LAS VEGAS – Wisconsin wide receiver Chimere Dike made a successful transition – from high school star to dependable college freshman – in 2020.
Although the sophomore from Waukesha North High School has one more game this season, a more demanding transition awaits in 2022.
UW (8-4) closes the 2021 season against Arizona State (8-4) at 9:30 p.m. Thursday in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Seniors Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor and Jack Dunn will not be back next season, meaning Dike will be UW’s most experienced wide receiver. No longer will he have the luxury of following the leader of several veterans.
Rather, he will lead a room that should be laden with untested players.
Is Dike ready for that assignment?
“He has been ready since his freshman year,” wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted said. “I have no doubt about his ability to lead and the things that he can do on the field.
“It is how he goes about his daily routine. How he prepares, how he studies. I think those guys will have no better person to learn from.
“I love that kid like he was my son.”
Dike was a two-time, all-state wide receiver at North. He won the Al Toon Award in 2019, given annually to the state’s top senior wide receiver. He left North with more than 3,000 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns.
Dike eventually became UW’s No. 2 wide receiver as a freshman in 2020 because both Davis and Pryor suffered season-ending concussions.
Dunn led the wide receivers with 28 catches for 255 yards and one touchdown. Dike finished with 12 catches for 189 yards, an impressive 15.8-yard average, and a touchdown.
Dike has been UW’s No. 3 wide receiver this season, behind Davis and Pryor.
Davis finished the regular season with 32 catches for 478 yards and two touchdowns. Pryor has 31 catches for 406 yards and three touchdowns.
Sources told the Journal Sentinel a mix of players and staffers were affected by COVID-19 last week and it is unclear whether Davis and Pryor traveled to Las Vegas.
Dike enters the bowl game with 18 catches for 242 yards and a touchdown.
“I’ve said this since the start with Chim,” quarterback Graham Mertz said. “He is just different, the way he acts, the way he works. You could tell the day he walked in here he was mature for his age. He is more than ready for that role.”
Dike, who was more mature than most freshmen, is eager to lead in 2022.
“Obviously, there were things I learned as a freshman,” he said. “But I think even this year I was ready for it. But being able to grow with those older guys was big for me this year.
“I think going into next year I will have a lot of confidence and be able to be a leader in the room and be a guy the team can depend on in the receiving corps.”
Although the offseason will be long and any young player can emerge, the UW players and coaches have talked about the development and potential of Markus Allen.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder has played in two games this season and has two catches for 34 yards.
“Chim has done a great job of kind of taking him under his wing,” head coach Paul Chryst said.
Dike understands why such actions are critical.
“As a leader you definitely have to lead by example,” he said. “If you’re not setting the standard and doing the things that you need to do and taking care of your business, it doesn’t really build credibility.
“I try to lead by example but if something needs to be said, I’m definitely willing to say it. Because I think the guys in the room have a lot of respect for each other and they understand we’re just trying to make each other better.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: UW receiver Chimere Dike ready to assume role of leader