RAY PFEIFFER/Herald photoA year ago, the starting receiver and tight end positions held a great deal of uncertainty. Then-inexperienced Paul Hubbard and Luke Swan assumed the role, and despite some bumps along the way, really proved that they could hold down the position. At tight end, Travis Beckum found his niche and quickly became quarterback John Stocco’s favorite target. This year, Hubbard and Swan have cemented themselves as the top wideouts for UW. The reward: expanded route trees. “I’ve been very happy with the progression of Luke Swan and Hubbard. I mean, those guys got some season under their belt,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “Obviously Luke, in what he’s able to do as far as running routes and making the right catches and having a big body, [showed] that, as the season progressed, he can catch the football. It’s nice to have that in position.”Beyond them, there’s a logjam of potential, but no real emergence of a reliable talent. It’s still in the developmental stages. The same can be said about tight end, albeit not as drastically. Freshmen Xavier Harris and Isaac Anderson are being given the most reps during spring ball at the receiver position and are the favorites to complement Swan and Hubbard. “That was our goal coming into spring football — to get [Harris and Anderson] more and more reps to try and get them on track faster. We know what we have with Hub and Luke, but those guys in particular, and also Maurice Moore — we want to see what they bring to the table; see what they can bring us in the fall.”However, Anderson in particular has some adjustments to make and some consistency to find before being relied upon to play as a third or fourth option. “They have a long way to go,” Hubbard said. “I feel like they can do things — make the plays, do the right things every time. It’s just they’re still young and sometimes they’re up, sometimes they’re down. And at practice you can’t have that. You have to be more consistent.”Isaac (Anderson) has all the potential in the world. He’s just got to lock in mentally.”Disappointed in his performance last season, Anderson is looking to build up his reputation this spring as a reliable option.”Last season, I felt that I didn’t play to my ability — I didn’t catch enough balls, didn’t compete as well,” Anderson said. “I think I’ve been showing some things this spring, showing them that I can be a lot better. I just think this spring is going to be a big opportunity to show what I can do — what I didn’t do last year.”I just need to relax out there, and spring ball is definitely helping out a lot with that.”Whenever there is confusion about a play among these younger guys, the leader, Hubbard will take them aside and straighten out the player’s concern. “I’ll break it down for them a lot of times because they don’t understand the concepts of the play,” Hubbard said. “Coach Mason has his own style of coaching, he’s old school, and he’s going to drive it into you whether you like it or not, so it’s always good to have a guy like Swan or myself come over there and actually talk to them.”We’re going to take the time they need, so they can get better.”Jarvis Minton has played well, but has some nicks in his game. Moore, along with Richard Kirtley, has been getting a fair chunk of reps. Add to that the three wide receivers coming in as freshmen in the fall, who are looking to contribute right away and beyond the starters. Finding someone else is really a crapshoot.The tight end position is a big question mark behind second-team All-American Travis Beckum. Andy Crooks, a contributing option for offensive coordinator Paul Chryst’s offense last season, is out for the entirety of spring after having surgery, leaving a lot of inexperience at the position. Mickey Turner and injured Sean Lewis are the only other letter winners. All told, the five guys behind Beckum and Crooks on the depth chart have 26 games of experience and zero receptions. Lance Kendricks, a redshirt freshman in the fall, recently moved from wide receiver to tight end, and is similar to Beckum in terms of athletic ability at the position. To date, Turner is getting the most reps. Although he hates to see a teammate like Crooks get hurt, Turner’s enjoying the added workload. The sophomore’s practice regimen consists of ironing out his footwork, blocking and receiving. Of course, if he has any questions, Beckum is there to guide him.”The good thing about Travis is, I mean, he’s so athletic that if I have a question on certain routes — ‘Do I need to cut this way or cut that way?’ — I can watch Travis, because I know he’s going to have it down, because he did all year last year with a lot of success,” Turner said.Practice NotesRunning back Lance Smith returned to practice Tuesday and seemed to suffer no ill effects from a minor ankle tweak that sent him to the sidelines last Saturday. … While the quarterbacks are starting to get more comfortable with where their receivers are in their routes, they are still sometimes forgetting to check down or look at other options. Corner Allen Langford picked up on it and was able to slip under wide receiver Luke Swan and make the interception during a receiver/secondary drill. Additionally, more than usual, receivers had difficulty hanging on to passes; there were at least six drops during the day. … Elijah Hodge has impressed Bielema thus far at the middle linebacker position.
Red Dog advanced to the championship against red-hot Bia Boro.Bia Boro defeating Real Nelson in quarterfinal action, stomped Jackson’s Hole 7-1 in the other semi final.Bia Boro, getting a few key players back for playoffs, scored four times in the first half before coasting to the victory.Saturday, in Men’s Open Old Dogs advanced to the final after edging Nelson Selects 3-2.Old Dogs meet defending playoff champion Hume Innkeepers after the victors advanced to the final by scoring a shootout win over Oso Negro.The Men’s Open Final is slated for Saturday at 4 p.m. at Lakeside Pitch/Sunday, the Ladies Rec Championship will be decided starting at 2:30 p.m. The Men’s Masters Final follows at 4 p.m. The finalists have been determined following Semi Final Weekend in the Adult Outdoor Soccer Leagues.In the Ladies Rec League, surprising Red Dog advanced to the final against Dirty Dozen after scoring an upset shootout victory over Wild Cats Sunday afternoon at the Lakeside Pitch.Red Dog, finishing third in the regular season standings, scored the tying goal late in the contest to force the shootout.Meanwhile, Dirty Dozen had an easy time againsat Selkirk Eyecare winning by a 6-0 score.In Men’s Masters, regular season champion Red Dog held off a valiant charge by defending champ Retallack to advance to the final with a 6-5 victory.