August 11, 2010

Fall camp will establish second tight end

MADISON - Garrett Graham and Mickey Turner played a huge role in the success of the 2009 Wisconsin offense. Unfortunately entering 2010, though, neither of those two players and talents will be available throughout the season.

At a position of extreme value and utmost importance for the success of this offense, not is all lost however. Senior Lance Kendricks, who torched Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl returns and seems to be poised to break out as one of the nations best at the position.

The problem with the position this season-if you can call it one-is figuring out who the second contributor will be. Following day two of fall camp, posed that very question to tight end coach Joe Rudolph.

The following is a question and answer with Rudolph.

How'd the summer go with these guys? How is Lance looking as well as some of the other veteran guys that are going to be playing?

Rudolph: I'm excited about how they showed up here at camp. It's fun. They've definitely got a nice mindset about them. They're focused and they understand there's a lot of competition at the position so it's fun.

You look at last year and everyone talks about how you're going to replace Garrett. Obviously you would assume Lance will fit into that role. But then who's going to replace Lance and what he was doing last year?

Rudolph: I think kind of the fun of the position is you can have different roles with guys. I think they have the freedom of being themselves, just to be the best them that they can be. That's kind of what we feel to start. If Jake Byrne can be the best he can be and Brian Wozniak can be the best he can be and Jacob Pedersen can be the best he can be and they prove to be trustable and dependable and show every day the toughness it takes to be on the field then we'll be alright.

Has Jake started to impress a little bit? Is he reaching expectations you've had for him?

Rudolph: Yeah, I think all those guys I'm excited about right now. The competition is strong so it's fun.

With some of these younger guys, coach Bret Bielema said Manasseh Garner is going to be playing wide receiver. Is there any talk of moving him to tight end or H-back at all?

Rudolph: I think the idea was that we looked at him out of a little respect of what Lance did. Lance played his first year at wide receiver and then it was best for him to move in and he's had a lot of success at tight end. Now if Manasseh proves to really work out at wide receiver then that's great for us. If he proves that maybe he'd be a better fit at tight end, then it's going to be what's best for the team at that point. He's a young man that can do a lot of things.

Is that something you're looking for this fall camp or is that something you're going to take a year to look at?

Rudolph: Yeah, you wouldn't do that to a freshman. You let him play that position throughout the year and then kind of grow from it as you hit spring ball.

Have you been impressed not just with your guys at the tight end spot, but with the freshman class in general. Have you been impressed with the way they've come into camp?

Rudolph: Yeah, I've been impressed. I think to a big extent our seniors and upper classmen did a great job of educating them and letting them know how we do things and the way we go about doing things. They really gave them a mindset and adopted them into the team pretty quick. I think they've really kind of rallied because of that. I'm excited about them.

Last year it seemed like your guys team chemistry was at a pretty high level. Is that good to see as a coach when you see the upper classmen taking in the freshmen right away?

Rudolph: Yeah if things are going right that's how you want it. Those guys are excited, they realize some of these guys can come in and help us right away. At the very least we're going to need them to be outstanding scout team players. Our guys get that and that is good to see. It's a good sign of a very mature senior class.

One of the other freshmen I forgot to talk about is Sherard Cadogan. How is he looking and what can you expect from him this year?

Rudolph: He's doing a great job. He's learning a couple different positions, he's big and he's physical. He runs well. So he's fine. We're just seeing how fast he can learn it.

Is that the biggest concern with him right now? The playbook?

Rudolph: I think it is with any freshman. You want to see how fast they can grasp it. Can they grasp it and play confident. That takes a little bit. They're out there playing and doing their assignment but they haven't just let it go yet. So they're getting there. But he's a smart kid I'm sure he'll pick it up pretty quick.

Obviously if you're looking over the success of the tight ends with Travis Beckum and Garrett and even before that with Travis and Andy Crooks and some of those guys it seems like the offense is at it's best when two tight ends are doing their thing. Is that accurate and is that what you're trying to do again this year or is that something where you try to rely on Lance and maybe get Nick Toon more involved?

Rudolph: I would say the majority of our third down reps last year were three wide receivers and one tight end. We were pretty balanced between being two tight ends, three tight ends or two tight ends and a fullback, whatever you want to say, during our normal down and distance. I think what the offense does is it allows you to put your best players on the field. So whatever personnel packages treat us best is what you'll feature. You'll probably show a little bit of everything.

That probably gives the guys a little extra incentive when it gets hot later in camp and you start doing two-a-days. That competition level…

Rudolph: No question, that's anywhere. You need competition. I think it drives not only your position group but offensively and defensively, that's fun when you see that and you see guys compete. They're only going to get better from doing that.

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