, but he'll need some help to keep defenses honest, because he is not the type of player who can impose his physical will on defensive backs. Wisconsin has some intriguing options in the passing game, including rangy receivers like Marquis Mason and Chase Hammond. Isaiah Williams and 5-foot-8 jitterbug Kenzel Doe bring different things to the table, and Big Ten championship game hero Jeff Duckworth will look to put together a full season of productivity. The wideouts will need to develop more consistency this summer while building chemistry with presumed starting quarterback and recent Madison arrival Danny O'Brien. The Badgers are pretty well set at just about every other position. Can Wisconsin win a lot of games without excellent play from receivers beyond Abbrederis? For sure, because of its outstanding running game. But to win another Big Ten title and chase greatness, the team likely will need those players to have a home run summer.