Junior wide receiver Manasseh Garner and sophomore defensive back Jameson Wright, who each endured injury problems and had fallen down the depth chart, have left the University of Wisconsin football team and plan to transfer.
UW coach Bret Bielema made the announcement on Tuesday. Bielema was not available for interviews after practice, but issued the following statement:
“I met with Manasseh and Jameson and they both informed me they wanted to pursue their options of playing somewhere else. In talking to them, I realized this was a tough decision for each of them because they enjoyed their time as Badgers but it was something they felt was in their best interests.
“I told them we would help in any way we could to facilitate their transition to a new school. Both Manasseh and Jameson are great kids who come from terrific families and were tremendous representatives of our program. We wish them both the best of luck.”
Wright, from Fort Pierce, Fla., suffered a torn ACL as a true freshman in 2010 and was redshirted. He did not play in a game last season and never really threatened being on the two-deep roster.
The coaches had a hard time settling on a spot for Garner, a physically gifted player from Pittsburgh. He started out at tight end before moving to wide receiver. He played as a true freshman on special teams and got some snaps as a rush end.
“Manasseh has been here a while; you hope someday it clicks,” Bielema said recently. “He’s gifted; he’s athletic. Probably not the hardest-going, hard-charging guy all the time. That’s what he’s got to push himself through.”
Garner was given a shot to be the third receiver last season, but struggled with injuries. He underwent sports hernia surgery during fall camp, which led to other problems.
“Trying to fight through certain injuries led to me hurting myself in other areas,” he said.
He missed spring practices and underwent more surgery, related to the same issue, in April. He said he wasn’t healthy until the start of preseason camp.
“I just tried to persevere and push myself,” Garner said in an interview last week. “I knew I was going to come into camp a little rusty and as camp went on, I was going to have to catch up to the players.”
Early last week, Garner got a large number of practice snaps and Bielema said he was in the running behind redshirt freshman Jordan Fredrick, who went on to claim the open starting job at receiver. But Garner’s snaps were limited later in the week.
“I had never coached him,” new receivers coach Zach Azzanni said early in camp. “I don’t care what everyone told me about him, I wanted to form my own opinion on the kid. He has really come out and done a nice job.
“He can run. He’s a big, physical kid. I think some people may have questioned how ‘all in’ he is to football. He’s all in right now. He wants to play. He’s tired of being a back-door guy; he wants to get out there and contribute.”
Garner denied his commitment to football was an issue.
“No, sir, there’s no truth to it,” he said. “I’m totally in. Everybody’s entitled to an opinion. I don’t question anybody’s opinion. ... I know what I’m here for.”
In addition to injuries, Garner admitted the coaching change was hard on him, since he was close to former receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander.
“I was probably much closer with coach Alexander, just because I was with him longer,” Garner said. “It takes a little time. I’m still feeling that.”
Quarterback Joe Brennan previously announced his decision to transfer.
Taylor (hamstring) sits out
Senior linebacker Mike Taylor might be one of the most experienced players on UW’s defense, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need practice time.
The coaches were being extra cautious with Taylor for more than a week, holding him out of several workouts due to a tender hamstring.
“It was minor tightness,” he said of his hamstring. “They wanted to let it cool down and heal up a little bit and not really push it.”
Bielema said recently he saw all he needed out of Taylor in the first week of practices. But Taylor said he doesn’t feel like he has gotten the work he needs to be ready for the season.
“Playing (Tuesday), there were some fits I didn’t fit correctly, some things you didn’t see, that you need to see, how your eyes work and communication as well,” he said. “Every day there is room for improvement.”
Landisch works at mike
Sophomore linebacker Derek Landisch worked as the backup mike linebacker during team drills because junior Chris Borland was held out. Sophomore Marcus Trotter replaced Borland with the No. 1 defense.
Landisch usually backs up Taylor at will, but did spend a number of weeks last season at mike when Trotter was slowed by a hamstring injury. While Landisch has worked as the mike in the nickel defense, he said he had only gotten a few reps at the position in the base defense in camp.
The Badgers’ captains were announced Tuesday. On offense, linemen Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick will join running back Montee Ball, while on defense, it’ll be Taylor, Borland and safety Shelton Johnson.