September 16, 2009

With no receptions, Kendricks remains patient

MADISON, Wis. - It's kind of like the calm before the storm, the darkness before the premier, the morning before dawn. Everyone knows what is about to happen, but it is not quite there yet.

Those are also similar to the season junior tight end Lance Kendricks has had through Wisconsin's first two games. To this point, Kendricks has yet to receive a pass. He has no offensive yardage to speak of.

"We're always just telling him to be patient," UW junior quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "His time is going to come. He's a phenomenal player."

Kendricks possesses everything you would like in a tight end. He has a big body with great speed and athleticism. He is capable of stretching any defense thin as linebackers will have a difficult time covering him.

With all that said, he simply hasn't been able to showcase that talent to this point in 2009.

"Sometimes I'm not open," Kendricks said. "If I am open, if it doesn't come my way, as long as we're making plays I don't mind."

That's spoken with an intellect of honest modesty that anyone with a chance to converse with the junior Milwaukee native can attest to. His play is flashy, but he certainly is not on a personal level. He has a cool confidence about him but isn't arrogant.

With some players at skill positions, not getting the ball equates to frustration that can wear on teammates and coaches. Not Kendricks. His mindset simply does not allow it.

"I know it will come," he said. "I'm just trying to do what I can to help. As long as we're winning I'm satisfied."

Against Northern Illinois and Fresno State to start the season, Tolzien has spread the ball around to eight different receivers. Garrett Graham and Nick Toon have been his favorite targets as both have nine completions to this point.

So, even though plays have been called that give Kendricks an opportunity to potentially make a play, it just hasn't happened.

"You're not going to say, 'Hey, this is exactly what's going to happen on a play,' UW tight ends coach Joe Rudolph said following a recent practice. "But he's very much into the offense and just so happens his number will be called.

"And when it is, you want to be able to take advantage of it."

In the meantime, Kendricks is content with helping the team in any fashion possible. During UW's double-overtime win over Fresno State last Saturday, Kendricks, along with fellow tight end Mickey Turner made a big play possible via special teams.

Following a Bulldogs score and down 14 points, UW was in desperate need of a big kickoff return. David Gilreath took caught the kick, broke off to the right hash, found a hole and eventually brought the ball out past the 40 yard line.

"David only needs about 16 inches to get through and he had a three-yard swath just right up the middle of the field," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "And that's what he needed, and that was because of Mickey Turner going here and Lance Kendricks going here.

"That's what it was."

For Kendricks, that's just a small example of his selflessness and dedication to helping his team do whatever it takes to get the win. When playing the tight end, or more modified H-back position, most of the glamour comes from catching the ball and moving the chains.

But from a football standpoint, it is just as crucial to be able to block and provide openings for the running backs or protection for the quarterback.

"One thing that I've been really impressed with, and I know a lot of other players within the offense have been (too), is his blocking abilities," Tolzien, who is also Kendricks' hotel roommate, said. "He's really been on the ball with his blocking so far."

With ten games left on the slate, there will be a countless number of chances for Kendricks to get involved in the passing game. But, again, it's something that can't be forced.

"You just got to let it happen," Kendricks said. "I'm sure it will come so I'm not worried about it."

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