Kendric Pryor unlocks potential heading into sophomore season
For all the talent the University of Wisconsin’s offense returns this season, last year’s fourth wide receiver may have produced the best preseason camp of anyone.
Sophomore Kendric Pryor raised eyebrows on a daily basis throughout August, building up to a performance against Western Kentucky on Friday night in which he caught four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown in the first half before leaving with cramps.
“They come out here and different guys kind of rise, but I think KP has really been pushing the bar up,” UW offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said in August. “Some of the plays that he’s made, he kind of never ceases to leave a practice without one of those woah plays.”
The reason for his elevated play is quite simple, really. Pryor finally entered a season in which he feels both physically and mentally prepared.
The Hazel Crest, Ill., native took a while to nail down the playbook when he arrived in 2016, a major reason why he redshirted while watching classmates Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor play as true freshmen. During fall camp the next season, Pryor suffered injuries from a moped accident that forced him to miss a big chunk of preseason practices and the first two games of the season.
By the time he got up to speed, Cephus, Taylor and true freshman Danny Davis were already enjoying productive seasons. Pryor did, however, earned his chance to impress over the final five games of last season after Cephus broke his leg against Indiana on Nov. 4. He carried that spark of success into the offseason and looks like a legitimate breakout candidate in his third year with UW.
“I definitely see he’s a lot more comfortable with things,” Taylor said of Pryor. “The game’s slowing down for him. He did have a couple things hold him back the last couple years, but now I think he’s getting to that point where he can just let it loose and he doesn’t have to worry about all the other mess that goes on. He can just play. That’s really good to see.”
Pryor’s also finding more opportunities due to the absence of Cephus and Davis. The two were suspended for their involvement in an alleged sexual assault, although Davis has not been charged criminally and expects to return next week against BYU.
For Pryor, however, their departures didn’t affect his expectations for this season. He felt ready for a bigger role, even if he found himself in a position group loaded with talent.
“Everyone outside of our room was saying me and A.J. have to do this or me and A.J. have to do that because Danny and (Cephus) are not with us right now,” Pryor said. “We felt we didn’t have to step up as people said. That was everyone else’s perspective. Me and A.J., regardless of if they were here or not, we were going to go out there and play the way we play. ... We feel like we can still go out there and make plays regardless of whoever’s out there on our team.”
Pryor said he gave himself the lofty goal of becoming an All-Big Ten player this season and wants to develop into an All-American by his senior year. “If I don’t set high goals for myself, something’s wrong,” he said.
He still has plenty to prove before attaining either. Pryor set career highs in catches and receiving yards Friday, and scored just the fourth touchdown of his career to end the first half in UW’s 34-3 win over the Hilltoppers.
Like others at his position, though, Pryor possess the talent and potential to become a household name. He’s finally staring to unlock it.
“People, at least in Wisconsin, kind of know who I am, so now it’s time to make that where I get known across the conference and then across the country after that,” Pryor said. “Hopefully people can (say), ‘We’ve got Jonathan Taylor, but we’ve also got Kendric Pryor, too.’ That’s just the personal confidence I have in myself. That’s where I want to be when I leave Wisconsin.”