Yes, there’s still this little thing called the Orange Bowl to be played down in Miami, Fla. and all. But, the 2017 season is in the books and it was arguably one of the greatest seasons in Wisconsin Badgers football history.
A 12-0 regular season and nearly making the College Football Playoff cemented that fact.
But, how did the Badgers become 12-0 and what did each position contribute to the amazing season? It’s time to rewind and unpack the 2017 season…this time with a look at the position that has given UW fans fits over the years, wide receiver.
There were plenty of question marks entering the season about who would step up as a second contributor behind Jazz Peavy. Instead of stepping up behind Peavy, the biggest story of 2017 for this group was that Peavy became an afterthought.
Sophomore Quintez Cephus emerged as the go-to option for quarterback Alex Hornibrook from the start and true freshman Danny Davis showed glimpses of greatness in becoming the go-to deep threat. Cephus’ fellow sophomore, A.J. Taylor, also emerged as a quality option for UW.
What began as a question mark turned in to a strength by the end of the season, even as Cephus went down with a season-ending injury. That’s because Kendric Pryor stepped up late and Davis and Taylor were reliable options.
The three of them combined for 55 receptions, 881 yards and 7 of Wisconsin’s 21 touchdown receptions on the year. Add in Cephus’ 30 catches for 501 yards and a team-best 6 touchdowns in just nine games and you see a wide receiver group that burst on to the scene in a major way.
Seeing Jazz Peavy and George Rushing, two of the expected starters heading in to the season, go from the top of the depth chart to not even with the team by season’s end has to be the answer here.
It was good that others stepped up to the plate, but troubling to see how off-field issues led to Peavy’s demise on the field and how Rushing’s injury issues in fall camp kept him away from the team and ultimately to his transfer for his final season. Having those veteran options to throw to could’ve been a major help.
We wish both Rushing and Peavy well in dealing with whatever it is they are dealing with off the field. It was just a sad development in an otherwise great season of development for the group.
It is hard to find fault with this group at all. Even when things looked bleak with Cephus going down in early November, the rest of the wide receivers group stepped up to the plate in a major way.
Developing Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor in to legit weapons alongside sophomores like Cephus and A.J. Taylor gives the Badgers the depth and diversity of targets they haven’t had since the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. The overall numbers in the pass game improved over last season, and it was in large part due to a reliable group of receivers.
While the raw numbers look good, one could easily wonder what they could’ve been with a quarterback who didn’t consistently underthrow deep routes, throw behind receivers on crossing routes and the like. But, as for their specific job, this was one of the better group performances in a while for the Badgers.
Outlook for 2018
This group has the potential to be one of the deepest and most diverse receiving groups the Badgers have had in years. The only names gone are Peavy and Rushing, and they had little effect on the 2017 season as it was.
Instead, we’ll see Cephus return from injury and Taylor grow in to a junior as well. They will lead a still young group of receivers, but a group that has way more experience than anyone thought they would.
Can Danny Davis continue his quick progression towards the top of the Badgers wide receiver group? What about the reliability that Kendric Pryor showed?
Plus the Badgers are continuing to add to the depth with a good-looking group of receivers in the 2018 class. Overall, this group looks primed for a big season…if they can get some help from the quarterback group that is.