By TOM LEA
MADISON – At 6-foot-4, 237 pounds, it’s hard to imagine junior tight end Jacob Pedersen slinking throughout the Wisconsin offense as some sort of a secret, but that was essentially how he accrued his 30-catch, 356-yard and eight-touchdown season from a season ago.
With Montee Ball scoring touchdowns at an alarming rate, Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis doing their thing at the receiver position and Russell Wilson setting NCAA records for efficiency in the Badgers backfield, it’s understandable how teams might not pay much attention to Pedersen.
But now Toon and Wilson are gone. Abbrederis has to adjust to life as UW’s No. 1 receiver and Pedersen returns as the team’s No. 2 leading pass-catching threat.
He’s probably not going to be a secret anymore.
“I’d like to be (a secret),” Pedersen said following a recent practice. “It makes it a lot easier on me. But that’s up to opposing defenses and how much they want to focus on me or not.
“I’ve just got to play with technique and go do my thing.”
Pedersen averaged 11.9 yards per reception a year ago and recorded a long of 55 yards. More impressively, though, was the amount of times Pedersen caught a touchdown without anybody even close to him in the red zone.
When the Badgers got down to the red zone, Pedersen was probably the fifth concern for opposing defenses and it was evident. The majority of his touchdowns came when he was wide-open. He simply slipped through the defensive cracks and made sure to catch the ball.
Is that even possible this year?
It remains to be seen. The wide receiver position is very much in flux outside of Abbrederis. Will there be a player that can step up — potentially Jordan Fredrick — and alleviate some of the pressure and attention from Abbrederis. Can a young player command enough respect from opponents to keep Pedersen as a viable red zone or first down threat?
“I think it definitely helped having Abby, the other running backs and Toon,” Pedersen said. “The defense had a lot more to focus on. Coach Paul Chryst, he always had great plays drawn up and everything. This year we’re probably going to have to work a little bit more at it and we’re going to have to beat a lot more guys.
“We’re going to have to keep working. That’s what makes it fun. That’s why we come out.”
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