Monday, October 27, 2008

Beckum injured, out for season

Guess Travis Beckum's injury Saturday wasn't just a rolled ankle, it was a fractured fibula. As such, his college career is over.

That's too bad, obviously not the way anyone wanted Becks' time in Madison to end. This season was shaping up to be a massive disappointment for him anyhow, with the hamstring injury, then the gaffes against Michigan and high number of drops. He had seemed destined to go out on a high note.

Beckum's commitment coming out of Oak Creek was a huge deal for us at the time, as many services had him ranked tops among high school linebackers, and we typically didn't land anyone from that talent-rich high school. He never fit in on defense, though, which wasn't that surprising given his frame. After his freshman season, he seemed on the verge of bustdom.

But his switch to tight end was a brilliant move for everyone involved. His breakout 2006 season played as much a role in our unexpected 12-1 record that year as anything. With the departure of Brandon Williams, Jonathan Orr, and Owen Daniels, John Stocco needed a reliable receiving target, and Travis filled the bill far better than anyone could have hoped.

He was a natural receiver, running good routes, displaying excellent hands, and expertly adjusting to passes in the air. Just look at that classic picture above.

Beckum made a wise choice to return to Madison for his senior year. He needed to put on good weight and improve his blocking skills without losing his agility. His play in limited action this season showed he still has work to do on the blocking front. Still, this week's Sporting News projected him as a first round pick (#23 to Atlanta), and provided this injury heals in time for spring workouts, he should be fine.

Where will he end up in the NFL? I'm skeptical that he'll ever be a tight end in the classic sense, but some creative offensive coordinator will find a use for his skills and he'll put together a solid career. He'll get open and catch passes in the NFL.

What does it mean for the current Badgers? Even more balls thrown Garrett Graham's way, for one. Dustin Sherer looked his way a lot against Illinois, and I'd like to think Garrett's up for the challenge.

It also means it's time for Lance Kendricks to grow up even more. He's shown potential and made plenty of mistakes this year while filling in for Beckum, and he's going to get plenty more opportunities to contribute. After one special teams play yesterday Bret Bielema was especially congratulatory toward Lance, I'm guessing it's part of some work to build his psyche.

I'd also say this means the wide receivers have to step up and make more plays, but that's been the case all year and we haven't seen much of it. David Gilreath's play against Illinois was encouraging, though.

Travis Beckum is done as a Badger, five (hopefully six) games too soon. Yet another thing to go wrong in 2008.

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