UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Badgers have options for production at tight end

FB_110824_Byrne_Jake.jpegExcluding specialists, Brian Wozniak was the only player who showed up twice on the UW depth chart that was released this week. Wozniak was listed as the backup to Jacob Pedersen and Jake Byrne.

"From a knowledge and physical maturity standpoint,'' said UW tight end coach Joe Rudolph, "I expect him to be able to jump in there and help at both positions.''

There's no question that Wozniak knows what to do at tight end and H-back. The only question is whether he can stay healthy. In training camp, he has been dealing with a hamstring injury.

"We're kind of beat down a little bit,'' Rudolph said of his position group overall.

That would apply to redshirt freshman Sherard Cadogan, who was listed as the backup to fullback Bradie Ewing on the depth chart. When healthy, Cadogan will also be utilized at H-back.

"I like his work ethic; he busts his tail and he's very physical,'' Rudolph said the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Cadogan. "He's a guy who can jump in at fullback and be a lead blocker (for the tailbacks).

"At the same time, he can go up on the line of scrimmage and execute. Guys like that are hard to find and they can give defenses some issues with personnel groupings. I like his development.''

Rudolph considered playing Cadogan as a true freshman last season.

"I was right on the brink of playing him when Bradie (Ewing) was banged up,'' Rudolph said. "But we did some things with Ryan Groy (at fullback) to help save him that redshirt season.''

The biggest challenge for Rudolph will be replacing the production of All-America tight end Lance Kendricks, who led the team in receiving in 2010 with 43 receptions (15.4) and five touchdowns.

Kendricks, a second round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams, has already become one of Sam Bradford's favorite targets. Through two preseason games, he leads the Rams with six catches.

Rudolph believes that Pedersen can help fill the receiving void left by Kendricks.

"He kind of brings you a good balance between what he does as a run blocker and pass receiver,'' said. "He's learning to work from the point of attack position on the line of scrimmage.

"Last season, you pretty much of thought of him in passing situations as the second tight end (to Kendricks) and he could complement the run game. This year, he's where Lance was as a junior.''

In 2009, Kendricks caught 29 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns. Most defensive coverages were shaded to tight end Garrett Graham, who ended up with 51 receptions and seven TDs.

Although the Badgers don't have a proven pass-catching tight end -- along the lines of Kendricks, Graham or Travis Beckum -- Rudolph is confident in Pedersen's skills as a receiver.

"He got thrown into the Ohio State game on a play he's never run before and he executed it,'' he said of Pedersen. "When his number was called, he also made two big plays at Michigan State.

"That's something that comes natural to him. He just needs to continue to develop.''

Rudolph has high expectations for Byrne in a dual role as a blocker and receiver.

"He's a physical, physical blocker; he's tremendously strong,'' Rudolph said. "And he's really rounded himself out in the passing game. I think he's really going to help us there this year.

"He's more of a complete tight end than he's given credit for.''

Wozniak, incidently, has switched from jersey No. 49 to No. 85.

Sam Arneson, a freshman tight end, is now wearing No. 49.

"Sam is very mature for a young guy,'' Rudolph said. "He's 250 pounds, physical and strong. He really has good hands, too. It's a matter of getting techniques down and understanding the offense.

"But he's getting there, he's getting there fast.''

Rudolph is just as excited about two other freshmen: Austin Maly and Austin Traylor.

Maly needs no introduction to local high school fans. He starred at Waunakee. Traylor, who's from Columbus, Ohio, has the length and physical bearing of Chris Chambers; only he's bigger.

"The freshmen guys have obviously been thrown into the mix with a few of the injuries that we've had in camp,'' Rudolph said. "But they all compete. And I like their skill level, too.

"Whether we play any of them this year depends on where the other guys are when they come back. But there's great competition there and that's what you always want.''

UW coach Bret Bielema said Tuesday that four true freshmen are expected to contribute: tailback Melvin Gordon, linebacker Derek Landisch, cornerback Darius Hillary and one wide receiver.

That wideout could be either Kenzel Doe, who's listed No. 2 on the depth chart behind Jared Abbrederis; Jordan Fredrick or Fred Willis.