MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin wide receiver Kenzel Doe, you may have heard by now, is not a particularly big man. At 5-foot-8, he is one of the shortest players on the team, in fact. And his weight of 170 pounds is less than every single player but one backup kicker.
For the purpose of comparison, consider that the average height and weight of the Big Ten’s top 10 receivers last season was 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds.
In order to be a go-to, No. 1 receiver on a team in the conference, size and physicality are traits that certainly help a player’s chances. And yet Doe remains undeterred. He can only worry about the circumstances he can control. So, as his senior season approaches, he still has one goal in mind.
"I tell Coach each and every time, I want to be No. 1," Doe said after the team’s spring game. "I’m not going to settle for No. 2 or No. 3 just because I’m the slot. I’m small. I don’t really care about that. I’m going to go out there and compete. I’m going to be on the outside, be on the inside. Come fall, I’m going to make the plays and if he wants to go with saying I’m the No. 1 receiver, then that’s what it’s going to be."
For Doe, a career slot man at Wisconsin, moving up the ladder to being the team’s No. 1 wideout once would have seemed far-fetched. But given the Badgers’ lack of quality wide receivers — and the penchant for injuries shown from the group during spring practices — Doe’s ascension into the top spot isn’t entirely out of the question.
It should be noted Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon ranked second in the Big Ten a year ago with 89 catches for 1,373 yards. He stood all of 5-foot-8 and weighed 184 pounds.
Doe’s production, meanwhile, isn’t likely to come close to that of Gallon. But it does show height is not always a determining factor on the field.
Doe demonstrated some of his capabilities during the team’s spring game on April 12, when he caught a diving 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tanner McEvoy against cornerback Devin Gaulden.
"Kenzel made a pretty damn good play diving for it," McEvoy said. "He had good position on the receiver. I just threw it up and let him go get it. Pretty easy when they do that kind of stuff. That was a great play."
If Wisconsin is to exceed expectations in 2014, Doe will have to be a key contributor. A year ago, his statistics took a dip, in part, because he missed two games with an injury. He finished the season with just seven catches for 57 yards. As a sophomore one year earlier, he caught 16 passes for 121 yards.
In his career, Doe has 25 catches for 182 yards but has never caught a touchdown pass.
Days before the team’s spring game, Badgers coach Gary Andersen called the wide receivers "a work in progress," though he praised Doe in particular.
"I’ve seen tremendous work ethic," Andersen said. "I’ve seen kids working like crazy to get better. I’ve seen a senior in Kenzel that takes every rep and doesn’t bat an eye. So those are all real positive things."
Doe at least appears to be in the mix for reps as the No. 1 receiver, though Jordan Fredrick, Alex Erickson and Rob Wheelwright should all get their opportunities if healthy in the fall. All three players missed time during the spring with injuries, substantially reducing the number of available receivers.
"Me and a couple other receivers, we got tired out there," Doe said of spring practices. "None of the receivers that were out there going complained. If they went down, if you want a spot, then you’re going to have to take the reps. We basically were like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to take the reps.’ You want to play, then these are the reps that we need to go out here and compete for."
Andersen noted at least "a couple" of the incoming freshmen would need to contribute immediately in some capacity next season. Wisconsin signed five wide receivers for the Class of 2014, led by four-star recruit Dareian Watkins (Galion, Ohio).
Doe simply hopes he is considered for the top spot. Even if undersized, he plans on doing everything in his power to make coaches think hard about their decision.
"I’m just going to continue to work, continue to try to get better," Doe said, "and then let them decide who they want the No. 1 to be."