Blocking the Distractions

He's putting up career numbers through No.4 Wisconsin's first five games, but the real value of sophomore wide receiver Jared Abbrederis is the overall dedication to his craft, a value that has helped the UW offense find the end zone more than a handful of times.

MADISON - As Wisconsin sophomore running back James White broke through the gap at the line of scrimmage, three things came into his vision. The first was the end zone and nobody standing between him and a 49-yard touchdown. The second was a South Dakota defensive back angling toward him and targeting him around the 5-yard line.

The last thing White saw out of the corner of his eye was Wisconsin sophomore wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who was quickly gaining ground and ready to help his teammate.

"I knew I was in good hands because when Jared blocks somebody, they stay blocked," White said.

At 6-2 and 180 pounds, Abbrederis doesn't look the part of a tenacious, hard-nosed blocker. Lesson one that the Wisconsin coaches teach the receivers is that blocking is not as much about physical size and strength as it is willpower and dedication, willing to go one-on-one with a defender and take him out of the play.

It's a mentality that one has to train themselves to do in college football and typically a foreign concept in high school when a receiver is expected to catch the ball or, in Abbrederis' case, throw the ball and not worry about much else.

"It's just the way the coaches coach us," Abbrederis said. "If you don't do it, you aren't going to play. You've got to learn to do it real quick. You see the ball thrown and somebody else catches it, you have to get up field and get the next guy up field. A lot of guys in high school come back and block the guy that's chasing them. That's not going to help because if somebody is chasing James White, they shouldn't be able to catch him."

And on the off chance somebody does have an angle on one of his teammates, Abbrederis is Wisconsin's best option in the downfield blocking game.

He sealed White's pursuer after the running back slowed down to allow Abbrederis to cause a road block and allow White to cut back to the inside for an easy touchdown. He also stymied another defensive back on the very next series, allowing a bubble screen to Nick Toon go for a 59-yard touchdown.

"Just trying to get those blocks downfield is really important for our offense," Abbrederis added. "They can get tackled at the 5-yard line but if we don't score it looks bad for us. I just really try and focus on those touchdown blocks and get down the field. I take pride in it."

The dedication to the craft is something Abbrederis has followed since signing a preferred walk-on offer before the 2009 season. Abbrederis was a first-team all-state quarterback at Wautoma (Wis.) High, throwing for 3,014 passing yards and 30 touchdowns in his career and leading the school to the WIAA Division 4 state championship as a senior. Before he signed with Wisconsin, the coaches told him that he would have to change positions in order to see the field.

Over his redshirt and true freshman seasons, Abbrederis picked up every nuisance on film, in practice and from his teammates on how to get on the field. The key was blocking, keeping the hands inside the shoulder pads, putting his helmet on the correct side so a defender has to go through his entire body and be strong with the outside hand.

The results have been a success, as Abbrederis has sprung a number of key plays and the receivers as a group haven't been calling for one cut blocking penalty through five games.

"It's a smart group of guys," Abbrederis said. "It's a group that takes the rules and applied them."

For as hard as he works in the blocking game, the good karma has returned to Abbrederis in the passing attack. Through five games, Abbrederis is second on the team in both catches (20) and yards (328) and third in receiving touchdowns (2). Already, his catches have tied a career high and his yards have surpassed last year's mark of 289 yards.

Even when things don't go right, Abbrederis has the right mindset to keep pushing. After fumbling at the end of a 21-yard punt return against Nebraska, the first fumble UW has lost this season, Abbrederis stood helplessly as Nebraska punched the ball into the end zone to take the lead.

He didn't stand idle for long. He hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Russell Wilson with 2 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first half to give the Badgers a 20-14 lead it wouldn't relinquish. He also registered an 18-yard reception to give the Badgers a first down on a drive that Montee Ball would cash in for a score and turned in two more double-digit plays that helped a drive result in seven points.

After the 48-17 romp was complete, Abbrederis caught five passes for a team-best 95 yards, rushed twice for 23 yards and totaled 153 all-purpose yards in Wisconsin's 48-17 win over Nebraska.

Just like he did for White and Toon, Abbrederis blocked out the potential problem perfectly.

"There's always something you can do better as a ball carrier and bouncing back from that, I am glad that it didn't let if affect me," Abbrederis said. "A lot of guys, if something bad happened to them right away, they go downhill. To be able to bounce back and to let that play go was pretty exciting."

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