MADISON - After the loss to Oregon State, it was vital for Wisconsin to have a productive week at practice. Head coach Bret Bielema continues to hold high expectations for the Badgers coming into the Utah State game tomorrow. He has high expectations even with the recent bumps in the road, like an injured Jared Abbrederis, which has been a big theme for this week.
“It has been a unique week,” Bielema said Thursday. “Tuesday was a great practice, Wednesday much the same and (Thusday) was a nice crisp practice. Myself my staff my team are very excited Saturday.”
Bielema noted on a few players with questionable appearance for Saturday include Brendan Kelly and Abbrederis. who recently suffered a concussion last week.
“Brendan Kelly will play. Abbrederis is up in the air,” said Bielema. “He was out there today, didn’t put him in any live contact stuff. At first I said ‘no’ and now he’s come more and more. He was in meetings yesterday and we didn’t expect him to be there and now he was out at practice today.”
Abbrederis is tied for the team lead with seven receptions and leads the team in receiving yards (110) and touchdowns (two). Wisconsin's other two starting wideouts, Jordan Fredrick and Kenzel Doe, have a combined seven catches for 80 yards.
Switching it up
If Abbrederis is not able to play Saturday, Bielema has a plan for kickoffs with Melvin Gordon, James White and possibly Kenzel Doe.
“We made a switch last week, Melvin was back during kickoffs with James,” Bielema said. “It will probably be Kenzel or James. They both have had good competition all week.”
Wide receivers who have started to click for the Badgers include Doe, Fredrick and AJ Jordan.
“Kenzel each game, each practice comes along. Jordan Frederick has done some nice things, catching the ball. We know his game, he’s not really a vertical stretch but he’s a nice route runner underneath, He’s tough, aggressive, he makes nice catches.”
Jordan is another player who Bielema gives credit to, and has already seen him grow as a player.
“AJ Jordan, I’ll give the kid a lot of credit,” said Bielema. “He was sicker than a dog last week and I didn’t even know if he was going to play but he battled it out there and was really effective. I think literally every day you can see him grow.”
Getting Back the Badger Bite
After the loss last week, the energy seemed to be lacking for the Badgers. With recent changes made by Bielema, a new buzz and energy has been noticed with the team.
“I think the number one reason I made the transition was to change the room and change the dynamics,” he said. “That definitely happened. I think kids were really juiced. During Tuesday practice I was a little concerned. Wednesday - watching the film - if we didn’t spend it all on Tuesday. They had so much energy and enthusiasm. They really tempoed it all really well this week and I think the crisp weather helped a little bit too.
Interim offensive line coach Bart Miller has been making progress as a leader within the Badger’s coaching staff and Bielema has a lot of positive notes to say about him.
“Miller, in this role, it’s a lot more verbage and communication,” Bielema said. “To hear his voice out there, you haven’t heard it as much this week because he is truly coaching a position but I give the kid a lot of credit. He actually had a plan that he’s been working on for the last year and a half when he finally got his own room, his first time in front of people ... it really was amazing to me as a head coach to sit back and see him handle Tuesdays practice in the way he did it. Obviously Saturdays game will be a big tell.”
What if Abby is still feeling Shabby?
Injuries leading Abbrederis to possibly not play Saturday, may lead to Jordan and Duckworth being the winning replacement combination.
“If Abbrederis doesn’t go its Duckworth and Jordan to start the game,” said Bielema. “The neat thing about Duckworth is that he has the ability to play all three positions and is a nice role player.”
Abbrederis seems to be overcoming the odds, and has remained proactive- staying involved despite his recent injury.
“Going back to Sunday I didn’t think there was a chance, I asked if he would be out for the week and the [doctors] said yes, and then Tuesday after he had a follow up they told me he wanted to be involved,” said Bielema. “A lot of times with guys who have concussions we just rest them, and not even involve them in meetings. They go home sit and sleep and that usually brings them back fast. Just knowing Abbrederis I have a hunch he’s probably going to find himself out there.”
Keys to Beating Utah State
Bielema wants to see a few key things on Saturday including execution, communication and assignments being fully carried out.
“I want to see some guys moving people off line of scrimmage and be able to have everything clean at the line of scrimmage. Communication wise, assignment wise, but that’s really true of all positions. We do so many dif things with personnel groupings it doesn’t matter if its big people, little people if we are going two minute or whatever it is, I want to see the assignments on.”
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