Wisconsin Badgers have an influx of new wide receivers in 2023 after transfers

Sixth in a position-by-position series looking at the 2023 Wisconsin Badgers football team.
MADISON – One of the questions Mike Brown faced shortly after taking over as Wisconsin’s wide receivers coach involved personnel.
What is the minimum number of players you want available each week to execute the game plan?
Brown’s answer: Six.
Based on the team’s 15 spring practices, Brown should have more than six players capable of executing each week in 2023.
“I think we’re in a good spot,” Brown said.
The staff looked at many combinations in the spring but at the end the top three players on the first unit were Chimere Dike, Cincinnati transfer Will Pauling and USC transfer C.J. Williams. The second trio was Skyler Bell, Keontez Lewis and Quincy Burroughs.
Where was Bryson Green, the touted transfer from Oklahoma State? Green, who had 36 catches for 584 yards, an average of 16.2 yards per catch, and five touchdowns last season, was limited to individual drills while recovering from shoulder surgery.
Green is expected to be in the rotation in 2023.
“He does a great job of tracking the ball,” said Brown, who studied video of Green’s days at Oklahoma State. “He plays really, really physical. He is a really, really strong young man. It is a different level of strength and he is very, very aggressive.”
Dike looked like a veteran receiver entering his senior season. He also displayed leadership skills by reaching out to the transfers to help facilitate their assimilation process.
Pauling was limited to nine games last season at Cincinnati because of a knee injury but still finished with 12 catches for 122 yards. He worked out of the slot all spring and made routine and difficult catches look easy.
Williams, an impressive-looking 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds, displayed the ability to make difficult catches. Can he be more consistent in camp and during the season?
“He has made plays down the field,” Brown said. “He has made contested catches. He doesn’t shy away from contact, which is good to see, especially from a young player.
Who stood out after that group of six?
Vinny Anthony’s speed was impressive. Chris Brooks made plays early until he suffered a foot injury that kept him out for the bulk of the spring. Tommy McIntosh, 6-5 and 200, came on late in the spring with several impressive practices.
Bottom line: Brown should have more than enough options to use in 2023.
Here are other players, changes to watch as UW prepares for the season.
Skyler Bell is adjusting to life on the inside
Bell, a redshirt sophomore, played on the outside of the formation in high school and filled that role in his first two seasons at UW.
Bell blossomed last season with 30 catches for 444 yards, 14.8 yards per catch, and five touchdowns. He was moved into the slot by the new staff, saw Pauling move into his spot on the No. 1 unit as spring progressed and acknowledged the transition was taxing.
“For me, that has definitely been the biggest adjustment,” Bell said. “I’ve played outside my whole life. It was different. I don’t get pressed at all in the slot. I’m getting off coverage, a lot of zone. Whereas outside I’m getting man-to-man. It’s just me and the corner and I don’t have to worry about too much help.
“Each day I feel like I’ve taken a step in the right direction getting used to the slot. And if I can get used to the slot I can always go back outside.”
C.J. Williams had to answer one question after transferring. Why Wisconsin?
Williams, a standout wide receiver at powerful Mater Dei High School in California, could have stayed at USC. After catching four passes for 34 yards in his freshman season, Williams likely would have gotten more playing time in 2023.
Yet he chose to look elsewhere and eventually chose Wisconsin.
“I think I found the right spot for me,” he said. “That is what the recruiting process is about…I wanted to find somewhere where they believed in me as much as I believe in myself. …The transfer portal gives guys to, not necessarily go back on a mistake they made, but just find the right spot.”
Williams acknowledged that some people back home wondered why he settled on moving to Madison.
“When I transferred, a lot of people were happy,” he said. “But a lot of California people, even now that I’m here, ask me: 'Why would you come to Wisconsin of all places? You could have transferred to the South. You could have transferred to UCLA. You could have stayed at USC.'
“I explained it to them that it is more the fit for me. It is less so the (location). Wisconsin is an awesome place. The city of Madison is very similar to where I grew up in Orange County. Minus the weather, obviously. No beach. (But) we’ve got a lake.
“At the end of the day it is more the players that I am around, the coaches and then the culture. If I go to the NFL I don’t get to pick where I’m going to play. I could be playing in Buffalo, Texas or California. It doesn’t matter.”
Bell's attitude is clear. Rather than pout, you have to compete
UW’s returning wide receivers saw four new faces brought in via the transfer portal. The coaching staff clearly wanted to build up the depth at the position to help maximize the effectiveness of Phil Longo’s offensive system.
Those moves did not escape the attention of the veterans in the UW locker room, but Bell had the best response when asked if the players viewed the transfers as threats to their spot on the depth chart.
“You’ve got to view it as they’re bringing in guys to take your spot,” he said, “but that makes you better because you’ve got to compete. You don’t want to view it as anything else, because their job is to win games.
“They’re bringing in people to take your spot. It’s your job to not let them do that.”
Quincy Burroughs explains why he left Cincinnati for UW
Quincy Burroughs didn’t play in his freshman season at Cincinnati in 2022. After Luke Fickell took the UW job and eventually hired Brown to coach the wide receivers, Burroughs could have stayed at Cincinnati to work with the new staff.
Why did he put his faith in Brown and Fickell and come to Madison? Because he knew that Brown, who coached Cincinnati’s wide receivers from 2019-22, had prepared several players for the NFL.
Alec Pierce was a second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2022. Tyler Scott and Tre Tucker both were expected to be picked in the 2023 draft, and Scott went in the fourth round to the Chicago Bears and Tucker went in the third round to the Las Vegas Raiders.
“His ability to develop these guys that might not have been your top (recruits),” Burroughs said, “but somehow these guys were second- and third-round picks.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t trust them. They haven’t shown me any reason to doubt them.”
Defensive backs preview: The Badgers look set at safety, but is there enough depth at cornerback?
Linebackers preview: Wisconsin football team will use a team approach in effort to replace linebacker Nick Herbig. Who will step up?
Defensive line preview: Greg Scruggs wants the defensive linemen in attack mode
Offensive line preview: Coaches see a deep, versatile OL
Quarterback preview: Tanner Mordecai leads Wisconsin's quarterback depth chart. What should the Badgers expect from the position?

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