Badgers’ freshman WR Chimere Dike procured his part by posing inquiries, making plays

Badgers' freshman WR Chimere Dike
Badgers' freshman WR Chimere Dike
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Badgers’ freshman WR Chimere Dike wide receiver for the University of Wisconsin football team, Dike’s questioning nature has been a part of the buzz around him since training camp started.

He wants to know all he can to become a better player. What did the quarterback see from his route? How can he run it better to get open faster? What did he do that made a defensive back react a certain way? How can he use a head fake or a jab step to influence a defender?

It’s a quality that has made the Waukesha product stand out among his peers almost as much as his ability to make plays when the ball is thrown his way.

Badgers' freshman WR Chimere Dike

“He comes in the locker room asking me, ‘What should I have done better?’ I’m like, wow, that’s the first freshman that’s come up to me and asked me, ‘What should I have done better, what worked well, what didn’t?’” senior safety Eric Burrell said. “I think that was an exciting moment for me and for him. Him … understanding me as a defender trying to help his game out, and also to help my game out.”

Dike’s questions and play-making ability have entrenched him in the Badgers’ wide receiver group. He’s an intelligent player who’s always looking to learn, senior Kendric Pryor said of Dike in training camp.

“He’s making plays when the ball’s thrown to him, and he’s kind of been a big help coming in as a freshman, being a smart guy already able to understand the defenses coming from high school,” Pryor said. “Because some people, for instance, I wasn’t that good reading coverages and stuff, just him coming in with that smart mindset and football background.”

Badgers' freshman WR Chimere Dike
Badgers’ freshman WR Chimere Dike

Willing mentors

Dike is a rarity in UW’s program in that he was a scholarship-level wide receiver from the state.

But he knew that he couldn’t rely just on his physical tools to succeed at the college level.

“In high school, I was more athletic than everybody on the field, I didn’t have to use as much. Going into the college level, you realize everybody’s athletic, everybody’s fast. You have to win in other ways,” Dike said.

He’s still learning some of the finer points of route-running and reading defenders, but he’s got a stable of people around him helping him progress. It started in the winter, when Dike was an early enrollee. He got an introduction to the Badgers’ scheme and things he could do to prepare himself to contribute this season.

Despite COVID-19 wiping out spring practices, Dike said he studied the playbook and the technique drills his coaches and teammates were suggesting to be prepared whenever football returned. When Dike arrived at fall camp, the receiver group was willing to show him the ropes and yes, field his questions.

“With a lot of older guys, especially in the receiver corps, they help me out a lot. I ask them what they saw on the route, what they would’ve done, how they would’ve approached it. With the DBs, I really just see what they’re thinking on the route so I can kind of anticipate what another DB might think when I line up against them in the same or similar look,” Dike said.

“I think I’ve always asked a lot of questions in sports. I think that asking questions is one of the best ways you can learn. If you have a question or you’re not sure on something and you don’t ask, you can’t really improve. Being able to go against guys like EB and all those great DBs, to be able to learn from them, to pick their brain, has helped me out a ton. I’m not afraid to ask for their advice or what they saw.”

UW receivers coach Alvis Whitted praised Dike’s effort level and willingness to put in extra work studying film during training camp. Whitted’s guidance carries a great deal of weight to Dike.

“The energy he works with, the focus, the preparation he does is really impactful to me and I’ve really been learning a lot from him. I think the other thing is he’s been in situations we hope to be in and that we are in currently. He’s played at the college level, he’s played at the pro level, he’s coached at the pro level, he’s coached at the college level. So he’s seen so many different receivers, seen so many different situations that he really knows about the game,” Dike said. “I’m trying to pick his brain and learn as much as I can because I know he can make me a better receiver.”

Dike’s confidence built as he made plays in training camp. Whitted tabbed him as one of the top five players at his position before the season began, but he didn’t see the field much in the opener against Illinois.

But after a COVID-19 outbreak forced the program to pause activities and cancel two games, Dike was among the first receivers on the field in the team’s second game at Michigan. The first play of the Badgers’ second series called for Dike to take a pitch on a reverse.

Badgers' freshman WR Chimere Dike

It was a pivotal play in the game after UW had gotten momentum following an interception by the defense, and the UW coaching staff trusted Dike to get his first college touch in that spot. He took the ball from senior Danny Davis’ pitch, avoided a defender in the backfield and gained 30 yards on a run to set the Badgers up with a first-and-goal.

“Honestly, when I first got into the game it’s not even thinking, it’s trying to execute,” Dike said of the play. “But going into the game, I think that as a young player you can have a moment be super big. But I try to think to myself whenever I’m in big moments, ‘This is always what I’ve been working for, this is what I wanted, this is what I’ve prepared for every single week.’ I just try to enjoy the moment and attack it.”

Dike added two catches for 29 yards to his ledger against Michigan, and scored the team’s lone touchdown in a loss at Northwestern when he caught a deep pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz, broke a tackle and sprinted to the end zone.

UW coach Paul Chryst credited Dike’s quick transition to the college game to his ability to focus.

“He approaches it in a way that he wants to be coached,” Chryst said. “He wants to take those coaching points and learn from them and I also think that his demeanor, kind of the poise that he plays with and the confidence that he plays with, has allowed him to be in situations that it doesn’t seem like are too big for him. I think he’s off to a good start.”

Badgers' freshman WR Chimere Dike
Badgers’ freshman WR Chimere Dike

Key piece going forward

Dike and those around him say the best is yet to come in his young career.

He’s shown the ability to get open down the field, but wants to continue refining his technique so he’s a weapon on every play.

“When you have guys like coach Whitted that you’re working with, you have great receivers around you, you’re going to focus on the little details,” Dike said. “I think the little details are something that I focus on a lot — coming to balance, top-of-route stuff. I think overall I have a lot to improve on still, I have a lot that I can better at. I’m looking to continuing to improve and hopefully making more plays.”

If the first few months of his UW career are any indication, Dike has the attitude and ability to make that happen for years to come.

“Obviously, he’s a playmaker on the field and the world sees that now. But I see the off-the-field stuff and how much time he genuinely spends on it. He wants to learn, wants to grow, really just has the perfect football mindset,” Mertz said.

“We communicate all the time, even if it’s at 9:30 at night and I FaceTime him like, ‘Hey dude, what do you feel about this?’ He tells me exactly what he was feeling and we talk through it. For me, I’m just so proud of how his off-the-field effort is and how he genuinely wants to learn and grow. I think as a receiver and as a playmaker, that’s the biggest thing. You’ve got a bunch of guys that can go make plays, but when you can really put it all together, that’s where you become great.”

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