Jared Abbrederis – It looks like Wisconsin has found its next Luke Swan at wide receiver. The rise of Abbrederis from obscurity to the receiver rotation isn't as surprising as how quickly he has risen through the ranks. Originally coming to Wisconsin to participate on the track and field team, the former all-state quarterback at Wautoma (Wis.) decided to sign as a preferred walk-on. The work he put in with fellow redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr was noticeable in spring camp, as the duo's solid timing led to many lengthy and impressive catches.
While many thought that excitement would taper off at the start of fall camp, Abbrederis has continued to make big catches and some highlight-reel ones at that. With the injuries to David Gilreath and Isaac Anderson, Abbrederis has seen his reps increase with the first-team offense. On one sequence during the two-minute drill Monday, Scott Tolzien quickly hit Abbrederis and Toon for back-to-back 10-yard gains and first downs. Tolzien then hit Abbrederis over the middle for a 19-yard gain and saw the redshirt freshman get out of bounds with 83 seconds left and the ball on the 27.
Catching everything that has come his way in the last week, expect Abbrederis to have some role within the offense.
"The best thing about Jared is he comes out and comes to work every day," Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst said of Abbrederis. "If he has a chance to make a play, then he's flashed and made some plays and (has) the ability to do it on a consistent basis."
Defensive Tackles - Just like a year ago when a bunch of no-name defensive tackles were expected to be the weakness of the defense, the defensive tackles have the same script. After last year's group helped the UW defense led the conference in fewest rushing yards per game, allowing just 88.2 yards per game on the ground, this year's group is hoping for a similar outcome.
The Badgers knew what they had in returning junior starter Patrick Butrym, but were anxious to see what younger players Jordan Kohout, Beau Allen, Eriks Briedis, Ethan Hemer and Pat Muldoon had to offer. The short answer: plenty.
Kohout was slowed by a knee injury that made him missed the whole second week of camp, but returned Monday and looked refreshed and hungry to compete. Allen had impressed coaches even before stepping on the field with his physical strength, being ahead of the curve in that department for an incoming freshman, and making some good plays on the second-team defense. Briedis and Hemer, the '09 Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year, have looked good in run-stopping aspects with both units and Muldoon is finally healthy after two knee surgeries, making strides during two impressive showings in the scrimmages.
Although it didn't seem like it at the beginning of camp, don't be surprised to see at least a five-man rotation at the d-tackle position. "After reviewing the film from the first scrimmage to the second scrimmage, the biggest jump at any position came at d-tackle play," Bielema said. "That was with Jordan not even in there. Hemer, Briedis, Beau Allen and Patrick (Butrym), those four guys made a big jump. We were hoping to get to four guys, but now it looks like we'll get to five."
Antonio Fenelus - After being removed from the starting lineup a season ago, the junior cornerback from Boca Raton, Florida, has carried the momentum from a solid spring performance into the fall and has supplanted junior Devin Smith on the No.1 unit, starting opposite senior Niles Brinkley.
Smith has had a decent camp with his share of ups and downs like the other cornerbacks, but Fenelus has taken his game to another level. During one double days, Fenelus has four interceptions during team and skelly drills. He's shown good recovery speed, good break on the ball, has the ability to read the cornerback and good hand-eye coordinator to make a pass deflection. What's also impressive is that Fenelus was matched up against Toon for most of camp, and held his own more times than he didn't. Going against one of the top receivers in the conference, that's got to bode well for his confidence.
Ryan Groy – There was not expected to be much room ahead of Groy when he entered the 2010 fall camp. With the Badgers having a returning starter at every position, Groy not only had one returning starter in front of him, but had two in senior Bill Nagy and junior Kevin Zeitler. Groy looked solid at the left guard position on the second-team offensive line, only trailing behind sophomore Travis Frederick in terms of technique and footwork. When Zeitler went down with an ankle sprain and Nagy with a concussion, Groy was moved into the starting right guard position.
In Tuesday's scrimmage, Groy looked very good going against the second-team defense. He had one jump offsides, but his speed and agility certainly has made an impression with Bielema and Offensive Line Coach Bob Bostad.
"Ryan has had a really good camp," Bielema said. "I would say out of that next level of interior linemen and guards, he's probably been the most impressive from the things we heard in the summer (to now). I know Gabe (Carimi) gets frustrated because (Ryan) is the one guy he can't beat in any of the movement drills. We know he has a lot of athletic potential. He just needs to carry it over on the field."
Offensive Line - Was there a unit that was more impressive during the fall camp than the offensive linemen? Not in my opinion, especially considering that even though the group has injuries, talented players like Groy could step right into the mix, compete and hold their own. With seniors Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt anchoring the left side of the line, Peter Konz and Travis Frederick working at the center position, two former starters at the right guard position and big Josh Oglesby at left tackle, the UW unit has not only become cohesive, they have made the defensive line better, as well.
"When we are doing this work, it's tough for people to simulate what we are going through," Bielema said. "An offensive line, which I think is very talented and good, against a defensive line that wants to get better. For them to have that ability to work with them every day, and in some cases twice a day, is very valuable."
Nick Toon - It's evident that Toon has turned a corner. Bielema told a story of Toon coming in to his office to grab a piece of bubble gum out of a candy jar. With a big smile on his face, Toon told Bielema that he just finished his best semester at Wisconsin, finishing with a grade point average of over 3.5. That diligence has carried over on to the field. Toon has been precise and crisp running his routes and aggressive when going for the ball, all of which could make him UW's first 1,000-yard receiver since Brandon Williams in 2005.
"I think Nick does a really good job preparing and he's got to help himself by caring that over into games," Wide Receivers DelVaughn Alexander said. " He needs to relax and let the game to come to him, which happens by understanding the defense a little better, film study and time."
James White - Just three weeks into his college football career, the 5-foot-10, 198-pound running back has brought a lot to the table. White has shown the coaching staff he's versatile, has the ability to make defenders miss and has the speed to cut, change directions and accelerate to full speed in only a couple steps. In Wisconsin's two scrimmages, White reeled off a 60-yard touchdown and three dazzling runs of 24 yards or more.
Those details have not only made White the third-string running back, earning time in certain yardage situations and plays, but a possible candidate to became a punt return. Working alongside senior David Gilreath for most of camp, White's agility could offer quite a change of pace in the return game with his athleticism.
"I just wanted to do anything I can, whether it be on offense or special teams," White said. "I'll do wherever I can to help this great football team get to where we need to be."
Others to Note: Kevin Rouse's surprising speed and the youthful depth at the linebacker position … The massive size of Beau Allen … Chris Borland was an animal throughout camp, especially on blitz packages when he knifed through the veteran offensive line for a sack … Curt Phillips was really impressive with some of the things he was able to do just five months after ACL surgery. He's not in game mode yet, but the steps are encouraging … Next to Toon, Lance Kendricks had a great camp. A big body when he releases into the secondary, he's going to be a tough target to bring down and his speed is deceptive for a tight end … For a true freshman, Manasseh Garner has the size and athleticism to factor into the offense … With Jay Valai missing time last week, sophomore Shelton Johnson made a lot of his repetitions. Moving from free to strong safety, Johnson has a lot of abilities, and has had his biggest jump in 10 days than in his first two years … Lastly, I was very impressed with Secondary Coach Chris Ash. All his players love his coaching technique, which is loud, in-your-face immediate feedback. Ash preaches technique and fundamentals, and it's evident that his players have showed mark improvement over the 12 practices.