Blanchard opens season with many new weapons

Heading into a new football season with new wide receivers can be difficult, especially if one of those wide receivers was statistically the best in team history.

Senior quarterback Matt Blanchard opens the season healthy, after missing all of the 2010 playoffs due to an injury. Blanchard will have many targets to throw to this year. Photo by Tim Gumz

The Warhawks came into this season with having to fill the shoes of wideouts Aaron Rusch and Adam Brandes.

Rusch is first in the school record book with 3,746 career receiving yards, over a thousand more than second-place Derek Stanley and is also first in receptions (282). He also holds the top two spots in receptions in a year (88, 85) and is second in touchdowns with 33.

“The numbers speak for themselves, and I think as a competitor and a leader, the things he did on the football field, I still don’t think they were noticed as much as they should have been,” Quarterback Matt Blanchard said. “He was absolutely incredible and it was a special thing to play with him.”

Brandes alone caught 63 passes for 1,1790 yards and 12 touchdowns, while the two combined for 65 percent of Blanchard’s passes and 79 percent of Blanchard’s 33 touchdown passes.

“Having the two of them on the field was seriously such a safety net, such a great feeling knowing that our offense had true receivers with that experience,” Blanchard said. “There is so much to say about either one of them, but the fact remains that without the two of them last season I don’t think we get to a national championship.”

In Head Coach Lance Leipold’s five years at UW-Whitewater, he has never been around a deeper wide receiving squad, so he is confident in filling in their shoes.

“[Rusch and Brandes] have been two productive players that have been in our program, but we have junior Tyler Huber, sophomore Luke Menzel, junior Shane Covington, sophomore Zach Howard, senior Cory Robinson, senior Jason Ford and sophomore Steve Morris,” Leipold said. “We are deep in the receiving core, the most since I’ve been here, so I feel very confident about what that group will give us.”

Blanchard feels comfortable thus far; completing 31-48 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns. He has spread out the ball, while Menzel leads the team with eight receptions for 77 yards, while Huber follows him with six for 79. Ford and Robinson each have five receptions.

“It’s a growing process and there are going to be growing pains but we’ve come so far from our first spring practice,” Blanchard said. “Our relationship is great and off the field is fantastic. On the field, we are starting to mesh it all together.”

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