We've already hit on a couple of big boys for our first player spotlights of this offseason, we decided to throttle it down and throw the little guys some love. The little guy we're rolling with today? Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis, the former walk-on who lead the Badgers in receiving yards in 2011.
In 2010 Abbrederis had the type of season that most walk-ons dream about; playing in all 13 games, returning punts and kickoffs, catching 20 balls for 289 yards and scoring three touchdowns. That is the sort of contribution most coaches only hope they get out of their walk-ons, and most walk-ons only hope are career numbers. Abbrederis did it in his redshirt freshman season, and if that was what he contributed for his career it would have been a solid walk-on stint with the Badgers.
Only that was just a humble beginning; with the addition of Russell Wilson, the receiver found himself catching 55 balls for 933 yards and eight touchdowns, being the primary return man for punts and also working on kickoff returns for the Badgers. The kid was a big time player who made SI's honorable mention All-American team and was a consensus All-Big Ten honorable mention as well. Flat out the boy can play. Entering the spring the expectations are real, and Abbrederis will be asked to step up even more as he is THE returning wide receiver for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Unlike a year ago where Abbrederis was the second option in the passing game, and Russell Wilson was able to find the sophomore open against single coverage while teams focused on big threat Nick Toon, 2012 will see Abbrederis as the focal point of the pass defenses. The rising junior will also be counted on to be a bit of a security blanket, as the proven commodity, to the young quarterbacks on the Wisconsin roster.
For Abbrederis that just means another challenge and more doubters. It started with his ability to get on the roster at Wisconsin, then the doubt came with how he would perform in game scenarios and last year he proved doubters wrong when he proved he could be play and excel in the Big Ten. Now the question is can he be the primary target.
With a running game expected to be as strong as ever, Abbrederis, even with a young unproven quarterback, should step up this spring as the constant in the Badgers' passing game. Throw in emerging tight end Jacob Pederson and you have a new type of one-two punch in Madison.