Connect with us


Wisconsin Football: Analyzing the Updated Tight End Depth Chart

Following Clay Cundiff and Jake Eschenbach’s departures, who will step up to be TE1 for the 2023 season?



Wisconsin Football tight end Riley Nowakowski
Apr 11, 2023; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin tight end Riley Nowakowski (37) is shown during practice Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin football program is gearing up for the 2023 season as fall camp gets underway. 

As camp started, some news broke indicating tight ends Clay Cundiff and Jake Eschenbach were no longer listed on the roster. Reports later surfaced that the two players had voluntarily left the Wisconsin football program.

Cundiff and Eschenbach were UW’s top tight ends last season. The two players combined for 23 receptions for 262 yards and two touchdowns. 

Without Cundiff and Eschenbach, Wisconsin is extremely thin at the tight end position. Let’s take a look at what UW has now and who could rise to the top of the pecking order.

A Look at the Wisconsin Football Program’s Tight End Room

Not only is the depth at the tight end position now very thin but there’s also loads of unproven talent. 

Riley Nowakowski, a former walk-on, looks to be one of the top options to take over the starting spot. The redshirt junior previously played at fullback. Nowakowski has done all the right things thus far to get him in the mix for the starting role and has received some early praise from offensive coordinator Phil Longo. He’s dependable as a blocker, but some questions will need to be answered during fall camp, specifically regarding his pass-catching ability.

Hayden Rucci, the most tenured player in the room, has appeared in 23 games thus far for UW. He’s spent most of his career as a blocking tight end but did log six receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. If the former four-star prospect can build off his bowl game performance, he could easily be the starter when the season starts. 

Behind Nowakowski and Rucci, it starts to get even more fuzzy.

Jack Pugh, a redshirt sophomore, has appeared in one game thus far. From an upside standpoint, there’s a lot to like about Pugh’s game. The Ohio native ascended up the depth chart during spring practice and took some snaps with the first-team offense. Though it’s tough to know exactly what Pugh has at this point, his spring performance could be a good sign for the future and the depth at the position.

JT Seagreaves is someone to keep a close eye on. The redshirt freshman debuted in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl last season, where he logged one catch for three yards. The Wisconsin native already has the athletic measurables that should allow him to see the field this year, even in a limited capacity.

So, Who Gets the Starting Role?

Looking at all the options, I’m confident it will come down to Nowakowski and Rucci, but I’ll give the edge to Nowakowski.

Considering the praise the redshirt sophomore has received and his ability to be a reliable blocker, he looks like a shoo-in for the role. Plus, he’s already sharing time with the first team in fall camp. There’s loads of untapped potential in his skill set to pair with the tools he already has, and he could be a reliable tight end if given the opportunity.

I won’t count out Rucci from getting the starting role, however. The senior showed that he could be a productive pass catcher during the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, and it will be interesting to see how he performs in the fall. 

The tight end depth chart will be one of the most crucial positions for the Wisconsin football program in 2023, and the position battle will be a fun one to watch during camp.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Jake Maier on Twitter @JakeJMaier.

Jake Maier is the managing editor and publisher at He has provided coaching and editorial support to numerous writers in his role, contributing significantly to the platform's growth. His expertise extends to Wisconsin Badgers football, basketball, and recruiting coverage. Jake's previous bylines can be found at Fansided and Wisconsin Sports Heroics.