Tight end has ‘wide’ range of skills

first_imgBEN CLASSON/Herald photoWisconsin tight end Travis Beckum needed to make a statement in Saturday’s game against Michigan State.Ten receptions, 132 yards and one touchdown later, that statement was made.Beckum’s numbers in the team’s 37-34 win over MSU were career bests and drew praise from his fellow teammates.”[He’s] obviously a competitor,” wide receiver Luke Swan said. “He came out, made a bunch of plays. We knew it was just a matter of time before that started to happen for him.”With receivers Kyle Jefferson and Paul Hubbard lost to injuries and receiver Marcus Randle-El ejected for fighting, Beckum stepped up to fill the void. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said Beckum has always been one of quarterback Tyler Donovan’s main targets, but he elevated his game to the next level with a depleted receiving core, including lining up some plays at wide receiver. “We needed some guys to step up, make some plays, and obviously we need to get him going, and I thought he responded,” Chryst said. “He’s always been one of those [primary receivers], so it’s not like he had to change his role. He just had to get going on it.””I’ve always kind of looked for myself to have [the offense] on my back,” Beckum said. “I think Coach Chryst expects that out of me, and I expect that out of myself, especially in clutch situations.”A look at Swan’s numbers from the team’s game against the Spartans is a telling sign of Beckum’s increased contribution to the Badger offense. Swan, the team’s second leading receiver, had just one catch on the day. Still, the offense was still able to move the ball through the air as Donovan found Beckum 10 times.”Obviously we’re going to take what they give us,” Swan said. “They were giving Tyler looks to Travis. Sometimes that’s the way it works. Different defenses have different holes, and Travis just happened to be in those holes.”What has made Beckum’s success on offense even more notable, perhaps, is that he originally played on the other side of the ball.At Oak Creek High School, besides playing tight end, Beckum excelled as a linebacker and was recruited by the Badgers to play defense. As a freshman, he saw time on special teams and as a reserve on defense, registering two tackles.Last season as a sophomore, Beckum switched to offense and broke out as the team’s leading receiver, grabbing 61 receptions for 903 yards and five touchdowns. His success at the position has continued into this year, as Beckum again leads the team in receptions. At tight end, Chryst explained, there are other nuances of the position that take time to adapt to when transitioning from defense.”The more you get to know about the position and the things that you have to do, those are the things that you continually work on,” Chryst said. “There’s a lot to that position that makes it a neat spot, but there’s a lot of work and a lot of little things.”Swan has noticed improvement in many aspects of Beckum’s game since making the move from defense to offense.”On a daily basis, you can see huge improvements from the day he started,” Swan said. “Just getting a better feel for the position and a better feel for going and catching the ball. He hadn’t done a lot of that before, but he was very natural at it. … He has a real knack for getting open.”Head coach Bret Bielema said last week that he wanted Beckum to become more of a complete player, which involves more than just catching passes. Blocking is essential in the role of a tight end as well, something Chryst and the coaching staff have been working with Beckum on. “You want every guy to be the best they can be,” Chryst said. “Wherever your position is, you want to be able to be as proficient as possible. Tight end involves running routes and catching the ball, but it also involves blocking. You’ve got to make sure everything is getting better.” “He’s a guy that obviously hasn’t played the tight end position that much,” Swan said. “[Blocking] is still an element of his game that he needs to work on. I think he’s really improved since day one.”As the team’s leading receiver, Beckum has been thrust into a leadership role. During practice, he lets his actions speak louder than his words.”I’m not so much of a vocal person,” Beckum said. “I let my pads do a lot of the talking. When you go out there and make plays, I think people see that.”With 30 catches and three touchdowns so far this year behind the team’s 5-0 record, Beckum’s play has once again garnered national attention. Before the start of the season, he was nominated for several awards and was on many watch lists among the nation’s top tight ends. For Beckum, though, none of that matters as long as the team keeps going about its winning ways.”I honestly want the national championships before any of that,” Beckum said. “I just have to go out there and make plays for the team and hopefully help us carry on along the season.”last_img

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