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August 6, 2010

Fall camp preview: Tight ends

Over the past five or ten seasons of Wisconsin football, the tight end position has developed into one of the positions of strength. Be it Owen Daniels, Jason Pociask, Andy Crooks, Travis Beckum or Garrett Graham, it seems there is never a let down from one year to the next at the position.

Now, with camp set to open Monday afternoon, Lance Kendricks has an opportunity to further the tight end legacy by establishing his own respective lore.

WHAT WE KNOW: Kendricks has proven he's capable

If you have any questions in regards to Kendricks on field ability, you don't have to look any further than his performance in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl. In that game, Kendricks not only caught more balls than anybody else, he was absolutely dominant in doing so.

The Hurricanes, a team that most favored to beat the Badgers, couldn't find an answer for the speedy Milwaukee native. He blocked off the line and caught passes in the seam throughout the entirety of UW's 20-14 victory.

At times, on a field loaded with talented athletes, Kendricks seemed to outshine the rest.

Anybody following Badger football knows about Kendricks and they know about his ability to stretch the field as another Badger H-back. He is faster than the prototypical tight end and he is stronger than many give him credit for in the trenches.

When offensive coordinator Paul Chryst called his number on that very successful end around against Purdue, Kendricks turned on the burners to the tune of 91 yards on only four carries.

He possesses some of the best hands on the team and will surely be a threat everywhere on the field for the Badgers this season. The only question surrounding Kendricks is who will step up to assist him as camp wears on?

BIGGEST QUESTION ENTERING CAMP: Will there be a solid No. 2 tight end option?

With both Graham and Mickey Turner exhausting their eligibility following productive senior seasons, only Kendricks returns with a multitude of experience.

That leaves players such as Jake Byrne, Brian Wozniak, Jacob Pederson, Rob Korslin, Zach Davison and newcomers Manasseh Garner and Sherard Cadogan left to position themselves for a spot in the tight end rotation.

During spring camp Byrne, Wozniak, Pedersen and Korslin each made strides, but each proved they were also young with mistakes that simply can't be made by players itching for legitimate game action.

So when fall camp ensues all seven players will need to showcase their growth and unique skill packages in an attempt to not only impress their position coach Joe Rudolph, but also Chryst and head coach Bret Bielema. At this point, it seems the most consistent player throughout August will see the most snaps come September.

FRESH FALL CAMP FACES: Sherard Cadogan, Manasseh Garner, Ben Landry

Cadogan enters the program as one of the more lauded recruits in the previous class. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 233 pounds, he possesses the size to become an influential prospect at his position. If he enters the grind of fall camp and maintains a level of improvement or consistency, it wouldn't be far fetched to see him get some reps as a true freshman. But then again, predicting major success from true freshmen is always a slippery slope.

Garner, who has great speed has been mentioned as a potential H-back suitor during his time at UW. He may also be playing some at the wide receiver spot. It will be interesting to see how he pans out during his first fall camp. He is currently listed as a wide receiver, but it wouldn't be over the top shocking if he was moved to an H-back position much like Kendricks was early in his career.

Landry is more of a traditional tight end prospect and will likely utilize his redshirt season. However, at 6-foot-4 and 246 pounds, he could potentially work his way into the special teams rotation.

FALL CAMP PREDICTION:

At this juncture in his career, it seems as though Byrne has the best chance to break into the regular rotation as a traditional tight end. Entering his third season in the program, this will likely be the time Byrne steps up and develops into the player many thought he could be coming out of high school in Arkansas. Though he isn't the burner like Kendricks or some of the other H-back players, he is a big body that is an adequate blocker. And really, out of the traditional tight end spot, that's what the Badgers need.

I'm curious to see how Cadogan and Garner perform in camp. Both are highly touted coming out of their prep careers, and both have supremely gifted talents as pass catchers. It wouldn't be all that surprising to see one or both of the players forgo the redshirt option in favor of trying to play as true freshmen.

Stay tuned to BadgerBlitz.com throughout the weekend and we continue to preview the positions entering Monday's fall camp opener.


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