Young receivers showing mettle in spring practices

first_imgMATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photoA year ago, Wisconsin wide receiver Jarvis Minton was a high school senior. Nowadays, Minton is turning heads during the Badgers’ spring practices.Minton played sparingly this fall after the team’s coaching staff decided not to redshirt the Arlington, Texas, native. And while he failed to catch a pass, Minton took the season to learn from Wisconsin’s bevy of experienced receivers and adjust to the speed of the college game.“I just took it as a learning experience,” Minton said of last season. “I got to watch Darrin Charles play — he did a lot to open up the field, spread it out for everybody, Brandon Williams, Brandon White, all of them doing their little things. And then Jonathan Orr, he’s more like me, more of a speedy guy. So, I noticed the things he’d do so I could relate them to myself. Then I’ve got to find my game, because I can’t be Jonathan Orr. I’ve got to do mine.”Minton entered the spring as a bit of an enigma. The sophomore played on a high school team that ran the ball extensively and did not get the chance to show his skill much during the fall season while playing behind upperclassmen. However, he has earned plenty of practice time thus far in the spring.“I didn’t know how many reps I was going to get coming into spring ball, so when I got out there I was just like, before spring even started, I was like, ‘I’m going to do my thing. I’m going to handle it’,” Minton said. “So, when I went out there, I did what I said I was going to do.”Minton has made quite an impression in that time this spring, flashing his combination of size, speed and hands. The sophomore has shown a penchant for making big plays during team passing drills and low-contact scrimmages.“[Minton has] made a lot of plays,” wide receivers coach Henry Mason said. “He’s still not where he’s supposed to be all the time, but he’s made a ton of plays — probably as many as anyone during spring. So, you’re always looking for playmaking ability, and it’s my job to get him where he’s supposed to be.”Minton is one of a number of inexperienced wide receivers behind the senior trio of Williams, White and Orr. Junior Jeff Holzbauer, who has yet to see extensive playing time in his career, and sophomores Luke Swan and Paul Hubbard have also shown ability this spring. Hubbard has had an up-and-down spring session thus far, but is one of the most physically gifted players on the Wisconsin roster, regardless of position. The 6-foot-2 sophomore is also a talented athlete for the UW track team and won the 2003 Big Ten outdoor long jump title.“The second-line guys, they’re really coming and putting themselves in the position to where they can help us, where they can help us next year,” Mason said. “That’s the biggest thing — the top three guys are the top three guys, but these other guys are getting better and they’re starting to push them and it’s not out of the realm of possibility they could get beat out. So that’s how we feel. It’s nice to create some competition.”The receiving corps received a pair of boosts this past weekend with the returns of Williams and sophomore Marcus Randle-El. Williams practiced for part of Saturday’s session after missing the first part of spring with a stress fracture in one of his shins. The return of the feisty senior provided an emotional lift for the whole group.“Guys follow [Williams] because his enthusiasm is contagious, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Mason said. “I wish we had more guys like him.”Randle-El returned Sunday after serving a suspension for violating the UW Student-Athlete Discipline Policy.Williams, Orr and White combined for 72 receptions a season ago, with Williams leading the way with 42 receptions. The only receiver currently on the UW roster who recorded any catches last season was Randle-El, with just two. Now, the veteran trio finds itself in a more pronounced leadership role amongst a considerable number of youngsters.“Just to take it one play at a time,” Orr said of his advice for the younger players. “Always go full speed. If you happen to mess up or something, you’ve got to come back. So, just telling them to stay focused and just keep learning. Every practice we’re putting in new plays and stuff so you’ve got to stay on top of it.”A year from now, Orr, Williams and White will all be departing, and the Badgers will rely on Minton and the other new blood at the position. Minton, for his part, is preparing for the impending loss now rather than later.“I just look up to all them guys because this is their last year,” Minton said. “Honestly, I’m trying to pick that up. When they leave, we’re going to have to have somebody keep it going. I’m just paying attention to what they do to keep us motivated, keep us going to do our thing and I want to do that next year.”last_img

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