MADISON, Wis. — They call it getting “Moss’d” when a wide receiver embarrasses defenders by leaping to great heights and hauling in ridiculously acrobatic catches. In football parlance, it serves as a great compliment for any receiver’s skill set to draw comparisons to Randy Moss, a six-time Pro Bowl player who caught 156 touchdowns and routinely befuddled opponents with his athleticism and length.
Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook recognized that he had a teammate capable of making such plays when he watched freshman receiver Danny Davis on the first day of fall camp.
“He jumped over two DBs and kind of Randy Moss’d them,” Hornibrook said. “He just jumped over people and grabbed it. I hadn’t seen a catch like that, so I knew he was pretty special.”
Rare are the freshman receivers at Wisconsin capable of making an immediate impact without a redshirt season. But Davis has proven to be an exception to the rule.
Twice in the last three weeks, Davis has set career highs for receptions. He caught 4 passes for 74 yards during Wisconsin’s 38-14 victory against Iowa. In the regular-season finale on Saturday, he tallied 5 catches for 41 yards with 1 touchdown in Wisconsin’s 31-0 victory against Minnesota.
Davis has 18 catches for 312 yards with 2 touchdowns this season, and his 17.33 yards per reception is tops on the team. His big-play ability could provide a major weapon for Wisconsin (12-0) when it plays Ohio State (10-2) in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday night in Indianapolis.
“He has a tremendous knack for going up and getting the ball,” Wisconsin outside linebacker Garret Dooley said. “Some people may say he’s not a big burner down the field, but wherever the ball is thrown, he goes up and he finds a way to get it. I’ve seen him make multiple tremendous one-handed catches not only in games, but in practices.
“I think it’s just his mindset of going into every practice knowing that ‘I’m going to make a big play here’ because you practice how you play. He’s been able to show how good of a receiver he is this year. He can only go up from here, so I’m very excited for him.”
Davis grew up in Springfield, Ohio, roughly 45 miles west of Ohio State’s campus in Columbus. He took an unofficial visit to campus and attended Ohio State’s “Junior Day.” But Davis didn’t receive a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes. Davis collected 13 scholarship offers, including eight from the Big Ten: Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Rutgers.
Meanwhile, Ohio State secured commitments in its 2017 recruiting class from wide receivers Trevon Grimes, Jaylen Harris and Ellijah Gardiner. Grimes and Harris have combined for 5 catches for 47 yards this season.
In high school, Davis played both running back and wide receiver. He rushed for 1,195 yards with 7 touchdowns and averaged 7.0 yards per carry as a senior. He caught only 22 passes for 559 yards with 6 touchdowns that season, but it was clear he possessed a special skill set.
Davis even has his own top-10 high school highlight reel of catches on YouTube, featuring a bevy of impressive grabs. His No. 1 reception is an incredible game-winning touchdown catch against Centerville last season, over four defenders in the end zone as time expires.
“He can make catches with his body that are pretty spectacular,” Hornibrook said. “He can move his body and control his body in ways that a lot of people can’t do.”
Davis arrived at Wisconsin as a 4-star prospect and was the second-highest rated recruit in the Badgers’ 2017 class behind offensive lineman Kayden Lyles, according to the 247Sports composite. He chose Wisconsin on National Signing Day in February over Kentucky and West Virginia and was considered a major late pickup for the Badgers.
Davis, who was unavailable Tuesday after practice due to academic commitments, made his presence known early in fall camp. Wisconsin’s official football Twitter account posted video of a one-handed downfield catch he made in camp, which became one of his calling cards.
Wait, was that @OBJ_3?
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) August 21, 2017
“I saw it probably midway through fall camp,” Badgers receiver A.J. Taylor said. “You could tell he felt comfortable this quick being a freshman. From there you knew that, yeah, we probably need him this year.”
Wisconsin offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph credited sophomore Quintez Cephus for changing the wide receiver room with his approach this season, which elevated the level of play for everyone in the unit. Cephus developed into the Badgers’ top receiver and caught 30 passes for 501 yards with 6 touchdowns before suffering a season-ending right knee injury against Indiana.
But a trio of underclassmen has lifted Wisconsin’s offense even without Cephus: Davis, Taylor and Kendric Pryor. They have combined for 49 catches for 809 yards with 7 touchdowns and have showcased more depth at the position than the Badgers have had in years. Davis, like his wide receiver teammates, hasn’t performed like a young player because he believes he has earned the right to be on the field.
“Danny makes plays,” Rudolph said. “He’s got a lot of confidence and the consistency of play and the ability to bounce back. To find that in young players is uncommon.”
Teammates have noticed those same traits since he first “Moss’d” defenders in practice. If he can continue on that path against Ohio State and provide Hornibrook with a reliable downfield threat, Wisconsin could punch its first-ever ticket to the College Football Playoff.
“He does a good job of being confident,” Badgers left tackle Michael Deiter said. “He’s always just having a blast. I’ve seen a lot of young guys get in there and doubt themselves. Definitely, I did as a redshirt freshman — doubt myself, be super uptight. You definitely don’t play as well when you’re like that. And he does not play like that at all.”
The post Wisconsin WR Danny Davis possesses ‘uncommon’ skill set in breakout freshman season appeared first on Land of 10.