September 10, 2008

Kendricks part of deep tight end unit

MADISON, Wis. - Travis who? Two weeks into the 2008 Badger football season, that question is one that has been surfacing in regards to the All-American tight end. Obviously, nobody has forgotten about Travis Beckum or the talent he provides, it serves more as jokingly fodder just for fun.

Looking deeper, what allows members of the media, and Beckum's teammates to poke fun with such an absurd question is the production his back ups have had in his absence. So far, against both Akron and Marshall, Badger tight ends have accounted for 44 percent of completed passes.

In fact, half of the Badger's yardage from receptions can be attributed to the tight end position. Over the first two games, no player, as far as receiving threats are concerned, has stood out more than sophomore Lance Kendricks.

"It's like Coach B (Bret Bielema) always said, next guy in," tight end Garrett Graham, who is leading the team with touchdown receptions, said. "And Lance has definitely exemplified that and done a great job so far."

Against Marshall, Kendricks reeled in three passes for 94 yards, including some key big gainers to get the offense started in what turned out to be a 51-14 pounding of the Thundering Herd.

"(I'm) definitely a lot more confident in what I'm doing," Kendricks, who leads the team with 102 receiving yards, said. "I'm learning the plays a lot better, I know what to do so I can play with more speed."

The 6-foot-4, 227-pound tight end saw himself progress and fast develop during spring practice. With Beckum sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Kendricks filled the void and saw many reps throughout the month long camp.

Within that time, he was visibly seen making plays and a potential impact player for UW in the future. Not many, though, thought the future would be now.

"It (spring practice) definitely helps with confidence a lot," Kendricks said. "Just learning the plays and getting out there. Even playing in the spring game, a little bigger stage, not quite a game, but it definitely helped a lot."

Kendricks, like Beckum, has shown a little flare to his style of play. He's fast, very athletic, and an above average pass catcher and possibly a slight edge in run blocking as well. Perhaps working behind an All-American player at your position molds you into similar form, or maybe it is just Beckum's capabilities as a teacher.

"I think it's funny cause a lot of guys laugh when I say it," Beckum said. "But I say I'm his daddy. So basically he's my son, so I taught him everything."

Once Beckum returns, Kendrick's reps may recede a bit, and maybe he will not get as many opportunities as he has in the first two weeks. However, he has shown the Badger faithful what he is capable of and if the question "Travis who?" arises again, it would most likely have something to do with his play.

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