Lucas at Large: Receiver Doe working to make big impact at key position

FB_110816_Doe_Kenzel.jpegAt 5-foot-8, Kenzel Doe doesn't cast a long shadow. But the UW freshman wide receiver has already made a favorable first impression on Big Ten Network analyst Howard Griffith.

As part of BTN's preseason tour, Griffith was in Madison last week. Along with his studio co-hosts, Gerry DiNardo and Dave Revsine, he watched the Aug. 8 practice at Camp Randall Stadium.

Obviously, he came away impressed with Doe.

At the end of the 30-minute Wisconsin preview show -- which first aired on Aug. 14 -- DiNardo and Griffith each singled out their "Newcomers of the Year'' on the Badgers.

DiNardo named tight end/wingback Sherard Cadogan, a redshirt freshman from New Jersey.

Griffith went with Doe.

Do the math, Griffith implied.

"When you look at the wide receiver position,'' he said, "there's a need for someone to step into that No. 3 position (behind Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis).''

Griffith also noted Doe's potential value as a punt returner.

In addition, Griffith observed, "One of the things that really struck me was the fact that he (Doe) was working with the quarterbacks and talking football before practice.''

That told Griffith that Doe "wants to be special'' and has a "high football IQ.''

Griffith has a pretty good track record on such things. After watching the Badgers practice last August, he tabbed tailback James White as his Newcomer of the Year.

White went on to become the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year after rushing for 1,052 yards. In short, Griffith's ability to judge talent might be a byproduct of his own ability and talent as a runner.

While at the University of Illinois in 1990, Griffith set an NCAA record by accounting for eight touchdowns in a game. He played 11 seasons in the NFL and earned two Super Bowl rings with Denver.

Griffith has not been the only person to notice Doe's energy level.

"I love the way he approaches things,'' said UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. "It's important to him and he comes out and, for the most part, plays with energy.

"He has put himself in a position to where he's going to get a lot of opportunities to prove if he's ready or not. Hopefully, he's a guy who keeps warranting reps.''

As a mid-term high school graduate, Doe was able to enroll for the second semester at Wisconsin and take part in spring practice. That gave him a jump-start on learning the offense.

"I'm very happy that I came here in the spring,'' said the 170-pound Doe, a native of Reidsville, N.C. "But I knew that the practices were going to get a little harder and more intense in fall camp.''

He also knew that he had to get more consistent in catching the football.

"That's a receiver's No. 1 priority: catch the ball first and run second,'' Doe said. "In the spring, I was trying to get used to the pace of the game.

"I really wasn't frustrated (over the drops). I thought, 'Hey, they're throwing the ball at me so obviously they're expecting a lot out of me. I've got to accept that challenge.'

"Right now, I'm playing much faster than I did in the spring. I'm starting to get a feel for the offense and defense. I know the plays and I don't have to think as much. It's just go, go, go.''

Doe went home for three weeks over the summer and worked out with his older brother; a former high school quarterback who played wide receiver at Fayetteville (N.C.) State.

"He tried to make me better every day,'' Doe said, "by encouraging me to run routes and catch extra passes because you never know when your opportunity is going to come.''

Raised as a Tar Heels fan, Doe knew little about his new quarterback, Russell Wilson, from Wilson's time at NC State. "Now I'm just trying to do what I can do to get that chance to be out there on the field with him,'' Doe said.

Toon's injury and Manasseh Garner's hernia surgery during training camp have thinned out the wide receivers, making it difficult to identify who might take over at No. 3 and No. 4 in the rotation.

"Does it affect you? Absolutely,'' Chryst said. "There's a reason why we have camp. There's a tremendous amount that has to be learned and honed. We just have to find a way to make it work.

"There are some things that we're doing that the guys have to make sure we're on the same page. In this instance this fall, we have a quarterback who's trying to learn the receivers, too.''

It's a numbers game -- in more ways than one. In high school, Doe was No. 8. Last spring, he wore No. 81. With the graduation of wide receiver Isaac Anderson, he's now wearing No. 6.

"It's just a number,'' Doe said. "You make the number, the number doesn't make you.''

But there's another number associated with Doe: 103-0.

He hasn't been on a losing team since he was 13.

"I don't have any personal goals,'' he said. "I'll do whatever I have to do to help the team win.''
ON WISCONSIN