There’s no argument that the Wisconsin Badgers are razor thin at wide receiver this season.
But there’s plenty of help at the top. Jared Abbrederis leads a unit that is easy to overlook with the beef on the offensive line coupled with the never-ending supply of stars in the backfield. However, Abbrederis forces defensive coordinators to stay up late at night, dreaming of his No. 4 jersey cutting and slashing all over the field.
Known simply as “Abby”, the senior with the Twitter handle @abbrecadabra has electrified the Badger Nation ever since he broke out with 113 receiving yards and a couple touchdowns on Oct. 29, 2011 at Ohio State.
This may sound crazy, but Abbrederis is the Badgers’ best offensive player this year. Obviously that may be hard to quantify with a projected starting quarterback that is either returning from injury (Joel Stave) or one that has had three knee surgeries and needed an NCAA waiver to keep his eligibility (Curt Phillips).
But last year’s first team all-Big Ten selection will prove that he can lead an offense because of his endless workload of running reverses and throwing passes thanks to his time spent as an option quarterback in high school. He can also snag a punt or kickoff with 75 combined career returns.
I realize that many people may be scared off by Abbrederis’ wiry 6-foot-2 188-pound frame, but he is a precision route runner that isn’t opposed to some hard work. The former walk-on finally earned a scholarship in January 2012 and the small-town kid just continues to impress with dedication and effort.
And it’s those two qualities that will not only earn him a roster spot on an NFL team, but will make him very valuable. Remember when Russell Wilson came to Madison in the summer and crammed the playbook into his head, won over the locker room by being named captain and led the team to a Rose Bowl?
By being a former quarterback, Abbrederis has an understanding of defensive schemes and knows what windows the quarterback will be placing the ball. It isn’t just his understanding of the wide receiver position, it’s his football IQ. He makes the entire team better.
It didn’t take first-year coach Gary Andersen to understand that the depth at receiver was weak and addressed it in the spring. But he would love to have a unit full of Abby’s willing to do the little things like block, not give up on routes and being a quality team member — of course in addition to being übertalented.
As the summer progresses and the Badgers head to camp soon, the majority of the talk will center around who will start at quarterback, can the revamped offensive line live up to expectations and will the secondary be the defensive crutch again.
But this season is Abbrederis’ cover letter to NFL teams. For the second straight year he’s got virtually no help on the other side and if he has a strong year again, NFL teams will not only want to find out what makes this guy tick but will want to bring him aboard and inject that burning desire throughout their locker room.
To contact Cory Jennerjohn e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @CoryJennerjohn