When the general public (i.e. non-Wisconsin fans) thinks of Wisconsin football, they think of hulking linemen and great running backs. It’s kind of tough being an All-American receiver at a school that is so run-heavy.
Yet looking at the Badgers’ history with receivers, names like Lee Evans, Al and Nick Toon, and Chris Chambers jump out and catch your attention.
Incoming transfer C.J. Williams is set to etch his name on this list
C.J.’s road to Wisconsin football
Coming out of the national high school powerhouse Mater Dei in Santa Ana, California as a 4-star recruit, C.J.’s path to Wisconsin was a bit of a journey. He initially committed to Notre Dame but withdrew that commitment when head coach Brian Kelly departed for LSU.
With scholarship offers from 50 schools in the country, Williams literally had his pick of the litter. He elected to follow Lincoln Riley when he made his move as head coach from Oklahoma to USC.
After his freshman season where he played in 11 of USC’s 14 games and hauled in four receptions for 34 yards, Williams decided to leave for personal reasons.
In an interview conducted by The Athletic’s Jesse Temple, CJ stated he picked Wisconsin over West Virginia and other programs because “When I went to Wisconsin, it was more like home”.
Why C.J. will explode this season for Wisconsin football
When new head coach Luke Fickell hired North Carolina’s offensive coordinator Phil Longo to his staff, he instantly made Wisconsin football a desirable destination for aerial offensive talent. Witness the signing of four transfer wide receivers and also four quarterbacks.
C.J. is a perfect fit for Longo’s version of the “Air Raid” offensive created by the late, great Mike Leach because of his versatility. He has the size at 6’2″ and the speed (4.48 40-yard dash time) to play the outside receiver. He also has great hands and impressive route-running skills that allow him to play the slot as well. This will enable Longo to create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.
Coach Longo’s success with quarterbacks has been well-documented. Yet it sometimes seems as though the success with the wide receivers is overlooked but just as impressive.
In every season as an offensive coordinator, both at Mississippi and North Carolina, at least one Longo-coached wide receiver had over 1,000 yards receiving for the year. In his first season at North Carolina, there were two.
To put this into context, it has been a decade (2013) since Wisconsin football had a 1,000-yard receiver (Jared Abbrederis, who is first in receptions and second in receiving yards all-time at Wisconsin).
Williams’s comparison to another Longo-coached receiver
The list of receivers that have blossomed under Longo’s tutelage is an impressive one. While at North Carolina, he had two receivers get drafted and this year, Josh Downs is expected to go in the second round.
The group from Mississippi is even more impressive. In the two years that he was guiding the offense, Longo had tight end Dawson Knox get drafted in the 3rd round, and wide receivers D.K. Metcalf and Elijah Moore both went in the second round of their respective drafts.
However, the last receiver, A.J. Brown, is the one that Williams closely resembles. Coming out of high school, Brown was also a 4-star recruit, ranked as the 53rd-best overall player in the country (Williams was the 47th-best). A.J. was 6’2″ and 220 pounds, and C.J. was 6’2″, 190 lbs. Brown’s 40-yard dash time was 4.49 seconds and Williams was clocked at 4.40 seconds.
Receivers dramatic improvements in Longo’s first year as OC
Since Wisconsin is implementing a whole new offensive, even though he is the new man on campus, Williams is on even footing with every other receiver in the room. First-year receivers have faired very well under Longo.
A.J. Brown, as a freshman, had 29 receptions for 412 yards and two TDs. In his next season, Longo’s first at Ole Miss, he erupted for 75 catches, 1252 yards, and 11 TDs.
D.K. Metcalf had a similar genesis, going from two catches for 13 yards and two TDs to 39 receptions for 646 yards and 7 TDs.
A very similar story transpired with Longo’s move to North Carolina.
Dyami Brown went from 17 receptions for 173 yards and one TD to hauling in 51 passes for 1034 yards and 12 TDs.
Dazz Newsome had a solid sophomore year with 44 catches for 506 yards and 2 TDs. His junior campaign, Longo’s first at UNC, resulted in 72 receptions for 1018 yards and 10 TDs.
The core of Wisconsin’s offense is much stronger than either of those teams was. Neither of them featured a two-time 1,200-yard rusher. Combine that talent with the incoming stars via the portal and recruiting class, it’s almost dizzying to think how scary-good this team could be.
This squad has the makings of a historic Wisconsin offense.
And C.J. Williams should be one of the leaders of this potent group.
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