Wisconsin Football’s top two receivers, Danny Davis and Quintez Cephus, have been implicated in a sexual assault investigation that has resulted in a two-game suspension for Davis and indefinite leave of absence from Cephus while the trial is underway.
It’s important to view this first through the lens of an alleged crime. One that, if the accused are charged, demonstrates an evil with respect to the perpetrators that transcends football and beckons a larger discussion of the behavior of our athletes that we so often dismiss thanks to their abilities.
While keeping that in mind and respecting their right to be innocent until proven guilty, as well as the victim’s right to be heard, there is the discussion of the Badger’s options left at receiver.
Last year’s combination of Davis and Cephus accounted for 56 receptions, 919 yards and 11 touchdowns which Wisconsin will be forced to replace on the fly this season.
In the wake of the allegations, A.J. Taylor has now become the de facto number one option for quarterback Alex Hornibrook.
Last season, Taylor played in every game and started in three, ending the season with 31 receptions for 475 yards and five touchdowns. Taylor had his best performance of the year in the Orange Bowl when he notched career highs with eight receptions and 105 yards with one touchdown.
Coming out of the gate during this season’s opener at Camp Randall, Taylor was targeted by Hornibrook on nine occasions, resulting in an 85-yard night for the junior.
Taylor is arguably the most versatile threat left for the Badgers. A deep threat, Taylor can also go to work on crossing routes over the middle and be relied on to make plays in traffic.
Redshirt sophomore Kendric Pryor is a viable second option for the Badgers moving forward.
Last season, he played 10 games and started in three of them, caught 13 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown.
Friday showed the Badger’s confidence in Pryor. He caught four passes for 51 yards and one stunning touchdown on a sneaky-good find by Hornibrook for an acrobatic-toe-the-line catch in the back of the end zone as time winded down in the first half.
Pryor also put his speed to work in the run game, as he had a single rush that went for a 19-yard gain.
Freshman tight end Jake Ferguson is looking to keep up the slack left behind by last year’s departure Troy Fumagalli.
Ferguson caught four balls for 43 yards and was an important target for Hornibrook Friday night.
After the game, Hornibrook mentioned they were looking for him on third down, that he did a great job of “winning his match-up on every play” and that he knew he could rely on him being open when he needed him.
Behind those top three options, the Badgers will be looking for sophomores Jack Dunn and Adam Krumholz to step up. Both receivers had a single reception Friday night on a single target by Hornibrook.
The lack of depth came even more into focus on Friday night when Pryor went to the locker room with cramps and the Badgers had to scramble to replace his output.
The most important thing for the Badgers receiving corps may be to simply stay healthy, as there are not many reinforcements left.