If Ted Gilmore is buying the hype, he’s doing a great job of hiding it.
And the wide receivers coach for the University of Wisconsin football team certainly isn’t doing anything to contribute to the accolades being tossed around the position group he oversees.
Gilmore cringed when he heard his top players — a quartet that includes junior Quintez Cephus, junior A.J. Taylor, sophomore Danny Davis and sophomore Kendric Pryor — had come up with a nickname for themselves: the Fatal Four.
“I don’t mind the confidence, but I remind them that along with confidence still comes (humility) — stay humble,” Gilmore said. “They’re getting a lot of attention and they’ve got to manage that. I just remind them that they’re not going to sneak up on anybody and it’s going to be a challenge.”
Cephus and Taylor entered the 2017 season with a combined seven receptions. Davis and Pryor had yet to play a snap. By the time UW had ended a 13-1 campaign with a 34-24 victory over Miami (Fla.) in the Orange Bowl, the group had put together an impressive collective stat line: 100 receptions, 1,573 receiving yards, 17 touchdowns through the air and 19 scores overall.
“We’re excited how we ended last year,” Davis said, “but that’s last year.”
Taylor, whose 31 receptions last season were tops among the receiving corps, has missed time this week with a right leg injury. That’s led to more reps at the “Z” position for Pryor, who has shown off his playmaking skills throughout the first two weeks of camp.
“Put it this way, I don’t worry who’s on the field,” Gilmore said. “I’m confident that he can make the same plays as A.J. And the same with ‘Q’ and Danny. I’m confident that whoever’s in there, we can function and win that situation.”
Gilmore has been impressed by Davis’ ability to learn multiple positions despite being sidelined by an abdominal injury in the spring.
As for Cephus, he appears to be shaking off the rust after recovering from a leg injury that caused him to miss the final five games of his sophomore season.
Cephus said the time off helped him gain an appreciation for the sport and led to him digging deeper to find ways to improve. He spent the offseason watching video clips of NFL standouts such as Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins and Robert Woods, looking for little things he could apply to his game.
“I just want to demolish the man standing across from me,” said Cephus, who had 30 catches for 501 yards and a team-leading six touchdown receptions in 2017. “Not only just winning routes, but perfecting it (and) being able to be where I’m supposed to be on time and not just winning off athleticism.”
One thing Gilmore constantly stresses to his charges — besides the importance of staying humble, of course — is to avoid complacency.
Reserves should be doing everything they can to unseat the starters. Starters should be looking over their shoulder, knowing that somebody is trying to take their job.
Which leads to another reason to be excited about the wide receivers: There’s talent beyond the top four.
In fact, a handful of players are making a push for playing time.
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“They’re fighting,” Gilmore said. “They’re hungry.”
Speedy freshman Aron Cruickshank is still in the process of learning the offense, but his ability has been on display throughout camp.
Sophomore Adam Krumholz, a walk-on from Stoughton, was a standout in practice on Thursday.
Gilmore referred to sophomore Jack Dunn, a former Madison Edgewood standout, as “my crutch” because of Dunn’s ability to play multiple spots.
Redshirt freshman Cade Green, who’s coming off a foot injury, has shown flashes.
So has freshman Taj Mustapha, who, like Cruickshank, was an early enrollee and went through spring practice.
Add it all up, and it’s the deepest group of wide receivers UW has had in years.
Does Gilmore feel spoiled by the many options at his disposal? Perhaps, but you’d never know it by his poker face.
“We’ve still got a lot of work,” he said. “By no means are any of them a finished product.”
From the infirmary
Offensive linemen Jason Erdmann (right leg) and Logan Bruss (right leg) were removed from the injury report, while right tackle David Edwards (left arm) remained limited but participated in team drills.
Left tackle Jon Dietzen didn’t practice, but per a school official, it was a scheduled absence as he works his way back from a minor right leg injury. Right guard Beau Benzschawel (right arm) remained limited.
Safety Patrick Johnson (head) and fullback Alec Ingold (right leg) were out after sustaining injuries during Thursday’s practice.
Cornerback Travian Blaylock (right leg), kicker Rafael Gaglianone (right leg), defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk (left leg), offensive lineman David Moorman (right leg), tight end Zander Neuville (right leg), inside linebacker Jack Sanborn (right leg) and wide receiver A.J. Taylor (right leg) also remained out, while safety Eric Burrell (left leg) and inside linebacker T.J. Edwards (right leg) were limited.
Taylor ran routes off to the side, while Neuville was in pads and appeared to be running close to full speed.
Faion Hicks and Caesar Williams took initial first-team reps at cornerback. Deron Harrell also got work with the ones. Dontye Carriere-Williams continued to run with the second and third teams. ... Running back Garrett Groshek is now on scholarship, according to UW.
— Jason Galloway contributed