Sanzenbacher challenging for WR reps

August, 7, 2011
8/07/11
4:18
PM ET
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- As Lovie Smith likes to put it, training camp depth charts are made out in pencil.

That is especially true at wide receiver, where several Bears newcomers are threatening to change the pecking order.

One of those players is undrafted rookie free agent Dane Sanzenbacher, who might end up being more than your standard training camp myth.

[+] EnlargeSanzenbacher
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhWide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher has made a good early impression at Bears training camp.
The buzz around Sanzenbacher, a first team All-Big Ten choice last year at Ohio State, is real.

So real, in fact, he is challenging Earl Bennett for first team reps in the slot.

"Seeing is believing," Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake said. "You can't minimize the fact he's done some good things. I'm not. You know, this game is based on production. The opportunities are based on production. Now, he's got to go out there in the preseason and prove it against other people, but he's going against some pretty good guys now.

"I'm trying to put him in the most stressful situations I can put him in."

The prospect of being an undrafted rookie without the benefit of team offseason workouts sounds stressful enough. Throw in the difficult process of having to learn the Mike Martz offense, and it's fair to say Sanzenbacher has accomplished an awful lot in a short period of time.

"It's a good position to be in, regardless, when you're a rookie," Sanzenbacher said. "You can't ask for anything more than to get a chance, and to get reps out there. It's a lot to try and sort out, digest at first. You're thinking about not only getting the play right and position right on the right with your splits, but then you got to read the defense and everything. It's been a learning experience, but it's been really cool to learn on the fly."

The 5-11, 180-pound rookie caught 55 passes for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns during his final season at Ohio State.

"We've only been here a little over a week, but it seems like it's been forever with all the classroom time we've had trying to learn this offense," Sanzenbacher said. "I wouldn't say I'm ahead of where I thought I'd be, not saying it in an arrogant way, but when you come into this situation you know you have to capitalize on you opportunities. I didn't set a timeline for myself, but you have to know from day one when you walk in, that if you do get a shot, be prepared."

Drake cautions people not to assume Sanzenbacher is a lock to make the team -- last year the Bears kept five receivers on the 53-man roster -- but the rookie clearly has a legitimate opportunity.

"Are we ready to crown him? No," Drake said. "But we do see something there and so we are just going to continue and help him develop."

Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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